Thursday, April 30, 2009

GuestEssay: Making IT Essential by manyafandom

Making IT Essential

So let me start out by saying I am a huge fan of the Ficster. I think they do a phenomenal job. All the posts, articles and columns are entertaining and informative. I giggle, laugh, smile and smirk as well as learn something new with each and every post.

The ficters themselves have a knack for finding the great new and unknown story. I don’t know how they do that, is it a skill that can be taught? If so, sign me up for the next class. They bring us the stories that go onto be huge in the fandom because they are so well written. The stories that seem to pull us in and tug at our heartstrings. I can’t even begin tell you how many good stories I have found thanks to the blog. If you don’t believe me, scroll back through the posts and look at all the awesome they have brought to the masses. Or, how often I learn something new or am presented with an idea or concept that I never would have thought about before.

They run the gamut on all things fanfiction and fiction related, as well have some killer tunes to boot. The Lazy Yet Discerning Fiscter is an example of all that is good within in the fandom.

But I have a problem with the blog, shocking I know. Just one little entsy, teensy problem … there’s no smut. No smut to be found anywhere. Sure, some of the stories they recommend have smut in them. But besides an editorial by Angel, there has not been a peep about smut and its place in the fandom in general.

Well, I intend to rectify that very small missing piece with this series. You might be asking yourself; “How are you qualified to do this?” For starters I’ve read a ton, and I mean a ton of smut. I’ve read the good, the bad, the ugly, the shudder worthy (and not in a good way) and the truly outstanding that makes me very envious of fictional characters. It’s what first drew me into the fandom, looking for the missing scenes and scenarios from the books. From there my interests diversified, but I still enjoy a steamy well written smut scene. Also, as I a writer I’ve written smut, in some form or another in all of my fic writing. And finally I’m a contributor on the “Perv Pack’s Smut Shack” blog, which if you couldn’t tell by the name is all about the smut. So yeah, I would say that I’m a smutaholic and have a lot of experience reading, writing and critiquing the smut.

Smut or sex is a major part of the Twilight fanficdom whether you enjoy it or not. Mostly, I think because of the lack of it in the books. Stupid fade to blacks, le sigh. Don’t get me wrong, the bits and pieces of the intimacy and closeness we get between Edward and Bella in the books are outstanding, but they leave many of us wanting more. I would be hard pressed to find anything as sexy, meaningful and intimate as the leg hitch and the subsequent scene in chapter 8 of Eclipse in any fanfiction. But like I mentioned above, it left me wanting more. I want the next part, the part we never got to see. What happens after they kiss? That is where fanfic comes in.

For better or worse smut is a part of the fandom, an integral part some would say. And it’s hard (no pun intended) to write, some say the hardest thing to write. Or write well. We all read it, or have read it. Be it openly and proud or hoping that our husbands, family or coworkers don’t see what is up on the computer screen or hiding under the covers with the laptop in the dead of night so no one can see us. There is some debate about the popularity of a story in relation to the smut content. To some extent that maybe true, but that is not what this column is about.

This column is about how to write smut, good smut or how to find the good smut when reading. Yeah, yeah I know that the term “good” is subjective, but this column is about the basic universal rules to smut. Well… more "guidelines" then actual rules (yes, I just quoted POTC. I’m lame like that). Each installment I will talk about a different guideline and offer up some examples for your reading pleasure.

So, let’s get down the purpose of all these ramblings.

Rule…err…Guideline #1: “Make Sure it’s Essential”

Wait, what? Essential? You’re not gonna offer up alternatives for penis, vagina, orgasm and semen? What about positions and technique? What about cores and centers? What about fucking versus making love? To oral or not to oral? I thought this was about writing smut?

Well, it is about writing smut and I will talk about all of those things…eventually. But before we get into content, style and wording we need to talk about purpose and intent. We have to start at the beginning, before a word is written.

But first let’s look up the definition of “Essential” shall we. According to Merriam-Webster it’s this. Essential: something necessary, indispensable, or unavoidable.

Hmm … I think that definition is pretty clear. But just in case it wasn’t, here:

For the love of all that is Fucking Holy and RPattz please make sure that the smut/sex in the story is essential to the plot and the development of the characters.

