SEX SCENES IN NOVELS
I received a comment from one of my readers that the sex scenes in Mandate needed to be cut back. I'm afraid I don't agree because Magda and Fuad, two of the lead characters, are very sexual people and their first sexual encounter in the book is very important. For Magda losing her virginity is a voyage of discovery. All those feelings she had building up inside, the fears that she would be hurt or let down and the wonder of what it is all about are satisfied three fold to her surprise and amazement. Sex later in her life becomes a release from the stress of executing her foster father's Mandate so it is an important element of the story.
For Fuad it is an opportunity to discover the difference of making love to someone you care about, even love, versus an act undertaken with a professional. Fuad is oversexed and it is important that we know this because it is one of the things that leads to his downfall.
For Geoff Logan it is important as he is lonely and frustrated and the affair with Christine is a critical part of the plot. You will note however, that after the two graphic loves scenes, which are fairly early in the story that sex is glossed over from thereon as the intrigue and dramatic action takes over.
So it depends on the type of story and the characters as to whether graphic sex scenes are included. In a good book they should be handled tastefully and kept to a minimum. I believe I have done that. Sex scenes do not mean a book should be placed on the porn shelf, far from it. I have been an avid reader of Wilbur Smith's great adventure stories over the years and he doesn't pull any punches when it comes to sex scenes. It certainly hasn't had any impact on his book sales, they have been sold by the millions.
"DISCO GIRL" RECOGNISED INTERNATIONALLY
My poem 'Disco Girl' has just been listed among the best poems in the recent "Hungry Hill" (Ireland) poetry competition. The poem is included in this post for any interested readers to view.
Light striations illuminated gyrating bodies.
The thumping musical beat stretched the limits
of human tolerance, assailing the senses.
Smoke from a hundred cigarettes mingled
with the semi rancid aroma exuded from excited flesh.
I moved trance like in this environment.
A stranger in a foreign country,
A lost soul from the land of Rock and Roll.
Male hunters prowled the floor, hovering,
drink in hand, seeking signs from female prey.
I stepped aside to not hinder their quest.
Couples swayed aimlessly on the dance floor,
never touching, smiling glassy eyed at each other,
transmitting sexual messages telepathically.
She shone beacon like, tall, blond, graceful.
I was mesmerised, wanting her, wondering why?
Why was she here dancing with a short ugly man?
I likened him to Neanderthal times.
She could have been dancing with me. No one noticed me!
It was like watching through a window.
The music stopped briefly, she left the floor
disappearing into the throng.
I followed, hoping for another glimpse, maybe a signal.
There was no sign of her nor the Neanderthal.
It was as though they never existed.
Does the mind play tricks on one?
Creating visions of what we want to see?
Cold night air cleared my head, drying my tears.
In the distance the steady thump of disco music played on,
loud, incessant, invading the night, ringing in my ears.
There are two elements of a story that I believe are key to hooking the reader. Intrigue - creating a mysterious scenario, something at a point in time which is unexplained and you just have to read on to find out more and solve that mystery.
The other element is suspense.
One of the easy ways of creating suspense and the desperate urge to read on is to leave your character in a precarious position, usually at the end of a chapter or segment, and then move to another point in the story for a while before coming back to that character to continue the scenario and perhaps making the situation worse.
Here's an exert from 'Mandate' to illustrate my point:
'Suzanne steeled herself, her heart beating furiously. Her only chance now was to stand up and throw all her weight against the door and then run. Her other option of running to the other side was now gone, she was trapped in the alcove. She also knew that if the door failed to open she was dead because he was an expert at what he did and he rarely made mistakes. He was creeping toward her now, she could hear him breathing, her scalp was tingling and her hair felt like it was lifting. She didn’t hesitate. In one motion she rose, lifting the bar as she came up and then pressed her weight against the door. It didn’t budge.'
If you think writing is the hard part, you haven't tried to get published yet. Believe me writing good material is easy compared to the daunting task of getting something published.
