Here we are more than halfway through, and it is definitely proving to be a marathon! I am still enthusiastic about each assignment, the voting/feedback rounds, and finding out the results, but I am also beginning to comprehend how much of a commitment this was and is. Still, as in past rounds, I have enjoyed exercising my writing, editing and critiquing chops.
I felt like I hit my stride in this round. I found the prompt, “write a story that takes place in the dark,” interesting, and the word count was much more manageable to me. While some writers have excelled at crafting what felt like a whole story in the rounds with a much lower word count, I really struggled with it. I welcomed the challenge for just that reason, though, and persevered, coming up with pieces that I felt, if not extravagantly proud of, at least satisfied with. And that opinion seemed to be reflected in the scores I received. Not at the very top, but solidly in the running.
This round, though, suited my writing style much better, and I developed and wrote the story pretty quickly. I still had to go in and prune a good chunk of the beginning out. I tend to lead with a good bit of backstory, which doesn’t work in short shorts or flash fiction erotica – there just aren’t enough words to do that and still get to the sexy stuff. So this time I wrote that backstory, and then, very deliberately, cut most of it so I would have leeway towards the end to explore the story conceit: what it might feel like to be in a sexual encounter entirely in the dark. To that end, I didn’t feel as though I delved deep enough into the sensations, but wanting to have a more complete story as opposed to the heavier description won out. I feel that I struck a good balance, in the end, though I would have liked maybe 100 more words.
So now we come to the risk I took in this round: I wrote it from the POV of a male character. I have written and published at least one other story in which I wrote from a female character’s POV who was imagining herself as a male, fucking her partner. (In “Switch,” published in Orgasmic, the main character imagined she was fucking his throat while he was going down on her.) However, I’ve never written as a man…so this was exciting and new to me. I did research though – laying in bed next to Ad and V, eyes closed in the dark, feeling what a man felt like laying next me. What his skin felt like, compared to mine, what makes a man’s body distinctly different from mine. And I asked them both about what it felt like to be aroused, what their body parts that I don’t have, felt like. It was fun research! And I felt pretty good about the story that resulted.
My comments above reflect what I was hoping to see in the stories that were submitted. I was looking for deep intimacy in these stories – I wanted to experience whatever-was-happening sensually, I wanted to be there, in the dark, with the characters. I also wanted more than just a sex scene – I wanted a real, if necessarily brief, story. Not just hot sex. Though truthfully, this time around, I did score higher for hot sex than just a hint of it. I felt like we now had a high enough word count that the challenge for both could be met. If in short form.
With that in mind, the stories I felt not only met the minimum requirements of the prompt (I was disappointed that several of them didn’t even manage that) but also drew me in, making me experience what the characters did, were the ones I rated highest. The first story, “Seducing the Vampyr,” did an excellent job of that, and besides which, had some lovely turns of phrase (“It was as if she were a fish, swimming into deep black water, leaving daylight, and safety, behind.”) It engages us sensually and emotionally, connecting the two eloquently. I also really liked “Thank you, Daddy,” for the immersion in sensation, although I felt the “Daddy” element was extraneous, and almost felt out of place. Another story that did this well, as being super sexy, was “Weathering the Storm.” Of all the “storm” stories, I like that one the best.
I was not a big fan of any of the restaurant stories. I felt that the setting had such potential for the sensual – eating, tasting, food’s aroma, the feel of it on one’s tongue, the sensation of being fed, blind – but none of the fulfilled that potential, instead going straight to sex (that I found hard to believe, regardless of the dark.) Another story that had a lot of potential, because of its uniqueness, was “Deep in Space.” It had an engaging voice and premise, but was just a bit too remote to be erotic to me.
Two of my favorites were “First Time – Redux” and “Is This Heaven.” Both stories were unique in their ordinariness. Although “Heaven” had a couple places where it didn’t make sense if he was in the dark (being able to see her freckles), the character’s voices came though so clearly, their sweet gawkiness was a delight. In “First Time,” I fell a little bit in love with the characters. What a tender, touching, story. Another one that I really liked for its attention to sensory input was the “Sensory Pleasure Chamber” – except the ending totally confused me. Where did that come from?
Those are the stories that stood out the most to me (without listing my usual pet peeves of grammatical errors, stories that didn’t meet the requirements, stories that switched tenses or POV’s.) This was an opportunity to bring the reader in, to help them experience an erotic charge through senses other than sight. Many did so,and very well, but I felt that some just fell short there.
One thing that I would remind anyone that is engaging in this Marathon, is that these are just story snippets. You have the opportunity to take (or leave) the feedback given, massage, rewrite, revise and/or expand on them. Use these as jumping boards to better writing or to pieces you could conceivably submit for publication. Opportunities abound, and just by showing up week after week here, you are showing you have the perseverance to pursue them (if you haven’t/aren’t already. I don’t know how many of you are published writers.)
And now, onward and upward!