The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Friday, July 20, 2007

For Adults Only

by Melissa Bell

This past week, I did something I’ve never done before. Something I never thought I’d have the guts to do. It was really scary, and I drank more wine than I probably should have, and the minute I did what I did, I felt a little like I might have to go throw up. But there was no turning back. The deed was done.

I wrote a piece of erotica and sent it out.

There. I said it.

A few years ago, during National Novel Writing Month, I decided to write a romance. I figured it would be fun. And it was. Incredible fun. Until I got to the sexy bits. Then things got challenging. How far was I willing to let these guys go? And why was I feeling so uncomfortable and hideously self-conscious with my writing all of a sudden?

Flashback to the summer of…well, a long time ago. I was fourteen. My girlfriend, Nancy K., and I had huge crushes on The Hardy Boys. As in the TV characters (we weren’t interested in the books; those were for guys). Nancy swooned over Shaun Cassidy. I was smitten with Parker Stevenson. We spent hours dissecting each television episode, critiquing the stars’ wardrobes, their hairstyles, and sneering with green-eyed envy at the female guest stars who were lucky enough to actually get to stand next to our beloved idols.

We would spend hours together at each other’s houses and on the telephone creating fantasy scenarios involving our celebrity heroes. “Can you imagine if there was a contest to fly to Hollywood and we won and we were walking down the street and we ran into Parker and Shaun?” Or “What if they had to film an episode in Toronto at the Royal Ontario Museum or something, and we were walking down the street and we ran into Parker and Shaun?”

And then one night, during a giggly sleepover, Nancy did something I had never thought anyone could or would do. She put pen to paper and hastily wrote a story about Shaun and Parker and herself and me. I can’t recall what ridiculously contrived circumstances she had invented that threw us all together in that story, but I do remember it was a fun read. Nancy, at fourteen, was a good writer. And such was my introduction to “fan fiction” – I had no idea at the time that such a thing actually had a name, or that anyone else ever did this kind of stuff. I was immediately inspired to join in the fun, and over the next couple of months, Nancy and I wrote pages and pages of scandalously purple prose, our amateur scribbling becoming more and more detailed and “torrid” as our imagined relationships with the young detective duo grew into marriage proposals and families and buying houses in Beverly Hills and attending the Oscars. We knew no shame.

Until the day Nancy’s mother discovered what we’d been up to. And she didn’t like it one bit. I don’t know how Mrs. K. found the notebooks that Nancy and I had been swapping back and forth, or really what was contained within our writing that she found so objectionable – other than what we’d been taught in ninth grade health classes, we were completely uninitiated in anything even closely resembling sex.

But Nancy and I had gotten pretty good at describing passionate kisses, deep longing looks, tender moments of running our fingers through the blow-dried hair-dos of our objects of affection, and whispering sweet nothings of teenage desire into the ears of Shaun and Parker as we watched the sun set on Malibu Beach from the terraces of our fantasy mansions. Mrs. K. phoned my mother who, concerned with my reputation among my friends’ parents, suggested that it was probably best that Nancy and I should immediately stop what we were doing. I was mortified that our “secret” was out. I was also terrifically embarrassed, humiliated, and wracked with shame.

Nancy and I didn’t see much of each other after that. We didn’t know it when were creating our own little fictional world involving a pair of Tiger Beat cover boys, but we’d been “bad girls.”

So I guess it’s no real wonder that, decades later, when I decided to bring a couple of consenting adult fictional characters together for some grown-up-style hanky panky, I choked. As much as I wanted to, as much as I knew a “romance” required numerous descriptive passages of sexy carrying on, I felt ridiculous. Never mind that I’d read umpteen hundreds of detailed paragraphs of lurid prose and god-knows-what over the years, I couldn’t bring myself to create it myself without a crippling sense that what I was setting out to do was somehow wrong. Thank you, Mrs. K.

But now I’m thinking that maybe, just this past week, I’ve finally turned a corner. As a total newbie to the genre that is erotica, I’m not particularly hopeful that my recently-penned submission is going to go anywhere other than directly into the editor’s trash. Or that maybe she’ll read it and think “My heavens! This Mel Bell is a walking cesspool of freakish depravity! I must leave at once and go wash out my eyes with soap!” But you know what? It doesn’t matter anymore. Writing about something doesn’t mean it actually happened. Or that I would even want it to happen. But what I do want to happen is for the Mrs. K.s of my memory to stop telling me what I should and shouldn’t be writing about. “Bad girl,” Mrs. K.? Maybe. Maybe, in your eyes, I was. Maybe I still am. But I’m not fourteen anymore. Thank god. And I can write about whatever the hell I like.


Blogger Anne C. said...

What an awesome post! (I wish I could say more, but this is a pre-coffee comment, which is never a good idea, is it?)

Fri Jul 20, 08:07:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

I had some "Mrs. K"'s who really shamed me, too. One teacher read a section of a story I'd written (with pointed 'BLANK's and 'BLANK BLANK BLANK's replacing some of my phrasings) out loud to the class to demonstrate what NOT to do. For reasons of virtue, not style. I'd been reading Kurt Vonnegut and Erica Jong at the time.

I'd forgotten all about that and some other similar experiences.

Thanks for the great post, Mel.

Fri Jul 20, 09:06:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Denis Taillefer said...

I bet most erotica writers have their Mrs. Ks, which explains all those pseudonyms.

I once wrote a short-short intended for an erotica ezine. It was tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended) and I had a ball until getting to the crux of the matter, then I was tongue-tied (still no pun). And when flogging the story I had mixed feelings. I was afraid it would get picked up. But it didn't. Phew!

Fun post, Mel.

Fri Jul 20, 10:53:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

I love this! and I sent it out Oh my God, Mel, you are soooo brave! I drafted an erotic scene last summer which is now tucked safely in a dresser drawer. I can't even bring myself to reread it much less redraft it. Thanks for the insight, I'll have to figure out who my Mrs. K is.

P.S. Parker was my fave too. My friend J.D. and I used to sleep with Shawn & Parker's mag pics under our pillows :)

Fri Jul 20, 06:23:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Oooh, this is so great!

I'm happy to hear of your 'breakthrough'! Take that, Mrs. K's of the world!

Sat Jul 21, 03:10:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Chumplet said...

Of course, erotica vs. just plain spicy is relative. I thought the love scenes in my book were too risque, but the editor merely rated it as mildly spicy. Or 'two flames' on the spice scale.

Reading some of my critique partners' chapters makes me blush. I don't know if I could pull it off!

Congratulations Mel.

Sat Jul 21, 11:40:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger MelBell said...

Thank you for all your kind comments, you lovely people!

Sun Jul 22, 01:10:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Childhood is great for "baggage" of the sexual nature. Great post, Mel.

Sun Jul 22, 09:46:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Hi Mel, I'm kinda late getting to this, but I applaud your courage. If you can think it, you can write it. Good luck with the submission.

Tue Jul 24, 10:09:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello every body, my name is selena from south USA,and i really just want to let you all know that having a broken heart is not an easy thing, but no matter how bad your situation may be, i want to let you all know that there is a way to get your ex chasing you around again wanting to be with you, because this is exactly what i did when my boyfriend left me for someone else and i am happy today cause he is was were i got the chance to get my boyfriend back and i will also want you all to give it a try.anonymous

Wed Jul 31, 05:40:00 am GMT-4  

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