Michille: Stages of Intimacy

By Eric Koch / Anefo - Nationaal Archief, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35672991With the recent spate of posts about sex and intimacy, I was reminded of an RWA session I attended with Linda Howard in which she presented Desmond Morris’s 12 stages of intimacy as a means to build sexual tension in a story. I believe it comes from his Intimate Behaviour: A Zoologist’s Classic Study of Human Intimacy, but I can’t confirm that because it is out of print. I would love to get a copy of it.

I have it posted next to my desk on my writing bulletin board. The list is below:

  1. Eye to body. This is the first step in general awareness, when one person gets a good look of someone else. It’s more than a glance that allows a person to notice the height, weight, and dress of another and registers an overall impression. A man will never approach a woman without this step and readers love it when writers get that first glimpse onto the page.
  2. Eye to eye. It seems to me that this should be first, but I’ll admit that The Des probably knows more about the topic than I do. He says this is the second step, but the first step of active interaction between two people.
  3. Voice to voice. Okay, now we’re talking. Literally.
  4. Hand to hand (or arm). This is used to acknowledge a possible relationship. Nora Roberts uses this a lot. I remember in the McD Romance program, several of us had trouble with how touchy Nora’s characters are early in the story. I believe Jenny put it succinctly (as she usually does) with something like, “Touch me again pal and you’ll pull back a bloody stump.” Obviously some people are more okay with this than others.
  5. Arm to shoulder. This strikes me as the classic yawn-and-drop move at the movies. This is upping the intimacy stakes because bodies are getting closer together.
  6. Arm to waist, or back. This indicated a growing familiarity and comfort level in a relationship. I like the hero’s hand on the small of the heroine’s back. Why I think that is romantic, I have no idea.
  7. Mouth to mouth. It would seem that The Des doesn’t differentiate between the lip kiss and the tongue kiss. Once someone else’s body part has entered mine, a hand to my head is, to me, less intimate. Again, I guess he knows more.
  8. Hand to head. I keep picturing a pat on the head, but I do love it in a story when one of the members of the couple holds the other’s head while kissing.
  9. Hand to body. This is the beginning of foreplay, but still clean (see stage 11).
  10. Mouth to breast. And again, I’d put 11 before 10 because I lump sexual body parts together. A hand to the breast seems less intimate than a mouth. The Des must just mean the vagina or penis.
  11. Hand to genitals. We’re rounding the bases now. And if one follows the mores for writing romance fiction these days, this is when the participants are stone cold sober or they stop.
  12. Genitals to genitals. Home run, baby! A funny aside: when I was noodling around on the web looking for input for this post, I stumbled across one that uses these steps for business relationships. This step for a business relationship means the customer becomes an insider. Ha.

Do you use this in your writing of relationships? Or do you follow a different path?

Michille: Ambient Noise and Creativity

noiseI recently stumbled on an ambient noise website (Ambient Mixer) and found it helpful in my creative process. It blocked out the death rattle on our aging Advatium oven, the scritching and scratching of our highly allergic dog, and other aural distractions. I started to dig around for more sites that might have other ambient mixers that I could use and stumbled on a research study from 2012. Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition (Mehta, R., Zhu, R., & Cheema, A. (2012). Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(4), 784-799). I’ll start with the conclusion:

“Results from five experiments demonstrate that a moderate (70 dB) versus low (50 dB) level of ambient noise enhances performance on creative tasks and increases the buying likelihood of innovative products. A high level of noise (85 dB), on the other hand, hurts creativity. Process measures reveal that a moderate (vs. low) level of noise increases processing difficulty, inducing a higher construal level [physiological distance] and thus promoting abstract processing, which subsequently leads to higher creativity. A high level of noise, however, reduces the extent of information processing and thus impairs creativity.” Continue reading

Nancy: Writers Resist

democracy-pen-americaAn interesting thing happened in America on Sunday. Writers – novelists, poets, songwriters, essayists, and artists of every stripe – gathered in cities and towns across the country for “a re-inauguration of our shared commitment to the spirit of compassion, equality, free speech, and the fundamental ideals of democracy.”