This, I think is the golden rule or guideline for smut writing and the one that is broken the most. I admit to being guilty of this. What? Nobody’s perfect. What I mean by this, is please don’t make the smut gratuitous. There should be a story behind or purpose for the smut. Ya know, besides reading about our favorite characters having sex.

There are two categories for fics with smut included: Story with a side of Smut and Smut with a side of Story. One is good, the other is not. Guess which is which?

‘Smut with a side of Story’ or smut for the sake of smut is not a good thing, even though it sounds like a win/win situation. It cheapens and degrades the characters that we hold so dear. We lose the essence of the characters and what we love about them when we read about them having random sex without any meaning or purpose behind it. And frankly I don’t find that an enjoyable read. Do you? A weak or thin story sprinkled amongst random sexual encounters does not a good story make. Sure it might get us off or all hot and bothered, but is that really the purpose of fanfiction? Plain and simple…no.

Now smut can be a powerful storytelling tool, when used properly. This is where ‘Story with a side of Smut’ comes in. Emotions and feelings are heightened and more intense during physical sex acts. This offers the writer a chance to make the characters true feelings known in a forceful or powerful way. During sex the barriers and walls that characters may have in place often crumble or fall down. As well as the lies they tell themselves or any denial they might be in. Offering us the reader, a peek into what the character is actually thinking and feeling. And if done properly the intensity and depth of those feelings will be felt and shown. And hopefully evoke feelings within the reader.

Now I know that Sex is an integral part of any loving relationship, this is a fact. I do not dispute this. But in fanfiction or any fiction when reading or writing about said acts, the purpose and intent should take precedence over all else. How can you tell the difference between random sex for the sake of sex and storytelling through sex? That is a tough question, sometimes it glaringly obvious and sometimes it’s so subtle that it can be easily missed. It’s all in the writing and how the writer intermixes the physical actions, thoughts and emotions. Here is an easy way to tell.

When thinking about adding smut or sex to a story you should ask yourself these five questions before you do so:

1. Does the smut/sex act further the storyline in some way?
2. Does the smut/sex convey the emotions of the participants in a way that wouldn’t be available any other way than through intimate sex acts?
3. Does the smut/sex cause the characters to have realizations/epiphanies/moments of clarity in direct relationship to the emotions felt during the sex acts or actions of the sex itself?
4. Does the smut/sex have some sort of repercussions for the characters after the sex act is over?
5. Would it be impossible for the storyline progress without the details of the sex act?

If the answer to any of these is NO, stop and think about it some more before adding smut to the story. If the answer is YES, than go for it. See, easy.

But manyafandom, what about the ever popular one-shot? Surely those don’t need an actual story do they? Well, for one don’t call me Surely (sorry, bad old movie ref. If you don’t get it, ask a friend) and two even a one-shot, regardless if there is smut in it or not should have a story to justify the actions of the characters, again not just to read about them having sex. Just because it’s short, sweet and to the point doesn’t mean you can skip out on having an actual story. So no PWP or ‘Porn Without Plot’. That is bad, very bad. And by the way, premise does not a plot make; more is needed than just an idea.

Okay hopefully I haven’t lost you all yet and you are not bored out of your minds. You may think this is boring or stupid and that I should just get to the good stuff already. Trust me; this is the basic building blocks for the good stuff. And something I have learned myself through trial and error.

I can talk about this concept until I’m blue in the face, but really I don’t like looking like a smurf. So instead, I’m going to offer up some examples the perfectly illustrated the concept or point I am trying to get across. Just to warn I am going to be quoting some pretty graphic stuff here. I mean we are talking about smut/sex what did you expect? But you have been warned, graphic words and content ahead.

When thinking about writing this column and outlining this particular post I went through a list of all the good smut that I have read (and it’s a very long list). One story in particular jumped out as the perfect example for the “Make it Essential” guideline.

And that story is The Office by tby789 and kyla713. These two are masters of the “Making it Essential” guideline. At first glance you might dismiss this as ‘smut with a side of story’ but you would be wrong. Yes, there is a LOT of smut/sex in this story. But each and every sexual encounter between the two main characters adds to the story, progresses the plot and character development as well at the development of the relationship between the two main characters in a way that would not be possible without it.

