On Sunday, we broached the idea of putting yourself out there as an author,
and on Monday we started discussing ways to do it. Today we continue with that.
Now, how do you go about making sure it reads as sentimental and not crude? First, try to write it that way, so any disinterested reader with no knowledge of the story at all could pick up only that section of the story and know exactly what you were trying to express. You may fail, but they will see your intent.
Break it down into the actual steps. Her hand goes here, does this, then does that. Good.
Then you rewrite those steps into a less clinical, more delicate and beautiful. Then fold in the rest of the scene around it and see how it plays.
So far so good, and that may be enough.
Additionally, I have gone to several friends (male and female but mostly female since these types of scenes tend to be more potentially offensive to ladies than to men – besides; I’m a guy. I think I know how guys will react to things.). I test the sections out on them, and they help me refine it until it’s perfect. I asked a few writer friends and critique partners to help me with a kissing scene. We probably redid one kiss four times. It was worth it.
If you have read some of my stories, you know they vary greatly. Some are simple, innocent family humor; another, as I mentioned, is a bawdy tale about a skirt chaser. In all of those, I was able to go to “friends” and ask them if they would mind looking at something.
What friends? Writer friends. Not people I have to see at Thanksgiving dinner. We have to try out ideas with people who are also engrossed in the creative writing process. It’s just safer and it elicits better input. And no ugly glares while we pass the stuffing.
If you looked at the scene with the insecure girl the way my friend wrote it, I think 75% of men and 90% of women would know what he meant. If you then tell your writer friends that you want to improve it the way we have just described, they will help you do it.
Yes they will.
Women that you have never met in person will explain all sorts of things that they probably wouldn’t tell anyone else. They’re writers; they understand. Some ladies have special underwear they only put on during their menstrual cycles. A kiss is sexier if she grabs his hair a little. A visit to a doctor can be degrading – on and on.
They will also ask you for input. Give it to them. Be polite, but be honest and direct. “A guy wouldn’t do that.” Or usually: “A guy wouldn’t say that – that’s something a chick would say, but not a guy.” Then offer a suggestion to replace the phrase. We are all searching for accuracy in our stories. Just saying it’s wrong isn’t super helpful. Suggest a replacement phrase. Even if they don’t use it, they’ll get the idea.
One fellow writer had an argument between her male and female lead characters, and the guy said a lot of stuff I’d never say. Stuff he’d probably get slapped for. It was too much, and I said so. I made some suggestions, highlighting certain sentences and sometimes just a few words that were over the top for the type of lover’s spat they were supposed to be having. When she redid the scene, it was still an intense lover’s spat, and it still had the man being macho and coarse, but he didn’t cross the line and turn off the readers. It was still 99% her words, too. That’s how small a change that input can be.
And how helpful.
If you read that earlier story about the insecure young lady, you know what’s going on – we’re all grownups – and we fellow writers understand you’re coming at it from a viewpoint of a writer. Ask for help, and explain that you want it honest, you want it accurate, you want it appropriate, and you want it describing what young lovers at that age do. I would also go so far as to say I don’t want to offend anybody. I’m asking for their guidance.
You will be shocked at how forthcoming they are – men and women both. I have had a woman I haven’t known for more than a month talk to me about getting ejaculate in the eye because that was part of a funny scene I had to write, and I asked a lot of writer friends for some help. The way I approached it was, they read the scene, which was part of a larger story, and critiqued it all in a critique group I belong to. Then I privately messaged them and I said, “At this point do you mind if I ask you about this part of the scene?” I explained what I was trying to do. Like I said, most of them responded very openly, very candidly. Some did not want to help with that scene; that’s fine – I understand. I thanked them profusely either way, and the ones who helped me were thanked for being so candid and open and honest. It’s now a great scene, and they helped make it that way.
Because of that, I trust their comments much more when critiquing my stories. I feel like we are better friends because we were able to they were able to help me bridge that gap in my story that I needed help with. People want to help. Even if it’s with come in the eye or a pussy check.
They understand that we are just authors trying to get it right with authenticity and they will help.
Now, again – how do we find that help? Maybe you don’t have a critique group (well you should; most are free). Meet writers through Facebook, Twitter, or other social media.
Other writers will help you rewrite just about anything. For the touchier subjects, you want to go with people you have some rapport with. If you are a guy asking for help from women about a topic that women might be sensitive about, GO SLOWLY.
“I have a granddaughter about that age; maybe I’ll discuss it with her? Or her mother, my daughter-in-law?”
Um, no. Depends on the topic, but my advice is no.
TOMORROW we’ll explain how it works. See you then.
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