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?

Nancy: Love for the Long Haul

kiss-on-windowBecause most of us here on the blog write (and read!) a lot of romance, the week of Valentine’s Day presents an opportunity to talk about that core component of a romance story: love. More specifically, believable, happily ever after (HEA) love.

I thought about HEA love this past week when Maria V. Snyder posted on her FB page about the need for Valentine’s Day cards for 25+-year relationships, cards along the lines of “you annoy me and drive me crazy but I’m still willing to put up with it” or “we worked hard to mesh and I don’t want to train anyone else”. Yeah, those aren’t quite the messages we tend to read or write in our romance novels, but they are tongue-in-cheek reminders that there are real-life HEAs.

Back in the fiction world, though, that ‘believable HEA’ part isn’t always easy to write, and doesn’t always resonate with readers. For example, Continue reading

Nancy: Today’s Word is Theme

The theme is the beating heart of your book.

The theme is the beating heart of your book.

Judging by my posts this month, it seems I’ve spent most of January thinking about keywords that apply to my writing life and process, including intention, patience, and empathy. This past week, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about theme as a result of the confluence of disparate elements.

First, a quick definition of theme as I’m using it here, from Reference.com: “The theme of a novel or story is the major message that organizes the entire work…The theme of a work is distinct from its subject, which is what the story is ostensibly “about.” The theme is an expression of the writer’s views on that subject.”

On Wednesday, Elizabeth wrote about defining what you stand for, as well as what your characters stand for, to help uncover potential conflicts, arcs, and growth opportunities. In the comments section, Jeanne and Elizabeth wrote about the way an author’s view of the meaning of a work can change through the writing process. With this in mind, it makes sense that many writers get their first (or second or fifth) draft on the page, then step back and analyze the work to uncover the theme. Why look for the theme? Continue reading

Nancy: The Problem with Empathy

malice-toward-noneOdds are, if you’re a creative person, you use your creative expression to process and make sense of the world around you. Knowingly or unknowingly, you also might be working out your personal issues in your work. This lesson came home to me a few weeks ago when I realized a struggle I was having with a character on the page was the very same struggle I was having with some real-world people in my life.

The character in question is an antagonist who did a terrible thing to the protagonist’s best friend years earlier, and that bad act comes back to haunt all of them in the present in the story. The real-life people I’ve referenced have recently stated beliefs and claimed values I didn’t realize they had, and I can’t make peace with it. In both cases, I’ve lost my capacity for empathy, and it’s a problem.

A few months ago, I posted about writing as our superpower. One of the things that makes that power so super and immutable and important is the ability to make readers walk in the shoes of the ‘other’. Stories take us places we’d never go in real life and introduce us to people we’d never meet otherwise. It’s especially important that an author empathize (and make the reader empathize) with the protagonist, even when she’s doing stupid or dangerous or infuriating things. Even when she’s weak or making bad choices or not living up to the challenges we’ve given her. Empathy allows us to go deep with the character to understand why she’s making these choices, because within the bounds of the story, we view the world and feel her feelings from her perspective. But what about the antagonist, especially if s/he goes into some seriously dark territory and does some truly heinous things? Continue reading

Michille: First Lines

heath-when-the-duke-was-wickedEvery now and then, I (or my daughter, another voracious reader) bring home a bag of random books. This time, it was a bag of books from a colleague. We sat around the dining table after dinner tonight (last night for those reading this on Thursday) and read the first paragraphs of several of the books. There were several Debbie Macombers which I brushed off. I’ve read her stuff before and it’s great, but she doesn’t even open the bedroom door, much less close it after the kiss, and I like the sexual tension in stories and she doesn’t deliver that. There was a Nora Roberts and since she breaks a lot of rules, I wasn’t surprised that hers didn’t deliver the expected (it was a prologue), but Chapter 1 nailed it. We added in a Fern Michaels, a Susan Wiggs, a Lorraine Heath, a Kresley Cole, an Elizabeth Hoyt, and a Jayne Ann Krentz. In the interest of brevity, I’m going with the first lines of these books. It was illuminating to discuss which first lines intrigued us into an interest in reading further. Here is what we read. Continue reading

Michille: Cosmo’s Take on Historicals

romance-novel-tropes-1478898494

Or The 10 Sexiest Nonsexual Things That Happen in Historical Romance Novels in Eliza Thompson’s opinion. She starts with hand touching that is unimpeded by gloves, which is stage four according to Desmond Morris’s stages of intimacy. She gives an excerpt from In Bed With the Devil by Lorraine Heath. I’ve never read one of hers, but I have When the Duke Was Wicked in my TBR pile. It may have just moved to the top of the pile. Continue reading

Jilly: Christmas and Community

christmas-and-communityJust three weeks of 2016 left!

The first few days of December are always the calm before the storm. I’ve been inching forward with my WIP; wrestling with my synopsis, which needs to be totally rewritten; working on the edit of my first 50 pages; and thinking some more about how to keep my story alive when the holidays are in full swing.

Last Sunday I put together a list of ways to stay in touch your story on a daily basis – quick tricks that could be squeezed into the most packed schedule. Then, on Thursday, Kay tracked down some productivity insights offered by the prolific film and TV writer-producer-director, Joss Whedon. I’m especially grateful for the tip about the importance of rewarding oneself early and often. 🙂

Yesterday, to my surprise, I added another strand to my holiday week WIP survival plan. Continue reading