Wednesday, September 27, 2006

In Praise of Perfectly Pleasing Purple Prose

Tomorrow, Thursday, Sept 28, Pam Rosenthal GuestBlogs with a topic near and dear. Pam writes erotic romance, and erotica under the nomme de plume, Molly Weatherfield.

I adore Pam’s “Almost a Gentleman,” and her writing is top-shelf. She also creates some of the best erotic scenes in the biz, ones which are honest and genuinely arousing.

But some writers' love scenes contain lots of euphemism, some of which reads shockingly purple in or out of context.

Yet I and lots of the romance lovers I know still love and appreciate the books, because they’re emotionally-charged and make the heart ache in a delicious, over-the-top way that only a skilled writer can accomplish.

So, read this excerpt from “A Perfect Bride,” by Samantha James -- a book on my keeper shelf, btw, then answer the question below:

Her body yielded. With his thumb he circled her secret pleasure button. His finger sank deeper, gliding, stroking, gently stretching. Sweat beaded his upper lip. He ached with the need to exchange his finger with his rod. Not yet, he cautioned himself. Could she take more? He wondered wildly.

She could…and did…

He nudged her cleft, feeling her sleek, wet passage stretch to accept him…

For despite his most stringent preparations, her frail barrier of innocence barred him entrance. And though he wanted his possession to be slow and unhurried and careful, the feel of her silken channel clasped tight around his surging helm tempted him past bearing. Knowing he was first, that not other man had touched her like this, sent a raw, primitive rush shooting through his veins.

His eyes squeezed shut. Blindly he thrust…

Purple Prose or Crack for Smart Chicks?

What's the place of euphemistic, florid writing in romance?

Does only realism count in romance?

44 comments:

Playground Monitor said...

Based on my own limited writing experience, certain publishers won't let you use certain words. So instead of using the proper anatomical words or more vernacular terms, you use words like pleasure button, sleek wet passage and surging helm.

I wouldn't call this passage purple prose. If she'd talked about his "one-eyed serpent of love" and her "pleasure palace" then we'd definitely be talking the color purple.

For me, if it gets too realistic, it becomes clinical and unromantic. Let it get too purple, and it's almost comedic. So there's that delicate balance in the middle where, as Goldilocks would say, "It's juuuust right."

Marilyn - anticipating a lively discussion on this topic

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Brava, Marilyn; I wish I could have said it like that.

Could one call this prose lavender?

For me, it doesn't stop the book cold because it flows within the tone of the piece, and it's clear that James knows her reader. Some writers can use words like labia and penis and it works, while others do and make the book read like "Gray's Anatomy," as you say, M.

It's all in the skill and particular gift (or lack thereof, of the writer and editor).

amy*skf said...

Crack for smart chicks--OMG and LOL.

Euphemisms are funny things, sometimes with the tone of the book it's what I expect--and sometimes it's jarringly NOT what I expect. Which is funny, since I think they are used so as not to jarr the reader. But it can cool a moment--become almost more clinical than if they had used the actual terms, simply because I have to step away from the scene to decode some of the terms. It can take me so outside the moment that I no longer care what is going on.

In Samantha James' excerpt, however, I felt the moment. Some authors can do it. Although 'secret pleasure button' almost made me lose it--in a laughter kind of way.

Some euphemisms are comfort zones--it's like going home--aaah, I know this phrasing...

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Incredibly good point, Ames, about the recognizable language and "phrasiology," as Archie Bunker used to say. It's that sort of "oral tradition," in this case written, that is often mentioned as one of the things romance readers recognize across the board, the language that speaks to us and, as you say, comforts. And sometimes it's just gosh darned fun to giggle along with a surging helm clasped tight within a silken channel (but still getting hot while giggling and reading).

Now, I gotta get writing, darnit. I wanna say more but I don't have the time.

amy*skf said...

It's funny, but there were no comments when I started writing my comment, so Marilyn and Michelle, we all used 'clinical' in our comments--only mine was when it was too euphemistic. But it can happen either way for me--I guess it all hinges on the author's ability.

Marilyn--you're right, and you said it better, I don't view James' writing as purple prose either (LOL Michelle, Lavender)

And I suppose we all guessed there are some pubs who won't let you use some words.

Ooh, plum prose--ripe and juicy.

amy*skf said...

Alright, get to work--I have to stain and paint today. Damnit.

I love to find new euphemisms in writing. For a while every book I read had 'the juncture of her thighs' in it at some point--it's as if certain euphemisms take on a life of their own and become part of the lexicon of romance--for the record, I liked the sound of 'juncture'and would indeed become happy if an author used the phrasing.

MaryKate said...

I was reading a book the other night (can't remember which one, but it was an erotic romance) and in it, the author mentioned the heroine's "pudenda." OK, it totally dragged me out of the moment. Totally. Why is it that the "clinical" terms for male genitalia don't phase me in the least, but a word like "pudenda" totally doesn't work for me?

Julie in Ohio said...

Mornin', Bellas!

LOL, Michelle. This topic is great. I have often wondered what kind of english class teaches purple prose. It is certainly a class I need because I have a hard time grasping the meaning. That isn't to say that I am completely clueless but some of it is just waayy out there and it pulls me out of the book.
However, like Marilyn and Amy, I don't have a problem with Samantha James's prose. I don't know if it is the words or the way they are used but either way it works for me. :o)
For the most part I would say that I enjoy an authors creativity as long as she isn't trying to compare a woman to a flowing field of heather on a spring day... :o)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

BTW, wish i could take credit for Crack for Smart Chicks, but I heard it from Eloisa James...

Pudenda, MK! How perfectly horrid! "her pudenda throbbed for she knew as he was stroking her deeply with his turgid penis, he was feeling pleasure from his scrotum to his perianum, nay, unto his very prostate."

Um, I don't think so.

amy*skf said...

AAAAAhahahaha.

amy*skf said...

And just for the record, MK, I have never ever even heard of the term pudenda. Seriously. I had to look it up. And I don't feel bad about it--now naturally, because of your use in a sentence, I could guess what it meant, but still.

Perhaps the Roget's was being used too extensively.

That wasn't purple prose, it was professor prose.

MaryKate said...

That's exactly what I'm saying. But it is interesting to think about why terms for female genitalia bothers me more than men? Is it only me? I mean the biggies don't bother me, you know: vagina, labia, clitoris, etc. But you get into pudenda and I'm all, "ICKY!" LOL! I probably have some sort of deep seeded hang up!

Overall though, I think it's the quality of the writing that dictates whether prose is "purple" in a silly way. That is to say, that some authors really are able to work it. You know? Nicole Jordan writes extremely hot romance and she generally utilizes euphamisms. Bertrice Small uses them all the time. I don't read either author anymore, but I recall vividly reading Skye O'Malley and not being bothered at all by the euphamisms.

I think it's all in the employment of the terms.

Vivi Anna said...

Ah, too lavender for me...

'secret pleasure button', Is it really a secret? and 'rod' OW! jar me out of the scene...the rest I thought was great...

But I will say it can be difficult to write a convincing sex scene without using 'those words' or using purple prose...I mean really how else are you supposed to say it?

amy*skf said...

MK, what's weird for me is my comfort for the slang terms--not euphemisms, sometimes I like the slang better than the actual term--once again, it's all in the author's lap--so to speak.

So maybe not only in the employment of terms, but also in the employment of the words around the terms.

Playground Monitor said...

Whoopi Goldberg does this standup routine where she's about 6 different characters and one of them is a southern belle talking about her pudenda. It. Is. A. Riot!

Marilyn

amy*skf said...

Oh, Marilyn--I think I saw that--obviously though I must have thought she made-up the word. But of course a southern belle's word choice is so much more class structured.

And now I won't be able to stop using the word. Wait till I tell my husband.

Monica Burns said...

Hmm, I think it is lavender, but then I think some of mine would be lavender too, primarily because I despise clinical terms for genitalia.

I also think it's a matter of the subgenre. I can see where this style of writing works well in a historical, but if it's in a contemp it wouldn't swing for me. In a contemp I still don't care for the clinical terms, but I can deal with them better than in a historical.

I'm with Viv on the secret pleasure button...LOL THAT was a bit over the top for me, but it didn't throw me out of the read.

I also think it's hard to analyze an erotic romance based on one blurb or even an excerpt. Primarily because in a really good erotic romance, the buildup has been there for pages before a particular scene. So you could be all hot and bother BEFORE getting to this scene and then there's the peak and the descent. In just a few lines you can't get that. (not a slam at you Michelle, you can only put so much in the post! *grin*).

I also think it's the author's execution of the characters that drives the sexual chemistry. Take yesterday's observations of TBE...it didn't work for me because I didn't see or feel the chemistry between DQ and EB. So I found it blah, while others loved it because they did feel the chem.

When I write my erotic romances I try to come up with different phrasing of things without direct references to rod, staff, etc. It's hard! Damn hard. And there are times when it's unavoidable. I despise the F-word, but I'm finding that from a male POV it does work at times. Not necessarily in speech, unless it's meant to shock the heroine, but in a man's head, he uses that word all the time...well that and screw, but the F-word is more powerful than screw.

Ok, going back to my hole.

amy*skf said...

Vivi--rod didn't jar me at all. I think that was its only term in the first romances I read--all historical. Sword, rod, male staff.

His terms were all straight, stiff and almost disciplinarian. While hers were flowery and dewey (sp?)round and amorphous.

MaryKate said...

Mon - Over the weekend I read DYING TO PLEASE by Linda Howard. At some point in the story, during a fight between the heroine and the hero, she says something about him just wanting to "screw" her. And he has an internal dialogue about how screwing? No, but f*cking, yes. He equated hot, earthy sex with the word f*cking, but screwing as something dirty. It rung really true to me. I do think guys think that way. H*ll, I do too. But I think some people find the word offensive. I find, that if it's employed correctly, it's effective. But hey, I'm a potty mouth anyway.

Now, the "c" word when employed to describe either female genitalia or a female's personality (or really in any fashion), that's a BIG no-no for me.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Ah, very interesting, this ideer of sexism and language, and whether we're being discriminatory.

I must say, I love the word f*ck. I actually hate writing it with the asterisk and didn't at first in this blog, but then I noticed other folks using it, so I thought I prob should go with the flow. I can live with that tiny little blossoming flower of punctuation.

So, f*ck, c*ck, are great words for me inromance cause I think guys think and use those words. And if a hero is all alpha, he often uses them to shock or seduce, maybe.

You know the thing I hate, right? The earthy hero from the slums who has at it with the chick like a kama sutra stud but says, "I'm gonna screw you now, baby."

Uh, uh. that pulls me out of the moment.

Now, I chose this selection because it was chock full of euphemism, but tried to let you know I love the book and why.

I get tired of being supposed to love only romances written by the "smartest" writers who are so technically correct they suck the passion off the page. There's this grand tradition of romance that makes us giggle along with our girlfriends about how 'dreamy or sexy or whatever' it is, and I don't want to see it kicked to the curb. In the same way I celebrate the old school stuff.

But by blogging this excerpt, it gives folks to opportunity to get thinkin about it. And I love what you have to say.

And I remember the Whoopi riff, which is why I think I even knew the word pudenda.

Oh, my puritan sensibilities! Ah believe I'm gettin the vapors. Quick! Marily, what's a Yankee girl to do?

Vivi Anna said...

Yup, I love f*ck too Michelle. I use it all the time, and say it too...at home, it's under my breath so the kid don't hear it..LOL

It all depends whose POV I'm in with what words I use. Except sometimes my heroines use dirtier language than my heros...LOL

Playground Monitor said...

Vapors? What the hell are vapors? :grin: Get a grip woman!

I LOVE Thompson Cahill in DYING TO PLEASE. The strip wrestling scene was a favorite. And I finally had my first Milo's hamburger on June 8, 2006. I can remember cause it was the day my granddaughter was born.

I'm working on a short story now where a woman catches her fiance "bare-assed and buried deep in another woman." I used this line "He muttered an expletive that perfectly described what he’d been doing to his paramour." I can't use the "F" word so I found that way around it. I think f*ck has its place. As I mentioned in the blogging courtesy comments, when it's tossed about like confetti, it becomes tiresome and almost childish -- like the little boy who hears his first curse word and runs up and down the hall yelling it at the top of his lungs.

C**t leaves me cold EXCEPT when it's used properly for effect. In Beverly Barton's latest CLOSE ENOUGH TO KILL, in a scene written in the serial killer's POV and he calls his victim a stupid c**t. It sets the tone for the scene and the character. She told me those scenes were difficult for her to write as a woman but she had to adequately get across just how evil this villain was.

Marilyn

Verification word: exojakct Now doesn't that sound dirty!

Monica Burns said...

Arrrggghhhh! Blogger ate my god d*&m post! And psychic here thought, I should copy this before I click publish!!!

So, f*ck, c*ck, are great words for me inromance cause I think guys think and use those words. And if a hero is all alpha, he often uses them to shock or seduce, maybe.

I think it's two things...POV driven and subgenre driven.

For me, in a historical it can only be used by the alpha male. I just can't buy a heroine using it. I might if she's a whore, courtesan, etc. Low level whore, definitely. A courtesan? Iffy because they sought to be as lady like as possible, while being "randy" in the boudoir. So depending on the situation it might work in that context, but for any other historical heroine to use it, it would soooo throw me out of the read.

In a contemp, I could buy it in certain circumstances from the heroine.

A man ALWAYS says it. It's part of their nature to think it and say it. I don't use the Fword all that much, simply because it's so harsh sounding. BUT in a good, heated bout of anger, the Fword is all this passionate Italian/German gal can think of because intelligent thinking is OUT the window.

I could buy a woman saying the Fword in a contemp if it's in the heat of anger or in a sex scene that is soooo intense it leaves the edges of the pages charred and black from the heat (think Kathleen Turner and Wm Hurt in Body Heat). A guy? If he doesn't use it in a contemp, I'm betting he's going to be a beta or gamma hero.

As for puritian thoughts Michelle, just throw out the black hat, white collar and dress with a Vederla dopo, il bambino

Monica Burns said...

Verification word: exojakct Now doesn't that sound dirty!

The first thing I thought was, cool!! Exoskeletal jacket...you know skin covering for an alien that need to look like a human like those lizards in the V series. ROFL Ok, so my love of sci-fi is showing, but last night the DH bought me the latest Hallmark Star Trek Xmas ornament. It has this cool stand that when you push the button, it plays the actual CAMPY theme from the show. It sounds JUST like when I was watching the original show back in the ummmm, ummm 80s, yeah the 90s on reruns. ROFL

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Not at all, Mon. Now that you mention it, I can't recall a non-erotica historical that had a chick saying f.

I do use f word for effect and hate when I have to censor myself around other adults, but do it I will. Cause thier not swearing doesn't offend me. Get it?

Clearly in romance, er, etc. it's all about the language, so if it don't make sense for the characters it's just awful, like too much of th ewrong kinds of sex.

Even I hate when i read C*ck a billion times. Like, can't you think of another way to say it? Although thy "rod" and thy "staff" do not comfort me much, either.

And someone wrote me recently musing on whether one person's use of "cum" was pornographic, while another's use of "come" was just erotic.

I have to say the former spelling always seems just cheesy and off-putting to me.

No excuse for lazy writing all around.

Please don't apologize if you don't agree with me. I'd rather hear what you have to say than listen to myself...

btw, I highlight and copy constantly now when I comment. DAMN YOU BLOGGER.COM!!!! [shakes fist melodramatically]

Monica Burns said...

Please don't apologize if you don't agree with me. I'd rather hear what you have to say than listen to myself...

NP, it wasn't meant to sound like an apology. LOL Just a different perspective.

As for listening to one's self...why in the hell do you think my posts are so frigging LONG!! ROFL BTW frigging means "f*cking" can't remember the date of usage, but I just found it in one of my language books the other night when I was reading some of the Earl of Rochester's work. God, that man's mouth was filthy, but he was a brilliant writer. FAN-frigging-tastically brilliant!

amy*skf said...

I have no problem with a Heroine using the F-enheimer especially if she is a kick-*ss heroine in a contemp. I also don't have a problem with the word c*nt used in a loving/hot way. I think the more these words are used in a good way the less power they have.

And like you all I expect an alfala male to use f*ck. Now Marykate, I think the Hero's pov on the two words is marvy.

Another stand-up comedienne, can't remember her name, had the routine on the saying "f*ck you" and how that was actually a nice thing to wish someone, so maybe the term should be "unf*ck you"

However--I read a book--will not name--where every other page there were words I had never seen put together--to describe a sexual act.
The word cream was used extensively. I kept thinking, geez, get some over the counter meds for that problem.

MaryKate said...

I kept thinking, geez, get some over the counter meds for that problem.

HAHAHAHAHA! Omigod! Ames - I snorted iced tea out of my nose. LOL! You are hilarious!

Playground Monitor said...

Although thy "rod" and thy "staff" do not comfort me much, either. *giggle*

And someone wrote me recently musing on whether one person's use of "cum" was pornographic, while another's use of "come" was just erotic. I'm with you in feeling that "cum" just sounds cheesy. Or maybe that's not a good word to describe it. ;-) Cum is what you read in a cyber-sex chat room. And yes, I've been in one doing research for a story.

The whole chat shorthand lingo is amazing. Just watching all this stuff scroll by and trying to translate was crazy.

Hi. asl?

18/f/usa u?

25/m/usa

kewl how r u?

ok. u?


Marilyn

Monica Burns said...

The word cream was used extensively. I kept thinking, geez, get some over the counter meds for that problem.

LOL When I got called on using the c*ck word too many times in my third novella, I did a word search in all three stories. I can't remember the count, but in the first story, it was a sparse usage, the 2nd story almost double, by the 3rd story is was prolific! LOL It wasn't intentional, I think it was me becoming more comfortable using the word since the first novella was the first time I'd used the word. So after that third novella, I was careful to watch the usage so that it was used effectively.

As for cream, I use it, but I don't think I'm as prolific with that as I am with c*ck. LOL sometimes writers are getting into the flow of the scene and repetitive words happen, but it's the job of the author to go back and check that sort of thing. Sounds like this particular author didn't do that. Guess she forgot a drugstore was going to be needed when readers read the book. *grin*


Word Ver FUIYLC F-U I yelled like crazy ROFLMAO

Toni Lea Andrews said...

Okay, I am SERIOUSLY getting the giggles here.

It made me think of a workshop I took at nationals in Reno. Mardi Ballou, who is petite and has gray curls and looks like (and is) someone's grandmother was enumerating differences between sensual romance and erotic romance. I shall quote (and hope I am at least 95% accurate):

"Another difference is that in erotic romance, we don't use euphimisms. So forget about 'throbbing manhoods' -- it's a c**k, girls. Repeat after me...IT'S A C**K."

Picture an entire very full conference room ROFLOL!

Michele said...

"surging helm"?? Whoa, the things I miss now.
**giggles**

I could't read that excerpt with a straight face. Too much in a short space.
**giggle** I can't stop. This hit my funny bone perfectly!

There's a place for euphemisism, absolutely. Just not so much all at once. Spread it out a bit ...
"her secret pleasure button"
^-^ ...not so secret, is it?
Thank goodness!

REalism is fine for contemporaries and futuristics. Euphamisms are OK for regency and ignorant times. You know, when the showing of an ankle or an elbow was considered shocking and indecent? You'd NEVER hear "penis", but Luuurve Lance fits in *wink* quite well.

IMHO

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

BIRFT (Bellas In Rare Form Today)

Hi. asl?

18/f/usa u?

25/m/usa

kewl how r u?

ok. u


I'm shocked, Marilyn. You know we don't allow that sort of filth in here!

Ames, LOL. Used in the vernacular, "shit, I nearly creamed in my jeans," is acceptable, but, really, SO 1978. And I was reading some "erotica" (wink wink) recently in which the first descripton of the hn being aroused was like "i felt my cream ooze in my panties." I kid y ou not. The hn is like a big time journalist and that's the best language she comes up w/?

Like ames said, stringin the words together don't make it sexy, and describing moisture poorly don't make it erotica or good confessional narrative.

Playground Monitor said...

I sorry. :laugh:

M

nearhere said...

This conversation reminds me of some of the sketches from the Vagina Monologues!

I've been reading some Ellora's Cave recently and they don't shy from blunt terminology over there. I have to say that it ruins the melodic feel of a passionate scene when characters burst into blunt words and staging for what's going on.

But then, some ladies like dirty talk in their intimate lives. That's wonderful. But for some reason I don't think it translates too well on to the page... Or at least I haven't found it yet.

So I'll take the lavender any day. Purple makes me laugh because it often sounds too fanciful like a a rococo painting. Too frothy and disconnected from anything about sex. IMO :)

-nearhere

amy*skf said...

Monica, I have to read your stuff--I know you would use the words wisely.

The word is C*CK ladies? LOL.

Nearhere--dirty talk can be good. In the right hands, er mouth. Page?

Karin Tabke said...

Hey, Vivi, thanks for steering me over here.

Great conversation.

I always think of cum as a noun,
and come as a verb,

Jess said...

I just had to delurk because when I read this column all I could think about was this book I read a long, long time ago very early in my romance reading career (I must have been 18 or so) and the prose was so purple I laughed all the way through the sex scenes. Two terms, "honeypot" and "manroot" immediately came to mind which then reminded me of that dreadful book.

FWIW, I don't mind characters using vulgar terms if I think it is appropriate and flows well with the personality and circumstances they are in. And some authors seem to have a marked preference for certain terms describing genatalia. Liz Caryle is coming to mind as an author who loves the word, "c*ock". Linda Howard is also a descriptive and graphic writer of sex scenes, not purple at all, and I usually enjoy reading them. That balcony scene from A Time To Kill is one of my all time favorites! And I remember reading some backdoor play in one of her books which shocked the heck out of me because I'd never read it in a romance. One last example of an author who wrote some pretty purple historicals yet still pushed the sex envelope in a romance is Samantha James. I remember reading a masturbation scene from a heros POV in one of her books and it was tastefully done though purple at the same time.

I will say that I read one book last year and I almost had a heart attack because the book was so shockingly vulgar to me, along with being horribly purple too. That book was Passion by Lisa Valdez. And then I was shocked at how well that purple, vulgar (in my estimation!) book worked for so many other romance readers. It seemed readers either loved it or hated it.

One reader's purple and vulgar is another reader's romance mana.

MaryKate said...

Jess - I haven't read PASSION, I've picked it up several times to read, and put it back. But I remember quite the hoopdy-doo over at AAR about it.

I agree though, it's a taste thing. My sister enjoys romance, but "skims" the steamy parts (sure she does ::rollseyes::).

For me, there's not much that pushes my icky button. It's much more likely to tickle my funny bone. I mean, there is stuff that I wonder about. I can rarely get into spanking or pain associated with sex because it isn't something that appeals to me personally. That being said, I'm all over the biting thing with vampires. I also really, really, really don't get the defecation or urination in sex, but that's really pretty fringe, I think.

Julie in Ohio said...

ROTFLMAOOL!!!!

BIRFT is right, Michelle.

I don't have alot to add because everyone said it right and better than I could ever hope to. I'm just enjoying to conversation. :o)

I'm also taking notes on which authors to read next... :P

ev said...

Monica- I got my Star Trek ornament too- I have all of them. I am sad. And I know just what you are saying about V.

When I first read the column today there were no postings, and I have been gone all day. I am so glad.
Reading them all at once had me damn near pi$$ing in my pants!! ;)

I use the fbomb alot, except when my hubby is around, and then I shoot for Fornicate (he hates the bomb). I also use it when I am in otherwise polite company. Frigging too, along with bugger.

I hate the c*nt word with a passion.

Very purple prose sends me into fits of laughter. I don't think the author means to do it, but...

ev said...

oh,my favorite is still Va-jay-jay....::sniggers::

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, Bellas! You killed me today! I'm just takin a sec to say hi cause I'm nearly done with some work. You've outdone yourselves.

Welcome newbies, friend of Vivi's, and delurker Jess. I couldn't get over how many of you feel like I do about Samantha James. And isn't it funny that we'er so discriminating in the language we want to read, even in erotica?

I'll see you in the morning when Pam Rosenthal visits. Hopefully she won't tell the story of how I mixed her up w/ another author at RWA...

Buonanotte! See you in the am. Cheeky monkeys.

Pam Rosenthal said...

I know, I'm supposed to be upstairs at my own guestblog, but I was too busy yesterday to check in on this topic, which is one close to my heart. Just a few comments:

Erotic words are charged in more than one way. Certain non-euphemistic words just simply sound dirty to us, and we can't imagine shaping our mouths about them. I don't think a writer should use such words unless she's comfortable with them (or perhaps over-the-top UNCOMFORTABLE with them, if she can get some charge out of that -- consider it an experiment, that's why god created the delete key, for writerly experimentation).

The second way of using language is more interesting to me -- what words do you put in a character's mouth? What words is a character comfortable with, not just to SAY, but to use to ask, demand, command, beseach, entreat. How does a character get what he/she wants in bed through words? In Almost a Gentleman, David goads Phoebe into asking what she wants -- sometimes in great specificity ("how MANY fingers?" I think he asks at one point), and she finds it very difficult to do this. I'm not quite sure why it felt right to have him challenge her in that way... I think there were several things going on there under the surface for me. But I think it all ties into the generalities I spoke about in my post upstairs, about power and knowledge in erotica...

And no, Michelle, I'll never tell.