Friday, June 15, 2007

Sex Backwards

You won’t think that sex scene would still be a turn on if you read it backward, but lo and behold, that’s where I found myself while I worked on the copy-edits for ONE MORE TIME.

I am a believer in the saying that if the sex scene doesn’t turn me on, chances are it won’t turn the reader on either. So there are a couple of scenes in this book, which after a marathon session in writing them, I had to take matters into hand, as it were.

When I do copy-edits, I do a breeze through, reading the post-it notes and generally groan at the dumb mistakes I didn’t catch. Then I read forward, examining each of the copy-editor’s red pencil marks to see whether or not I agree with them. Then, I read it backward, sentence by sentence, looking to spot mistakes both I and the copy-editor have missed.

I always find some.

At any rate, you really wouldn’t think that a sex scene read backwards, starting with the climax, would get you all hot and bothered. But it does apparently.

Maybe its true what Pam and Jane have been saying about the erotic pay-off coming with the description of what leads up to the climax, rather than the climax itself.

So, fellow authors, do you review your copy-edits the way I do, and if so, is it still a turn-on?

And readers, anyone game to grab a book and take a crack at reading it backward? I wonder if part of the arousal is from remembering how I wrote the scene (in that I know what comes before).

Over to you!

(And there was going to be a picture by Rowlandson with a couple doing it "backward" as it were, although more truthfully from behind, but I ran out of time to scan it in.)


Pam Rosenthal said...

I love this post, Celia. On the simplest level because I suck as a proofreader and this seems like a wonderful idea. And on some other level because I think there's a wonderful idea for erotic writing there. I've sent a memo to the girls in the attic. Thanks.

Anonymous said...


By word? By line? By paragraph?

Celia May Hart said...

By sentence. So that each sentence stands alone as a grammatical construct. Which gets interesting when you have to figure out what on earth the "he", "she", "that" or "it" is in the sentence. This catches alot of subject/object mistakes for me.

Pam -- an erotic scene backwards? Man, you just sent an express telegram to the girls in my attic!

Jane Lockwood said...

It does sound rather like the theory that porn (print, visuals) that has lost its former allure is given a new lease of life by being turned upside down. Or so I'm told.
Interesting, tho--it implies each sentence must have an erotic arc to it.

Pam Rosenthal said...

It also makes me think of that very sexy movie of some years back, Betrayal, with Jeremy Irons and Ben Kingsley, where the story of an adulterous affair is told backwards.

Sherrie said...

Celia, it's an old proofreader's trick to read backwards. It works especially well if you are proofing your own work, because we all know how easy it is to miss our own typos, etc.

I'd also like to comment on turning a picture upside down. This is something photographers and artists often do, to catch errors in a picture. When I was taking a photography course, the instructor said that a picture that looks balanced right-side-up should be turned upside down to see if it still looks balanced.

Looking at a picture the normal way can fool the brain into accepting things with flawed balance or composition or color. turning it upside down often makes those elements jump out at you. So I suppose that's the same concept with reading backwards.