Sunday, April 5, 2015

How Graphic is Too Graphic

By: A W Clarke

                Good day readers. I came up with the topic for today’s article when sifting through my Facebook news feed. I am blessed to have a network of so many kind, hardworking authors, both new and veteran to the field. Scrolling down the wall, I came across a slew of romance novel covers. Some had a soft, dreamy scene of two lovers sharing an embrace, while other covers bore the scene of perfect glistening midsections or voluptuous breasts and waistlines. It wasn’t any specific cover that incited me to write this article. It was, rather, the recollection of my own writings that prompted me to discuss the endless possibilities of graphic content within a romantic or erotic novel. How deep, dark, or graphic can the author take a reader in without violating their tolerance for the fantastic? Here are my thoughts.
                First, before I unintentionally step on anyone’s toes, let me commend that the potential of intensity in any story is limitless! A writer can be as straightforward or mysterious as they wish. I believe a good story blends both of these elements at the right time. A story filled with not only obvious descriptors but a balance of creative seduction at key moments will do its job to heighten the reader’s curiosity and draw one close into the action. When I wrote the love story for A Love Once Found, I have to admit that it was as much a learning experience as it was a joy to write each intimate scene. Through careful thought and consultation with a few editors, I wrote and rewrote the loves scenes, perfecting them by removing details here, and adding others there. My experience with composing graphic content brings me to cite five main considerations to keep in mind when one assesses how graphic to set the intimate scenes of a story:
·         Audience
·         Choice of wording
·         Level of intensity
·         Level of action
·         Balance to story

The most important of the above considerations when writing any story, is audience. Who is it that your story is intended for? It is a good idea to identify two things when you are about to write your next masterpiece- what do you really like to write about; and what type of readers are you targeting? Is it the masses of conservative Sunday churchgoers? The thousands of hormonal teens looking for something emotional to sink into? Or those who fathom the darker and more twisted roads of eros? The niche of readers who you target will govern the other four considerations for graphic intensity. When writing that perfect love scene, you want to draw in and captivate many readers who want to feel every movement- every moment. You don’t want to slash the zone of fantasy that they are in by the wrong set of words, which brings me to my next point.

A writer’s choice of wording probably carries the most profound effect on a reader’s engagement to his or her story. This consideration has its place not only in love scenes, but in all aspects of story writing. Each scene in a story can be carried with the right types of words throughout. For example, a hard edged, modern adventure can be dominated by characters who are blunt and to the point, and speak with a more rudimentary language. Likewise, a story taking place in the Elizabethan Era may depict noble and respected discussions among royalty. Or bound by no restriction, many stories have been outfitted with clashes between the wealthy and poor, the majestic and the common; and all with a mishmash of verbal exchanges throughout. I’ll let you in on a little secret. My recent novel was originally intended to be a short erotic story. It was suggested to me that I might try drawing out the good elements of my story and slow the intensity of the storyline so that it may make way for new ups and downs in character development, plot twists and draw. I was very glad I listened to that author, and my twenty page “soft porn” as some would call it, later unravelled into a much more meaningful love story, over ten times longer in size. Of course, now that my story held not only events of intense sexuality, but also moments of deep emotional seduction, my novel was now catering to what I would consider a wider niche of readers. As my story went into production, I soon saw it as a product that reflected my inner self more than the originally hollow and blatant story of before.
During the write, I learned to match the wording to the audience. It was important to keep the draw on every reader tight, and not break it with the wrong terms. When writing, keep in mind that there is a place for gaudy and a place for tasteful. Some stories carry well with explicit phrases, while others need to carry a smoother tone of intensity, linked only with more restrained wording. That being said, an author can definitely convey most levels of intensity with any form of wording, as long as the intensity is not shattered with ever changing grammar that switches back and forth from sophisticated to obscene.

