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Anneke Jacob

Anneke's Blog

(From Kinky Ever After, a blog shared with Annabel Joseph, Candace Blevins and Qwillia Rain. I'm transferring the postings over a few at a time, as there's quite a lot over there.)

Significant Sensation

April 12, 2011

Do your tactile senses have fantasies of their own? Moments that touch your consciousness without words or visuals? A sensory moment, complete and whole, as if something has touched that instant in your memory. Whether it's ever really happened to your body or not.

Perhaps you feel a hard hand around your wrist. A tongue forcing past your lips. Your ribs attempting to expand against constriction. You feel it, and your breath comes short for just a second. And then life goes on.

I think those sense-memories that come up again and again are the ones with meaning. Of course they're the most arousing; that's the simple answer. More complicated is the significance they carry. When you're on the sub side of the d/s continuum, they mostly represent control of your body by someone else. Control accepted or resisted; sweet or rough, pleasurable, painful, in person or by proxy. But control. A sensation of one's body ruled by the will of something other than oneself. Not fully under its own command. Sending feedback to hampered muscles: messages perhaps of calm and security, or fear and frantic struggle. Plus arousal. Lots of that.

Sensation is core to our experience, but it's not easy to convey. Still, what other genre should be more about sensation than erotica? We need to take wordless experiences and find words for them. Words that draw readers into a sensory moment, a moment which resonates at the level of body, not brain. And if it's done well, emotions and meaning engage, integrate, resonate together.

I find myself trying all sorts of techniques to convey tactile experiences. Pure description, brief moment-by-moment minutiae of sensation, metaphors:

...His hands were around my thighs, and his movement into me seemed slow as seasons, as if he meant to introduce each of our separate nerves to each other, one by one. Each moment seemed to stretch and distend, full of its own distinct sensation. I quivered and waited, held in place like something planted in the earth, at the mercy of the elements; at the mercy of the gardener most of all, and of my own helpless unfurling. Welcome. Please invade me.

Clashing or intersecting images can convey the shift away from the rational, toward the sense of the body taking over:

...He lifted me off my feet and took my mouth over with his own. My blood was turning to thick, hot magma, weighing down my limbs, slowing my thoughts. And yet I was being handled as if I was no weight at all: a duality strange enough to give me vertigo.

I think the approach I use the most is the sound of the language itself. I'm pretty auditory; I "hear" the words on the page. As any poet knows, you can do all sorts of things with rhythm: Steady, mounting, jarring. Repetition works as well, as do sentence fragments or alliteration.

"Up on the bed, hands and knees. We're going to find out just what makes you come, my little hunhund. And what doesn't." The deep voice had downshifted, was warm, hypnotic, in rhythm with the stroking of his fingers. Sensation was fed by the heat of spanked flesh: fed, amplified. His hand tickling, sliding through hot wet folds. He was touching, moving away, touching again... tension building, building.... Then the fingers were gone. Sensation now at my nipples, circling and squeezing, on and on.... And a hand rubbing round circles on my ass, pressing the arousal deeper, deeper.... I crouched there for what seemed like ages, clutched the bedspread, moaning low in my throat.

All excerpts are from As She's Told.

What are the best sensory passages from your favourite books, or your own writing?

Sweating the Small Stuff (and Who Cares, Anyway?)

April 5, 2011

This writer gig is tough in so many ways. And it feels tougher to me sometimes because I am neither fast nor prolific. (Case in point: this is about my twelfth start to this piece, and I still don't know if this one will stick.) I so much admire the fluency of those who can pour out a story or a novel and move on to the next. They end up with increasing numbers of eggs in multiple baskets, while I've got only two over which to brood, darkly maternal and a little obsessive, like an over-invested mother plotting her toddler's career path.

With this kind of attitude, every word and phrase matters. The damned thing takes so long to write, it's got to last and be read, not disappear into that bottomless limbo of lost efforts.

So I sweat the small stuff. The touches intended to make the characters multidimensional, and the settings palpable. Everything from the smell of her skin to the backstory that drives him. (Okay, the backstory isn't exactly small stuff, but I'll get to that.) Fleeting thoughts, not only sexy but mundane. Ironic moments and private jokes.

Not that these things are separate from the plot. If they're done well they add depth; done badly and they're nothing but padding, mechanical and jarring. Too long, and they spoil the flow. Just a touch here and there is what works. Hands turning a salt shaker in a very small circle, conveying discomfort and difficult thoughts. Old leaves skittering along the ground, providing the only movement between two characters suspended in a frozen tableau of guilt and anger. Sunlight shifting from carpet to wall, marking the passage of time, as a slave waits. I love this stuff. It's part of what makes writing worthwhile for me. Whether anyone notices it or not is another question. I hope it provides something like the bass line in a piece of music; you may not notice it but you'd miss it if it wasn't there..

From the comments I've seen, when it comes to erotica, readers' focus is almost entirely on the plot; commentary on the writing comes down to a word or two at most. And that's just the sexual plot trajectory; non-sexual elements are ignored entirely. I have it on good authority that such scenes are often skimmed, skipped and given short shrift in the hunt for the next sex scene. Which is understandable, as long as no one complains that the characters lack depth! I integrated an important piece of backstory for Anders in As She's Told that illuminates his struggles and makes him fallible. Perhaps readers don't want him fallible; not one comment or review has ever mentioned it.

So is providing depth worth the effort? Does it come through? I don't know. But I know I can't write any other way. So expect my next novel a few years from now.

Consent, fantasy, and narrow plot windows

March 29, 2011

I've been trying off and on to come up with a new novel idea that will work. It's been a struggle, because I put so much into 'As She's Told' that for a long time there seemed to be nothing left. And given online distractions like Fetlife, it's hard to get myself down to work! Still, I miss writing.

