Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Big Bang

For me, it's one of the great challenges of erotic writing.

She caressed his head, the springing curl of his black hair, pushed against him--yes, Allen, please--then grabbed with both hands to steady a world flying apart. Coming, oh, not nearly enough of a word for what happened, for the glorious tumult of spiral, rolling, boiling over-ness--she laughed, still gripping his head, and repeated his name.
Forbidden Shores, Jane Lockwood (Signet Eclipse, 2007)

And that's about the best I can do, I think, and that couple of sentences were agonizing to write. Other than the waves and fireworks and all the rest of it, how do you describe an orgasm? Is it even possible? We all know what it feels like (I hope) but none of us have been taking notes at that particular moment (have we? Do let the rest of us know how you did it).

Consider writing about sleep. Not dreaming, but sleep itself. You're aware of the moments leading toward sleep and then you wake up, but what happened in between? You could watch someone sleep--note how they moved, the sounds they made--but your own experience, what happens to you and where you go, is unknowable.

How do you write about a moment where you lose yourself? The French refer to orgasm as le petit mort--the little death--with good reason. Everything stops, time changes, you emerge changed. Sure, you can write about muscle contractions and physical reactions, or you can resort to imagery, or just mix metaphors as I did (my heroine was a housekeeper so I guess she'd naturally revert to kitchen imagery). But is the most important part of the orgasm, for readers and writers, not the actual Big Moment, but how we get there; how we carry the reader along on this journey and what happens after we reach the destination?

Or do you think that cheats the reader--to deprive him or her of the ultimate moment they've been expecting all along, even if they know what it's going to be?

What do you think? what have you written or read that worked for you?


Colette Gale said...

Ooh, this is a great topic, Jane! I suggest we each post a little snippet of "orgasm description" over the next few days!

For what it's worth, I love your description.

The problem is, having to write more than one description of an orgasm in a book...a chapter...a scene.


I think Nora Roberts uses the phrase "and she/he shattered" to describe the Big O.

I supposed after 150+ books and at least as many--probably 300--Big Os, one does tend to run out of new ways to describe it.

Celia May Hart said...

I think it's the leading up to it that's more important. So long as the tone remains the same.

There's nothing worse (I imagine) than reading hot and heavy sex and have it go all purple and flowery on you at the Big Bang.

I'll have to check my orgasm scenes though, and see how they are!

Kate Pearce said...

I tend to keep the language as simple and direct as possible-for me, it's all about how you build up to it, you create so much sexual tension and heat that the reader is so 'involved' that they substitute their own erm...'experiences'at the crucial point or points

Elena Greene said...

Reading through a couple of O's I've written I notice my descriptions of the physical experience aren't that original (tricky to do without being ridiculous!) but I make each O unique through characterization: the hero who needs to lose himself in the experience, the heroine who finds it cathartic.

Pam Rosenthal said...

Susie Bright advises that you not linger in the O moment--but rather to take all the time you want, leading up to it.

When I thought of the O's I've written, this one from Carrie's Story came to mind first:

All I could do was rock my pelvis back and forth, meeting his tongue, chasing it, and then retreating, pretending to hide from it, and finally just surrendering to it, moaning and then yelling until everything kind of exploded and first I was falling from a very
great height and then I was a puddle on the rug, the winter afternoon light slanting in on me through the leaded windows.

(But, her writerly ego interrupts, you have to understand that the Emily Dickenson throwaway, winter afternoon light slanting, has gotten some prior setup.)

meardaba said...

I couldn't do it, that's for sure. I'm terrible at expressing myself, especially when big emotions are part of the experience!

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that mort is feminine in French, so it would be la petite mort. Sorry to nitpick, but if you ever want to use that saying in your books, it's better to have it grammatically correct!