Based on all the research I have done, these days you really need an agent to approach publishers on your behalf and for that to happen you first of all have to impress an agent with your very best work. It needs to be extremely well presented and ideally the type of story, genre etc that there is a demand for.
Also bear in mind that beside you there are thousands of other ambitious writers out there trying to be published also so competition is fierce.
If you have a dream that once you have written what you believe to be the next bestseller and that once you have presented it to an agent or publisher they are going to snap it up and present you with a lucrative contract - think again!
I relate the possiblity of the above to your chances of being the next Brad Pitt or Cameron Diaz in the world of movies. It's that hard unless you are very very lucky to find someone who likes your work and can do something about it.
So my advice is to not dream about the dizzy heights of success too soon, start slowly by entering competitions, try a few agents, magazines that publish short stories and poetry etc. don't expect to make pots of money until you make a name for yourself and with lots and lots of hard work you might make it one day but be prepared to be rejected and disappointed many times.
A couple of years ago I subscribed to a web site called firstwriter.com. They have lists of agents and publishers based in all major countries of the world and can also send you details of various literary competitions that you can enter. There is an annual fee for the service but it is well worth it. They also have a newsletter with lots of tips on various elements of writing and publishing. Their web address is shown below.
Good Luck and my best tip is to Never, Never, Never Give Up!!
THE GERM IDEA
What should I write about?
Whether you are writing a short story or a full length novel there has to be a starting point, it's called "A Germ Idea" and you don't have to look very far to find one. Germ Ideas are all around you. Pick up the daily newspaper and you'll find heaps.People who have suddenly disappeared, robberies, sports heroes who are having a battle trying to beat a drug habit, movie stars in three way love triangles - the list goes on and on. Or maybe someone close to you is having personal problems - being harrassed at work, battling a crippling disease, having difficulty controlling a rebellious teenage sibling - and more. What you have to do is pick up on one of these scenarios, create your own characters, develop and expand the story and at the same time make it interesting by adding additional crises, emotion, conflict, a climax and an ending that makes sense and satisfies the reader.
When I decided to write my novel Mandate I had already made my mind up that I was going to write about a terrorist attack at a Government meeting so I started collecting newspaper articles about the last CHOGM and everything I could find about terrorists. My Terrorist leader is actually based on a real person (he has since passed on) These newspaper clippings were invaluable in developing the story. With the advent of the internet however things have changed and it has now become a major tool for my research.
How long should my story be?
Once you have your germ idea don't start off by planning to write a story that is going to be 20 pages long or 10,000 words or there about. Work out a structure - a beginning, a series of crises, a climax and a denouement then start writing. Don't distract or bore your readers with too much detail or deviations from the main theme - tell the story, let it unfold as you envisioned it. When you have finished the first draft leave it for a few days and then re read it. You will see it from a new perspective. It is then time to start the hard work of honing it until you are totally satisfied with it. Good writing and good luck!
GETTING INSIDE THE HEAD OF YOUR CHARACTER
I just finished reading "Wire in the Blood", the book written by Val McDermid on which the successful BBC TV series was based. "Wow" she did a great job of getting into the mind of a serial killer.
It is so important when writing to try and get inside your characters and see the world through their eyes, to try and anticipate how they would react in specific situations. Exercising good judgement with their reactions can quite often guide the story onto a different path to what you may have anticipated. Many times when writing Mandate I had to stop and think if character A did that then character B would surely react this way .. and now I have got to change a few things to get a more logical progression of events.
I think I managed to get inside my character in Bright Moon. It must have impressed the Lion Lounge for them to choose it as one of the stories in their latest book. Here's an exert from the story to illustrate what I'm talking about:
"I felt a very strange desire building within me and for a while I was unsure of what it would make me do or how I should handle the situation. Should I boldly move into the open and confront him? I decided to err on the side of caution and wait to see what he did next before planning my move. My natural instincts seemed to be working overtime and I felt sure that within a short time the answer would come to me."