The collective movement is called Writers Resist (#writeourdemocracy), and the gatherings encouraged writers to read original works, participate in panel discussions about democracy, and show support for the most important pillar holding up the house of democratic government – free speech. Many of us in this country have taken for granted a right that is, in actuality, far too easy to stifle, as many of our kindred writer souls across the world could have told (and have been telling) us.
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Jilly: Filling the Well

filling-the-wellWhat have you done to recharge your batteries/top up your creative well this week? I’ve spent most of the last three days with my nose in a book (well, pressed against a Kindle.) It’s been wonderful.

I had great plans to read and recharge over the holidays. That didn’t happen, because I used all my spare time to work on my Golden Heart entry. I wrote a new opening scene—it took multiple attempts before I finally found one I liked. I figured out an opening sentence that made promises about the story instead of just plunging into the action. I filled in plot holes. I checked the etymology of every significant word to make sure it was appropriate to my world. I tailored my metaphors. I wrote a new synopsis that reflected Alexis and Kierce’s relationship arc instead of wandering off into the mystery sub-plot. And then—yay!—this week, I uploaded the lot to the RWA website.

I have a lot of work left to do on this story, but I needed a breather so I decided to treat myself to the book binge I didn’t get in December.

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Nancy: Another 2017 Watchword: Patience

Patience is a VirtuePatience is a virtue, or so I’m told. I have to admit, I don’t have as much first-hand knowledge of this as perhaps I should. But like writing, life is a process, and as I continue pondering and acting upon my plans for 2017, I’ve decided to see how the other half (or whatever the percentage of patient people is) lives.

I should be clear: in my experience, impatience is not always a sin. It can be a driver and a motivator. It can ensure All the Things get done in a timely manner, something which was of the utmost importance in the strict deadline-driven professional world I used to inhabit. In fact, it is probably my impatience with my own work pace and quality, and (sometimes) that of others, that pushed me toward efficiency and higher-quality output. It made me really, really good at what I did.

And then I burned out. Continue reading

Nancy: Intention

Seated yoga poseJanuary, that post-holiday start of a new year, is a natural time to reassess, reprioritize, and reorganize our lives and our writing. Yesterday, Jilly shared her watchword for 2017: publish. Last year I made up my own word (phrase): joie d’ecriture. This year, my watchword/mantra/true north for 2017 is intention.

Intention. It’s not just paving material for the road to hell. It’s having a purpose. Setting goals and focusing on achieving them. Living each day as though it could be your last and knowing you won’t regret having misspent it. That’s all fine and good, you might be saying, but what the hell does it mean? How does one work toward intention? Continue reading

Michaeline: My Favorite Tip of the Year

A Venus Pencil advertisement

Grab your pencil! Let’s write for the love of the game! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

My favorite trick of the year is a mind trick. Remember when I made a word puzzle full of happy words to prime my subconscious? If not, I talked about it and the scientific evidence supporting the technique here on Eight Ladies Writing. This is purely anecdotal evidence, but I had a great writing week after I did it (see results here on 8LW), and I meant to do it again. Can you believe it’s been just a smidge over 11 months since we tried this? Well, here’s trial two, just in time to give your new year a little writing boost.

Will it really work? Well, it depends on how you work. Priming experiments haven’t been reliably replicated, but . . . it may work. A Psychology Today blog here explains how priming may be the first step in “canalization”; in other words, the first step in creating a track for your thoughts to flow down. If you can channel your thoughts in the same direction enough times, they will begin to flow in that direction naturally. But like the placebo that works if you think it will work (and there is scientific evidence to prove that it might), it just might work.

Here’s the game: I’ve jumbled up some positive words. Your task is to unjumble them, and then see what happens to your writing. I’ll report back next week with my results. Here we go: Continue reading