If there’s one thing I think Dreamspinner does well, it’s their anthologies (and not just because I’ve had a couple of short stories published that way). The anthologies show the range and styles of a dozen different writers, each giving their own slant on the anthology’s theme, and through them I’ve made many a delighted discovery and put someone on my ‘must read more’ list.
Today I am thrilled to host fellow writer Megan Reddaway, who is most definitely on that list after I read her contribution to Dreamspinner’s latest anthology, Not Quite Shakespeare. Megan’s story, Wrong Number, is laugh out loud funny, with a wry and self-aware narrator, and is written in first person PoV. That intrigues me a lot, since how *do* you write sex scenes in first person and not have the character giving away all his most intimate secrets?!
Here’s Megan to talk to us about it, and as a treat she’s given us an excerpt to whet our appetites for more. Welcome, Megan, and over to you!
Whose Is That Throbbing Member? – Writing His & His Sex Scenes
Anna’s invited me here to talk about my story ‘Wrong Number’ in the Dreamspinner anthology ‘Not Quite Shakespeare’, released earlier this month. ‘Wrong Number’ is a M/M rom-com with a main character, Connor, who messes up big time when he selects the wrong name from the contacts on his phone and says things to his boss, Gary Bayes, that he thought he was saying to his best friend.
‘Wrong Number’ is written in the first person, with Connor telling the story from his own point of view. As Anna said, that can be interesting or even problematic, especially when the couple end up in bed. How does the writer set the tone of a first person sex scene so it’s intimate, without over-sharing?
In one way, writing in the first person is easier: you don’t have the pronoun tangles that can make M/M (and F/F) stories sound so clunky. This can be a huge bonus in a sex scene where it’s not always obvious who is doing what to whom. For example, take these sentences from ‘Wrong Number’:
“Then his tongue slipped out of my hole, and his hard wet cock pulled out of my mouth. He reached across and grabbed something from beside the bed – a condom, lube. I started to turn over, but he pressed my shoulder down. He wanted me on my back…”
If I’d written that in the third person, I hate to think how many times I’d have had to repeat their names to make it clear whose body parts were whose. Artful sentence structure can sometimes be a solution, but readers don’t like having to read things two or three times to figure out the grammar. Nor do they like impersonal epithets (‘the blond’, ‘the other guy’, etc), which distance them from the characters.
In the first person, we can use ‘I’ and ‘he’ and it’s all so much simpler … unless of course we’ve decided to introduce our characters to the joys of a threesome or ménage, when we’ll be back to tearing out our hair and envying those traditional het romance writers who have one ‘he’ and one ‘she’ and no pronoun issues at all.
We also have the advantage of the character’s voice, to ground us. If I keep myself firmly in my main character’s head, I’m not so likely to fall too far into either of the extremities that await the unwary sex scene writer: euphemisms so vague that the reader has no idea what’s going on, or so much anatomical detail that it sounds like a medical procedure.
But a story in the first person is always biased, and this can be a danger, especially for romance writers. The reader of a romance wants to get close to both characters, not just one, and this is more difficult to achieve when it’s all from one guy’s point of view. We’re so much in the head and heart of one character, his partner can seem distant.
I think first person sex scenes work best if they focus on the other guy and what he’s doing. We may be looking through the eyes of character A, but what we’re looking at is character B. That way, the main character doesn’t seem self-obsessed (another danger with first person narratives) and the reader has a chance to get close to the second character. We can move into the relationship between the two of them, by having the main character focus on his partner much more intensely than when they were dressed and walking around.
Sex changes a relationship – especially the first time for a new couple. It’s a big deal. As writers, we have the opportunity to deepen the emotional connection between the couple through what they say and do during sex. It’s a challenge, but it’s also a lot of fun!
Megan Reddaway lives in England and has been writing irregularly since she was a child. She’s had many jobs including secretary, driver, flower-seller and waitress, and now makes a precarious living from freelance non-fiction writing. Catch up with Megan at her website: http://meganreddaway.com or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/megan.reddaway.9
Not Quite Shakespeare is available from Dreamspinner Press at http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5104
Excerpt from ‘Wrong Number’
I’d a few drinks, to be honest. I’d had a few drinks, and I got home, and the cramped little studio flat in Croydon where I lived looked exactly the same as when I went out. Of course that was a good thing, really, because if the place looked a lot different, it could only be due to a burglary, flood, fire, unannounced landlord visit, or similar disaster. But there’s something so depressing about coming home and finding everything the same. Especially when you’re simply longing for your flat to contain another living creature such as a boyfriend, or at least a cat.
My landlord didn’t allow cats, or I’d have had one. There was no clause forbidding boyfriends, but unfortunately you can’t just grab the cutest-looking stray man from the nearest gay bar, take him home, feed him twice a day, and expect him to love you for it. All I had was pictures, of both cats and men. It wasn’t the same.
So I decided to call my best friend, Gavin. I knew he’d be awake and alone, because I’d only said goodbye to him ten minutes ago outside East Croydon station. I sat on the edge of my bed and opened the address book on my phone.
“I need to get fucked,” I complained as soon as the call was answered. “I want to feel cock plunging into me. I want to worship a big warm dick. I want to lick it all over and get it all wet and rock hard then take it in my arse, take it in deep and get fucked so hard I’m screaming!”
Then what was supposed to happen was that Gavin would be like, “Oh petal, I know, isn’t it awful to have nothing but silicone to play with at the end of the night, where have all the gorgeous hunks gone?”
Instead there was a short silence, and a dry voice that was definitely not Gavin’s said, “Well, Connor, this is unexpected.”
For a moment I was paralysed. Then I pulled the phone away from my ear and stared at it. Where it should have said “Gavin,” it said “Gary Bayes.”
“Oh my God,” I breathed.