The story here is very subtle at first. Edward is the Beautiful Bastard and Bella’s boss. They do not get along, but there is really no apparent reason at first, except they simply rub each other the wrong way. Then one night working late…yeah, you get the idea. But as the Edward and Bella get deeper and deeper into the situation they’re in the story pulls us in and leaves you on the edge of your seat wondering if they will ever just simply fall off the edge into love, or at least admit it. Below is a passage that illustrates the ‘Make It Essential’ concept.

“Fuck,” he murmured as he turned his head slightly; his open mouth leaving wet kisses up and down my leg. By now our bodies were glistening with sweat, the windows were completely fogged up and our groans filled the silent space of the car. The dim glow from the garage lights emphasized every carved indentation and muscle of the masterpiece above me. I watched him in awe; his body was straining with the effort, his hair mussed and sticking to his damp forehead, the tendons in his neck pulled tight, and he was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

Ducking his head between his outstretched arms, he met my eyes for a brief moment. Our gazes locked and our breaths were coming out in gasps; we were both close. Closing his eyes tightly he shook his head. “Oh God,” he panted. “Fuck… I can’t stop.”

“Me either,” I gasped, mirroring his look of desperation. Lifting my head up off the seat, I placed a hand on each side of his face and pulled his lips to mine in a searing kiss. Every nerve in my body was begging for release and each rough plunge of his rigid cock inside me pushed me closer to the edge. For one brief moment I allowed myself to imagine what it would be like to have his body whenever I wanted, having him in my bed fucking me with wild abandon. The thought alone was enough to send an explosion ricocheting through me and I gripped his hair tightly.

It is the first time that either character admits to being in too deep, to not being able to control themselves around the other, to not being able to stop. Without them being physically intimate that moment would not have happened or carried the same meaning that is does. It’s not just the words said that convey this but also the actions, Edward kissing Bella’s leg and the thoughts, Bella imagining a ‘what if’.

Now I have another story that is a good example of the ‘Make it Essential’ concept and there is not any actual real smut yet. And by real smut, I mean penetration. Surrogate Love by shwriteme, this is her first fanfic, but she is known throughout the fandom for her beta/editing skills. In this story Bella is a sex therapist and sexual surrogate with her own issues about relationships. Edward is a shy, quiet scientist that has performance issues; the poor guy hasn’t gotten off for over ten years. His family forces him to go to therapy with Bella for help with his ‘problem’.

This story is not about Bella helping Edward get off; it’s about helping him to be a functioning adult in society and Bella overcoming her past experiences. Let’s see what happens during a phone call between the two.

"Here I cum," she gasped out, her voice pure sex. I pictured her beautiful face, scrunched up in concentration as she came. My hand moved faster, pumping in a frantic rhythm, the cream making slurping noises, just like her juices had just a moment ago. And the sounds and images took me over the edge along with her.

Heat spread through my groin, and outward to my limbs, making my toes curl with the power of my climax. It was long and intense and unlike anything I'd felt before. The dim memories of orgasms in my early teens didn't come close to this. I grabbed a towel and mopped myself up as I panted into the phone, trying to calm my breathing so that I could speak. "Wow," was about all I could manage. "Amazing." And it was. It was the most intense feeling I'd ever had. Pure bliss.

And she was panting just as hard. The idea that I'd had some part in Bella's orgasm squeezed my heart. Her words from earlier actually rang true for me now. Whatever happened in my past, I wasn't a disappointment to her. An intense surge of pride rushed through me.

Okay, I must admit that I love a self pleasing Edward, I just do. Anyways back to the topic at hand (snicker). This scene is essential to the story and characters because Edward is experiencing something for the first time without all the negative emotional feelings that are usually associated with it. This is a huge big step for him. Bella helped him by guiding him and offering…inspiration. The shared sexual experience bonds the two together and deepens the infatuation they are feeling for each other. Without the physical act, this would not have happened.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this, the first installment. In the next installment we will talk about the concept of Less is always more. Emotions instead of physicalities.

