Friday, December 2, 2011
Riptide Publishing Blog Tour
Grown Men By Damon Suede
Welcome to Damon Suede's stop on Riptide Publishing's Blog Tour. We love getting to know the authors from Riptide. Damon Suede has stopped by today to guest post for us. Damon is so giving to our followers because he is offering one lucky person (18+ or older) who comments with their e-mail address a copy of Hot Head. Now, it's time to sit down and let's hear what Damon has to say.
Action Pact by Damon Suede
(why some “sexy” books just aren’t)
All of us have had the misfortune to read erotic romance that, y’know, isn’t. Ugh. What’s worse?
In theory the characters look hot, the setup seems charged, the intercourse pushes every kind of
blistering sexual boundary but in the end… meh. How does that happen? When does taboo and
carnal become tedious and comical? How can something salacious become a snoozefest? Like
comedy, sexiness that falls flat can actually kill the enjoyment of an entire romance or even
doom a book to the will-not-finish pile… and yet erotic romances need a certain amount of
sexytimes to merit the name, right?
Well, I write erotic romance, so I think about this problem constantly. When I’m reading or
writing, I’m always tracking how stories gets under our skin the right and the wrong ways. After
20 years writing for film and theatre, here’s what I’m learned about hotness on the page:
Actions fascinate people; activities bore them to tears.
That almost sounds like a tautology, but it ain’t.
Readers connect to characters making choices and making change happen in and around their
lives; they always pay attention to specific actions focused on a goal which must overcome
friction. Two naked people rolling around sticking parts of themselves into and onto each other
may be titillating for a couple minutes of rubbernecking, but what engages the reader beyond the
wet spots is the ways that the interaction transform the people involved or the events around
them. Action arouses interest, provokes desire, and sparks empathy. On the other hand, activity
defines tedium: a task or motion repeated without consequence or alteration. The only difference
between the two is the will of the person involved. As Gilda, Rita Hayworth seduces in order to
survive and in order to keep her secrets buried.
Specificity is the source of everything great.
THIS is the reason that Jane Austen can make you hold your breath when hands brush or eyes
meet. Charged by the strictures of Regency Britain, her protagonists risk ruin every time they
speak too candidly or allow intimate improprieties like a lingering glance. The tension allows
actions to occur in maddeningly subtle and seductive ways. Contrariwise, Showgirls will always
be a piece of flaccid sophomoric trash entertaining for all the wrong reasons, no matter how
much groping/grabbing/grinding goes on. Even with the relentless nudity and “kinky”
shenanigans, all of the incessant repetitive activity affects nothing, changes nothing, means
nothing; Wall-to-wall candy-colored sleaze and it cannot even succeed as softcore porn! Yikes.
Readers pick up romance with certain expectations. At the most basic level, they want to
experience the unfolding of a relationship that ends positively. Fair enough. But if the
protagonists hop in the sack on page two then squirm and squirt for 200 pages without sense or
consequence, it will have the emotional and erotic impact of a re-grouting a tub.
Since Hot Head came out, I’ve gotten anywhere from 40 to 50 fan letters focusing entirely on the first kiss between my heroes. That scene is ten pages long and not by accident! I’ll admit, I LOVE kissing and I know that fetish crept into the writing of that scene… but I believe the reason that liplock nails people is because there are about four actions occurring at that exact moment their mouths meet. Those actions infuse the kiss with thermonuclear friction and so it sticks in people’s minds. The readers remember the heat and
charge of that moment because of the actions woven through it.
There’s an old chestnut about Hamlet being this amazing tragic hero who does nothing. This is,
of course, complete bullshit. Hamlet never stops doing things for a moment: he argues with a
ghost, pretends to be insane, stages a play, attacks his friends, insults his family and sullies his
innocent lady love with some very nasty innuendo, murders and betrays and wrestles with cant!
Hamlet’s actions in the play never STOP; in fact the only thing he doesn’t do until the gory
finale is take his justified revenge… but all of those other actions lead inexorably and ineffably
to that perfect bloodthirsty finale.
Okay, so fair enough. Shakespeare knew his shit. Big whoop. How does that translate to the juicy
bone-dance you have planned for your protagonists?
Action or activity? Any activity can be elevated to an action, if the stakes escalate and the
context carries enough charge. And any action can be made into a boring activity if the author
removes the stakes and context. The simplest way to test a love scene? Ask yourself after the
characters climax: what changed because of the intimacy that just occurred? If the answer is
“nothing” then you’ve just wasted time reading (or writing) an activity which fits the story like a
In essence, readers trust authors to provide action that sustains the story and rewards the time
spent inhabiting its world. The author’s tacit promise to provide action separates pros from hacks
(and prose from pablum). This responsibility to provide action is the basic contract between
entertainment and audience. It’s the root of the overworn “Show don’t tell” criticism from
English 101 classes across the world. It’s a relentless reminder to professional authors that
writing is a job and not a hobby.
