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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Considering Sex by: Francesca Hawley

For those of us who write futuristic, fantasy and paranormal stories, we know how important it is to create intricate, credible and intriguing worlds. But writers who combine fantastical elements with hot sex, like I do, have to go one step further. We need to consider marriage, mating and sexual rituals that might be a part of the culture for our FF&P stories.

All writers of FF&P stories have to consider these things to some extent. But the more explicit the story, the more seamless and cohesive these elements must be otherwise the minute a shapeshifter, vampire or alien romance begins to develop and head for the “bedroom,” the reader starts to think. And thinking is the last thing an author wants a reader to do. We want readers to feel our stories. To be caught in our stories. Captured by them. And for erotic romance, to be turned on by them, too. If the story has some profound meaning suitable for deep thought, well, let’s have the reader think later, not when I’m trying to have my hero and heroine make love. Making love isn’t a thinking thing, it’s a feeling thing.

So how do you keep your readers feeling the story? Plan ahead. Figure out if there are any marriage/mating or sexual rituals in this culture you’re creating. I’m only now learning just how important this is. Why? Because I didn’t really think the whole thing through when I created my shapeshifter world. I’m a pantser, not a plotter. In other words, I write by the seat of my pants. I sit at the keyboard and just…go. This can make for some fabulous happy accidents and some major headaches.
In creating my world, I made a few decisions…on the fly. I decided that my shapeshifters have two options for a mate. Option 1…they can choose to mate with someone or option 2…they find their other half.

Chosen Mates are like any human couple (except for the animal elements). Chosen Mates fall in love but can fall out of love too because there’s no biological imperative. No imprinting—so a breakup is possible. Even more important, if one of the pair dies, the other feels normal grief (which is painful enough) rather than a debilitating destruction of half of themselves. A Chosen Mate can go on and lead a happy, healthy life and may find another mate. Even a True Mate.

What’s a True Mate? These are the soulmates in my universe. True Mates are a couple destined to be together—two halves of one whole. In my world, True Mates could be same sex but in the story ideas I’ve had so far, my pairings have been male/female. One or both members of the pair are likely to recognize the other as a True Mate. Not always, but often.

They can try to deny their mate, but the ability to remain apart from that individual is painful. They also begin to slip into each other’s thoughts creating a telepathic bond. The bond is so tight outsiders wonder “if I cut one, will the other bleed?” The answer is almost yes because if one dies, the survivor usually suicides unless there are pups (children). It’s possible for the one who lives to stay alive, but it rarely happens. If they have pups, the living mate may be able to keep their sanity and parent their young, though it will be a painfully lonely existence. Once a shapeshifter has been in a True Mate relationship, they’ll never take another mate. They may have a sexual relationship – friends with benefits – but they’ll never experience that completeness with another. Every other relationship is a pale comparison to what they had with their True Mate. Only after they die and are reunited with their True Mate in the afterlife will they again be complete.

When I created my shapeshifters, I included the sexual aspects too. So far, I’ve only written wolf stories, though there are other animal shifters in my universe. When my wolves pair up, the sex is hot but not unusual. But when the female goes into heat interesting things happen. Sex is very animalistic. That’s true in both a Chosen Mate relationship and a True Mate relationship. The bonding rituals are deeper in a True Mate pairing though—telepathy helps. A True Mate pairing can share thoughts and know when the other is hurt, happy, or intensely turned on. Biting and dominance are a strong part of the mating ritual. True Mates will mark each other so that anyone else will see the mark and know someone is mated. The sex is fierce but not brutal – trust me, biting can be sexy. I wanted it to be clear there is love there in spite of the growling and biting, however I also wanted to maintain a similarity to wild wolf matings. It was fun to add in my own quirks when I created my shapeshifters.

My mistake was that I didn’t plan ahead as I suggested to writers earlier. It was a case of “do as I say, not as I do.” So that now as I begin to write additional stories, I’m forced to reread my old stories to develop consistency about True Mate and Chosen Mate “rules” of engagement – pun intended. Learn from my mistakes fellow writers! Develop a handbook before writing so you aren’t playing catch up later. Plan for not only the weather and the culture in your universe, but wild monkey (or wolf or jaguar) sex, too. Your characters and readers will thank you.

To get a glimpse into my shapeshifter universe, read an excerpt here:
Protect and Defend

Protect and Defend
By: Francesca Hawley

Mikaela Laughlin discovers a whole new world, and an entirely new species, when she tours the crime lab to meet Lieutenant Diarmid Redwolf while researching her next book. She’s lusted after “Delicious Diarmid” from afar for a long time, but meeting him sets her body on fire. It doesn’t take long for Mikaela to discover there’s more to Diarmid than meets the eye. He is far more delicious up close than she ever dreamed.

Diarmid has bad guys to catch, but one look at the voluptuous writer has him wanting to catch her instead. His shapeshifter blood recognizes his True Mate and he wants her naked body arching beneath his. Now. But with a cold-blooded serial killer on the loose, Diarmid has one shot at his future and he will not fail. Because this time, the killer wants Mikaela.


Carly Carson said...

Hi Francesca,

Interesting points. It seems true of many parts of an imaginary world, not just the sex parts. You can sort of paint yourself into a corner. Of course, the fun part is painting your way out!

Danica Avet said...

Hi Francesca,

You make a lot of valid points I think we pansters (working on being a plotter) have trouble with. I made the same mistakes in my first MS, but I think I've managed to work the problem out. Sex is usually an intregral part of a romance and there are probably more rules to follow in paranormal/futuristic/sci-fi because it's a whole new world.

Great post!

Francesca Hawley said...

Carly - yes it's fun to paint your way out of the corner. However, if I've stated something as a "rule" in book one, I better remember that rule when I get to writing book two. If I don't, I'm sure my readers will tell me I've forgotten something important. :-)

Danica - I've tried to become more of a plotter too, but it's not really working real well. I'm finding that it tends to interfere with my "process". Let me know if you find a way to become more of plotter without it disrupting your writing flow. I'd be really grateful for any suggestions! ;-)

Shelley Munro said...

Great post, Francesca. I totally agree about creating a bible if you're working on a series. Like you, I'm a pantser and now that I'm working on the 9th book in my Middlemarch Mates series I'm wishing I'd been a little more organized at the start. Never say I don't learn from my mistakes though because I've already started a bible for my new sci-fi series. :)

Francesca Hawley said...

Thanks for commenting Shelley. Yes that handbook of all the "rules" for your universe comes in darned handy.

Lise said...

Superb overview of the complexity of creating paranormal "alternate reality" worlds, and especially the sexual/emotional/relationship elements. Great post, Francesca.

La-Tessa said...

Great post Francesca. I'm finally at the point where I'm putting all my mental brainstorming on paper. As a heavy plotter, I completely see the benefit in having a story bible.

Savanna Kougar said...

Excellent blog. It is crucial to develop the sexual and pairing culture of your shapeshifter or paranormal world so the reader can experience it.