Level of Intensity
The depth of which the reader is plunged into the passion of a love scene is a direct result of how strongly a set of words paint the scene. If your words create a place or moment that the reader can see and feel, then you have succeeded in immersing them deeply in your story. Here’s another secret. When I write most of my scenes, I pretend to be watching a movie and purposely slow each scene down to slow motion speed. That way, I take my time to look around the setting and describe as many details as is necessary to enrich the moment for the reader.
Make the reader believe they are standing in the action as you describe that scene where “her soft hand grazes his stubbly cheek, her hazel eyes bristling with desire as she gazed longingly at his perfect features.” You could take a darker turn, placing the reader in a more voyeuristic position, as “Kristen curiously studied the object of her desires at the window. Her roommate’s lips were ravaged by Jack’s so furiously under the old cedar tree, the hard rain pelting their clenched bodies. Kristen had longed for Jack since high school, and watching her best friend explore his most intimate passions vexed her greatly.” The more detailed a scene description, the more successfully the writer penetrates and captivates the reader’s emotions. From there the writer can take the reader for a ride as the scene’s subjects share the most intimate of actions. Remember, describing each action and feeling carries much more weight than merely saying “They had sex…and liked it too!”

                Level of Action
                Exactly how far do the subjects of your intimate novel go? Do they make it as far as a heartfelt embrace by the end of the story? Or is your story dotted with numerous scenes of bondage and raging sex acts in the most creative of manners? Again, it is important while writing your story to remember your audience. What is it that they might be looking for? One of my favourite movies is The Last Samurai starring the likes of Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe and Koyuki Kato. I regard the movie so highly not because it is what you would imagine to be the typical Tom Cruise Hollywood action flick. Rather, it tells a story of honour and heroism amid the Japanese rebellion of the late 1800s. The movie is constructed with scenes of honourable actions and memories, one of which touches my heart deeply. I won’t spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it (but will). Let’s just say that the tension between two people drawn to each other for months eventually peaks with the most unlikely level of intimacy…a level of intimacy more powerful than most other movie moments, due to the great respect and understanding behind it!
                Some stories are built on more conservative actions of love throughout its plot. If well written, a story can capture and tightly hold the reader’s curiosity throughout the builds and valleys of the timeline as subjects are slowly drawn together both emotionally and physically. Yet other niches of readers prefer to have their attention constantly doused with scenes of licentious sexual acts, be them carefree or intentional. Intimacy comes in as many forms are there are acts of passion. There is no minimum or maximum number of times, or level of creativity that bounds the interaction between subjects on your set. Combined with the right level of depth and wording, each scene has the potential to leave the reader breathless and begging for more.

Balance to Story
                To round off my considerations for graphic content in story writing, it is very important to keep in mind how appropriate the intimate content is to the theme of each particular story. There are stories like the recent bestseller “Fifty Shades of Grey” which carry a heavy percentage of graphic sexual content throughout its story. Stories like these have an architecture built on taking the reader deep into the lustful pleasures of the physical and psychological. There are stories that follow a rather pornographic structure along its storyline, some of which are designed to take the reader on shorter, more frequent indulgences into the lewd and perverse realms of passion. Other stories can take a more philosophical approach to the events surrounding its subjects, their trials and their successes. These story lines may focus more on how the subject feels emotionally while spending less time on the quantity or brashness of his or her sexual interactions.
                No matter which type of story you write, it should have a smooth balance of physical, intellectual, emotional and psychological elements that keep the reader locked into the genre of story you have created. Maintaining a reader’s suspension of disbelief is conducive to the thorough enjoyment of any story. Shattering it with a scene descriptor that doesn’t match the intensity levels of the rest of the timeline will hurt the enjoyment of the story.

                My final thought. There is no right or wrong to the creativity or intensity of a literary work. Thousands of books and movies have drawn the deepest of emotions from its readers and viewers. The object of the game is to write a story that is both fulfilling to you, and the readers you want to write for. You can leave a reader reservedly enjoying the subtle courtships between two characters in a romance. Or you can sink that reader into an arena of perversion, witnessing the most intensely deviant acts of desire between bodies. Or quite frankly, you can challenge yourself to create a story that binds the two in a very careful balance.

No matter how you write it, remember not to lose sight of the story. The story is the wonderful road of events that you take your reader along. Without that story, all you have in a graphic novel is merely a bunch of sex acts. So how graphic is too graphic? As for my personal preference, it’s a lot like how I drive. Some people I know go hard and fast, and boast about always being the first one who gets to the finish line. I on the other hand, take my time, take in every moment, and always enjoy the ride.

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