My question to you is: how do you plan to keep the sex active rather than an activity. What does
the act of sexual intercourse do, get, or make change in their relationship that drives the story
forward? As an author, you have to move beyond the mechanical porno model (“time for
another cumshot.”) towards character. How is THIS sex scene different than the last or the next
sex scenes? How do the intimacies build upon each other and refract in the characters’ lives? In
life people have sex for any number of reasons, but only some of those offer the kind of drama
needed to sustain a narrative. Having sex for revenge, having sex to heal, having sex to cement a
bond are all clear, playable actions for a character. Activities that will kill the story or cripple it:
having sex to scratch an itch, having sex because you’re bored, having sex because the editor
said, “It’s been 30 pages.”
Of course that’s not just sex; EVERY scene in your story flourishes with action and buckles
under activities. Unfortunately love scenes in particular tend to become literary quicksand if
nothing’s going on but the smoosh. As Hollywood has often observed, any sex scenes on screen
stop your film dead for the three minutes it takes to run a montage of body parts over a song.
Most popular film and television treats love scenes voyeuristically…as boring, static,
inconsequential activities; small wonder that popular fiction does the same.
Bottom line: if you give your readers permission to skim they will. Agatha Christie knew this,
she provided new information on every page. Readers couldn’t skim or they’d be lost. Sex
scenes need that kind of precision and context. No two couples make love the same way; sexual
intimacy is (and should be) as singular as the people involved. Why would any author waste an
opportunity to flesh out these subtle gradations in a character by foisting generic hokey-pokey
onto their readers?
A book is a promise.
When a reader trusts me enough to plunk down hard-earned money to buy something I made, I
believe I owe them something. Labeling a book “erotic romance” establishes a pact with our
audience, and we flout it at our peril. I have a novella called Grown Men coming from Riptide
on October 30 and in many ways it’s raunchier and riskier than my first novel.
In a sci-fi universe which encourages genetic modification and franchised sex
resorts, things were gonna get a little kinky and carnal. An eight-foot giant presents certain…
umm …challenges and opportunities to a normal-sized human lover. My two heroes demanded a
different kind of eroticism, and the vast disparity between their sizes made certain things
possible and other things scary. The eroticism needed to be specific or it would have sucked
asteroids. Discovering the intimacy between them allowed me to map the relationship between
them on their terms. They made the love, I just caught it on paper.
So, the next time you pick up an erotic romance, get specific! Pay attention to the sex. Is
something happening during the scene or does everything stop so they can insert tab A into slot
B enough to punch the meter? Distinguish between actions and activities. Learn to spot activities
when they crop up. Don’t put up with them in your own writing or anyone else’s. Does sexiness
only appear when literal SEX is occurring or do they build sexiness into the characters’
transformations and the world of the book. When and how does it turn you on? If you eliminated
a scene of intimacy how would that affect the story if at all?
Hold all your erotic scenes accountable, those you write and those you read. Are your characters
doing the deed, having sex, or making love? Invest your intimacy with meaning and context to
wring every drop of possible power out of each moment.
Action is a pact all books make. As writers, it’s a promise to our readers, a bargain with our
characters, and an discipline we owe ourselves.
Here’s the blurb from Grown Men:
Every future has dirty roots.
Marooned in the galactic backwaters of the HardCell company, colonist Runt struggles to
eke out an existence on a newly-terraformed tropical planetoid. Since his clone-wife died
on entry, he’s been doing the work of two on his failing protein farm. Overworked and
undersized, Runt’s dwindling hope of earning corporate citizenship has turned to fear of
When an overdue crate of provisions crashes on his beach, Runt searches frantically for a
replacement wife among the tools and food. Instead he gets Ox, a mute hulk who seems
more like a corporate assassin than a simple offworld farmer.
Shackwacky and near-starving, Runt has no choice but to work with his silent partner
despite his mounting paranoia and the unsettling appeal of Ox’s genetically altered
pheromones. Ox plays the part of the gentle giant well, but Runt’s still not convinced he
hasn’t arrived with murder in mind.
Between brutal desire and the seeds of a relationship, Runt’s fears and Ox’s inhuman past
collide on a fertile world where hope and love just might have room to grow.
This title is #1 of the HardCell series.
You can read an excerpt and purchase Grown Men at Riptide Publishing.
Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon
as it was legal. Though new to M/M, Damon has been writing for print, stage, and screen for two
decades. He’s won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his
demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who
keeps whispering in his ear, year after year. Get in touch with him at: