I am now working on Tsarina version 2.0, which is a complete rewrite of what I have so far. (So the snippet I posted is now totally obsolete.) It’s still going to be about Carl and Ellen and Tsarina, but the characters’ relationship has changed.
Instead of Ellen and Carl being married, they meet as friends first. Carl has recently gotten divorced from a rather despicable human being named Merry, and is learning how to like his own company. Ellen is single, although involved in a sort of alternative relationship on the side. (Which comes to a messy end fairly early in the story.)
I have been rereading Stacyia Kane’s very clever Be A Sex-Writing Strumpet, I bought back when I was writing Cannibal Hearts and it got me through the James and Godiva scene towards the end of the book.
Kane’s book, which I recommend to any writer, whether or not you plan on writing about sex, spends a lot of time on the philosophy of sex scenes (don’t laugh, I’m serious) talking about how to decide if you need a sex scene, how graphic to make it, how to lead up to it, what those scenes accomplish, how to make sure that you are actually accomplishing your goals with the scene.
After some soul searching, I have decided that this book needs to be an erotic romance. Specifically a magical realism erotic romance, about a very atypical relationship. I resisted this conclusion for as long as I could, because the nature of the story means that the sex scenes are going to be descriptions of a man masturbating and a woman watching him do it–not something that I expect to have a wide audience appeal.
Ellen, while she is very much the instigator and director of the action, isn’t going to be physically involved–she won’t do so much as toy with her blouse buttons and flush. Her arousal isn’t that kind–it’s the control and the imposed one-sided intimacy that she craves (and Carl does as well–the power exchange is fully consensual.) Her remaining a cool observer while he is going crazy with desire is at the heart of their dynamic. (And Tsarina, while physically involved, isn’t human and that relationship is of a different order entirely. Plus there’s some ambiguity as to how real she is.)
All of which raises the question of why describe something in an intimate, sensual, and graphic way when it’s not the kind of eroticism that is going to be very accessible.
Well, because the story deserves it. This is a story about deeply emotional and erotic love, and I feel the need to give those scenes the consideration that I would give to any other love story. The scenes may not be arousing for the reader, but they are important to the characters–just as important to them as what you do with your lover is important to you. If I shy away from those scenes I’m not treating my characters with due respect, and they won’t stand for that.
I don’t even know if this makes any sense, but it does to me. One of my deepest convictions is that any act which is done in love is an act of love–see, for example, the dissection of Sublime in The Worms Of Heaven.
In any event, I am still wrestling with the story and how to make it happen. As usual, I am just barely ahead of my characters. I have a pretty good idea what happens next, and I think I could guess at what happens after that, but it’s their book, they are going to take it where it has to go.
I’m just writing it down.