Manyafandom is the author who makes multiples romantic, slash delicious and brings the deviant goodness to the shack. She hopes to in the future to write an IC/Canon Pairing/Vamp story with No Smut to prove she really isn't as big of a perv/deviant as people think she is. She enjoys almost all kinds of twific as long as it's well written and has a good story. She is also the biggest geek ever and has Star Wars tattoo to prove it.


  1. Hope, I just want to take a minute to thank you for writing such an amazing article. I’ve been taking a lot of heat from a select few readers who feel I’ve used to much smut/sex in my story, and you’ve beautifully illustrated each and every reason why I haven’t drifted from my original plan.

    There is definitely quite a bit of sex in the previous chapters, but I’ve always maintained that without it, the story and the characters would not progress. Not every story will appeal and be right for each reader, and I thank you for taking the time to point out that the content rating of a fic doesn’t necessarily equate to its validity.

  2. Fab article! I absolutely love your 'five questions;' is it possible for them to be featured on the log-in page of every fic site? You know- as sort of a public service. The fic-smut debacles that could be avoided because of those 5 little boggles the mind.

    I think it's quite easy for peeps to criticize, but it's no mean feat to craft any sort of quality smut, never mind integrate it into a complex arc. Christina is one of those writers that just nails it (snicker) and makes it look easy. Those of us that write (or try to, anyway) know that isn't the case, and that it takes a lot of time and effort, not to mention a little thing called TALENT.

    Kudos to you for shining a light on the subject, and to Christina for perfectly illustrating so many of your points. I can't wait for your next installment!

  3. I am thrilled to see this series here. I plan to have some delicious lemons in my story and this couldnt' have been posted at a better time. I've read some truly awful smut and thus I'm apprehensive of committing the same crime. Very useful. thank you for taking the time to share your experience and opinions with us.
    Coincidentally I started reading 'The Office' yesterday, very enjoyable. And now I have another rec in 'The Surrogate'
    I too am a Star Wars fan. There was a time when I could recite the entire script of 'The Empire Strikes Back'


  4. Thank you for posting this article. I know as a new writer it is very nerve racking trying to write a sex scene/smut and making sure it works for the characters and the story itself.

    I've been reading 'The Office' since the beginning and I've never felt that the smut was too much. Each time these two get together a new thought, a new feeling, another secret is exposed, uncovered. And it seems the only way these two can communicate is through their physical relationship. Most of their chats end with an argument about something or another. Plus each lemon is never the same and that is what I love about this story and Christina's writing.

    Now I think I need to give 'The Surrogate' a look.

    Great article Hope and I look forward to reading the next one.

  5. Fantastic article Hope!

    Smut has certainly becoming a popular topic of conversation in this fandom recently. Sadly, more often than not, I see it brought up in an attempt to attack authors for choosing to incorporate smut into their stories. Here you have perfectly illustrated exactly how authors can use it to progress their stories and their characters, instead of just writing smut for the sake of smut.

    Great job! Looking forward to reading the next installment!

  6. Oh how I love the Perv Pack! They introduced me to Dark Edward and I am forever grateful. All the smutty recommendations on their blog are terrific. Great article-bad smut makes my teeth hurt-good smut makes them tingle so I am all for you helping authors write it well.

    Han Solo was my first love. And your movie reference is from Airplane (classic!)

  7. Great article, Hopey (or can I call you Shirley? Maybe Smutty Smurf? Smutette? LOL). I'm so glad you're sharing your perspectives with the fandom, babe.

    We all love our smut ~ let's face it ~ but I think we've all read enough poorly written smut to agree that we all want to avoid reading and/or contributing to the bad. Your guidelines for necessity provide a benchmark for being part of the good. While I have read some 'smut with a side of story' that I would consider good (by my own standards, I admit...), those are the exception, not the rule.

    I look so forward to reading your forth-coming articles. :)


  8. Hope-

    Amazing article. This definitely needed to be written. I think it should be a requirement that authors need to read this before writing any smut.

    I'm a romance novelist and know first hand that sexual encounters can make or break a storyline. The importance of proper vebiage is crucial.

    I also think readers need to read this to further understand the importance lemons can be to a storyline before leaving reviews like, "too much smut" (rolls eyes).