I may be hampered by having something of a reality kink; the more believable the setting and parameters, the more genuine the power exchange, the more I enjoy the story. And if there's anything realistic about the plot, what goes on has to be consensual, or I start thinking in terms of rescue instead of kink! No, I'm not kidding.

But not all the kink in my head is entirely consensual. With no personalities involved, I can get off on slave civilizations with the best of them. I just can't centre a plot on them without building in a revolution.

It's a perennial question in the bdsm world, reconciling real-world values with what gets us off. Rape fantasies, women kidnapped and enslaved, all that - it can take some serious introspection to keep that stuff where it belongs, in its separate compartments, away from human rights and the equality of the sexes. Of course there's the common plotline of the victim taken by force and then learning to love their slavery. Which I find not only unlikely but ethically twisted, even in a story.

No, for me to write it, fully realized characters need to be in consensual relationships from the start. Combine that with a kink for real, enforceable power exchange, and I've ended up with a very narrow window through which to manoeuvre my plots: early free choice, no or minimal choice later. In other words, consensual nonconsent.

So, how to use all the politically incorrect flotsam in my head? I think shared fantasy may be the way to go. I'm going to be working on this over the next few months (see, if I say it publicly, I'm forcing myself to actually do it); more later as I see if it pans out.

What colour is your orgasm?

March 22, 2011

I used to have trouble thinking in images. Now I have trouble thinking without them.

Before I started writing in earnest, my style was straightjacketed by all the work-related writing I'd done: direct, factual, humourless and concise. A fantasy description recorded what the characters said and did: first this happened, then that happened...fap fodder and nothing more.

But my favourite books teemed with images. I feasted on wonderful, rich descriptive language at every re-read. Barbara Kingsolver integrates metaphors into her work so seamlessly that they seem born out of the language itself. Michael Chabon builds wild, brilliant heaps of images, then leaps away and builds more.

Way back in my university application days, the MAT (Miller's Analogies Test) was a walkover, so even if I couldn't seem to produce figurative language, apparently I had an affinity for it. But I thought for a while that my relentlessly literal left-brain was all I had to work with.

With my first book, 'Owned and Owner' I tried to expand my boundaries but didn't get too far. I remember the elation, though, when I came up with this one: "'At times he could still sense manipulation, resistance: the subtle drive of muscles under her own command, the guerrilla flash of eyes half hidden behind their lids." Believe it or not, "guerrilla" felt like a revelation. But I've also found readers who are with me for all or at least part of the journey, readers who dwell for a while in the world I've created, and let me mess with the furniture in their heads. A strange and wonderful form of communication, in a world where telepathy is in short supply.

With 'As She's Told' I was determined to bring some richness of language. One thing I had to struggle with, though: How do you describe an orgasm? The story focuses a lot on teasing and denial, so it wasn't as if there was an orgasm on every page. Those that happened had to mean something. But how? I turned to Carrie's Story, remembering this: "'All I could do was rock my pelvis band and forth, meeting his tongue, chasing it, and then retreating, pretending to hide from it, and finally just surrendering to it, moaning and then yelling until everything exploded and first I was falling from a very great height and then I was a puddle on the rug, the winter afternoon light slanting in on me through the leaded windows." What a lovely vision, no?

For a while I toyed with giving Maia synaesthesia: the crossing over of sensations from one sense to the other feeling colours, seeing sounds, that kind of thing. Which was the source for this one: "'Anchored, I arched my back and howled, felt myself contract in brilliant white waves around him..." Not bad. But I couldn't keep it up; I think it takes a synaesthete to write about synaesthesia.

But I've also found readers who are with me for all or at least part of the journey, readers who dwell for a while in the world I've created, and let me mess with the furniture in their heads. A strange and wonderful form of communication, in a world where telepathy is in short supply.

All Anders' teasing means that Maia's orgasms are - shall we say - intense? This is from the gearshift scene: "'And then suddenly at my centre there was a flash, like a thunderstorm in fast forward, billows of it, ecstatic, extreme, agonizing." (Okay, out of context it does looks a little over the top. But Maia enjoyed it.)

So tell me, what colour are your orgasms? What's your favourite literary climax? ;-)

Sensitive Smut

March 15, 2011

If writers are strange creatures (and I think we are), erotica writers are stranger still. Anyone who writes fiction extracts inward experiences and lays them out in patterns, exposing their own innards in the process. Writing erotica means exposing particularly raunchy layers of the cerebellum. It means bringing out stuff that's been collecting in folds and crevices, its tantalizing glimmers well hidden. We shake it out, examine it, find its truth. Tuck away the truly tawdry bits. And then see if what remains might make a good story.

I've always been surprised by the detailed level of kink that seems to be shared across the bdsm spectrum. So many themes, desires, roles, beliefs, attitudes, practices and gear are common enough that they become iconic. When cartoonists want to make bdsm jokes, out come the whips, the corsets and black leather. Check out a kinky equipment store and that's actually a good percentage of what they sell. Oddly enough, there's a bdsm mainstream - a nice St. Andrew's cross whipping at a safe, sane and consensual play party.

But there are a million ramifications to bdsm. Diversity abounds. Cultures vary. And there's a lot that is intensely personal. So readers who enter the writer's imagination may find themselves in a very strange place indeed. Will it fit with their own inner lurkings? Will it take them somewhere new, somewhere they want to go? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

For myself, turning that material outward for the first time was an interesting experience. Not only was I confessing to weird kinks, but finding that some readers didn't get off on them! Oh, no! That great leap from silence to blatant shared sexuality was riskier than I'd thought.

But I've also found readers who are with me for all or at least part of the journey, readers who dwell for a while in the world I've created, and let me mess with the furniture in their heads. A strange and wonderful form of communication, in a world where telepathy is in short supply.

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