    Thank you for writing this article!


  9. I do need to thank Hope for doing this for us here on TLYDF and we are sure it will add a much needed dimension to the blog. Well Done!

  10. Loved the article, Hope! I can't wait to read more :)

  11. Hope -

    Great article! I'm so glad you mentioned The Office. I've been an avid reader (and huge fan of C) since the beginning and have been appalled to learn that she is receiving reviews that say "too much smut". It is the exact reasons that you mention that make this so essential. There needs to be a way to make this known to the whole fanfic community. I found your 5 questions to be extremely helpful. I've recently begun my own writing and have been beating my head against my desk in how to make the smut (cause lets face it, we all love reading it and a lot of people probably pick out stories based on the fact that smut is included) not cheesy or degrading to the characters.

    Thanks for writing this!


  12. Excellent article Hopey dear! And so very true. I've come across too many stories that I was like "WTF, where's the plot?" I enjoy smut, I do, but a good story to back it us is a requirement for me. I look forward to reading more from you!


  13. So, my favorite lemons are BAD lemons. They're so much more interesting when they're all tortured and angry. Also, like you point out, they can move along a story line SO WELL.

    And seriously, I will say this, finding people who will actually do a good beta of a lemon is not easy. When you do find these people, they are VALUABLE. Even peeps who write lemons regularly will get shy. Just happens. Telling someone else where their characters should put their thingies just seems invasive, so you gotta find the person who just likes to invade.


    And side note there are certain words I hate. Too effin' medical. Like groin. Like uterus. Like Jfly using urethra for kicks. She thinks she's so funny...

    But then again, I called it a "baby hole" for kicks...


    And I like pr0n as well as the PP blog, but I've never thought about us as NOT considering smut on Ficster--cuz fuck knows, we all write it, although I think it also might have to do with the fact the romantic, cuddly smut gets higher reviews (and thus disqualified from being recced) more easily in the fandom than literaryish fic (written at higher reading levels)--although it's also the case that its harder to promote slash, femmeslash, and stuff that isn't in the fandom norm. We should probably try to rec more fics like Bittersweet Hurt...

    Pastypie Porn Peddler swears to rec slash next time over.

  14. Great article Hope!

    I couldn't agree more with you on "The Office" being the great example of how smut works in the story and isn't just gratuitous. (And what glorious smut it is, sigh).

    No one wants to imagine Edward in bad 70s porn and sadly that is basically what a poorly written smut scene amounts to. When reading these, my mind has Edward goes from being the hotness that is RPattz to like having a handlebar mustache, wearing a banana hammock with bowchickabowbow music playing. It is highly unpleasant.

  15. What a thoroughly enjoyable article!

    Smut without plot is just, well, porn. And while I can enjoy some porn in some ways, I think that most of us can agree that porn is mostly a 'man' thing like smut is mostly a 'woman' thing.

    I need some intellectual engagement. Visuals alone just don't do it for me. Raw sex is coarse and even ridiculous to me if there isn't a reason for it to happen. I want a lead up and maybe even some emotion tied to it.

    I'm really looking forward to your next installment Hope.

  16. I'm writing a short AH piece and I admit that the chance to write loads and loads of smut was my main objective (I love reading well-written smut, have always wanted to write smut, and knew that throwing in a sex-scene to another story just to label myself a 'writer of smut' was probably a bad idea). However, after reading this article, I realized that anything that happened in my story was because of a potential for getting it on, and that, instead of focusing on my characters and their motivations, I was entirely preoccupied with how they would do it, where they would do it, and how many times I could get them to do it without being over-the-top. And that, I now know, is just taking advantage of Bella and Edward and not fair to authors who use sex like they would any other character decision (i.e., with care and deliberation). You've really helped me see that writing in sex has to be because of something else and, as a result, my story is much more detailed and my characters are even more conflicted because their acts of passion move the plot forward. So, yeah... thanks for imparting some wisdom. :D

  17. As a reader, not a writer I agree with you 100%. You have written the words that I have been saying over and over in my mind.
    Thank you and I intend to continue to keep reading your words of mighty wisdom.


Spread The Word