Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Bluffer's Guide to ... Contemporaries

by Madeline Moore

With the beautiful new Black Lace covers came three new lines: paranormals, contemporaries, and historicals. Last Wednesday, Olivia Knight offered a bluffer's guide to paranormals, and today Madeline Moore, (that's me!) will do the same for contemporaries. Next Wednesday, historicals will have their moment in the Lust Bites spotlight.

Top facts:
Black Lace line: contemporaries
Colour: various
Committed Lusties, past and present: Madeline Moore, Lauren Dane, Megan Hart, Portia Da Costa, Madelynne Ellis, Mathilde Madden, Kristina Lloyd, Alison Tyler, Nikki Magennis

In a nutshell:
"Contemporary" means in the here and now. No magic, no fantasy worlds, no Gothic or historical settings, no Oracles no minotaurs no highwaymen no giant scorpions no werewolves no...you get the idea. But! The novels can now take place in any part of the world, not just the UK, as in days gone by. The good news about writing a contemporary novel is, you don't have to create an entire fantasy world from scratch, or conduct anywhere near the kind of research necessary to writing a period piece. The bad news? You're still required to turn in the same word count so if you run out of plot - no extra battle scenes or lessons on the decorum of the times. Whatcha gonna write?

Behind the scenes:
The decree "It has to have a human head" is a no-brainer for this line. Realism is key, except whereas in real life you might lock eyes with a cutie on the elevator and daydream about him later, in the lives of our contemporary erotica heroes and heroines, linked eyes on the elevator leads to quick and dirty sex. But the sex has to matter to the plot, so the guy on the elevator would likely turn out to be a) Her new boss! b) The mysterious stranger who's been tailing her. c) Her lover, with whom she likes to play "stranger in the elevator", etc.

The heroes:
Black Lace is looking for more romance these days, primarily of the heterosexual variety, so yes, you need at least one hero, mixed in with the other men our heroine might sample. This doesn't necessarily dictate that he must be a tall, dark, handsome stranger,but he should probably be a decent bloke underneath it all. Since fate has not decreed that he will end up with our heroine this leaves the writer of contemporaries more wiggle room, but since it's a romance...somehow the ending should be HFN (Happy For Now) if not HEA (Happy Ever After.) Rule to remember: He must be horny; he must not be horn-ed.

The heroines:
She's a modern gal, 100% human, so she likely has some faults as well as a healthy libido. Often she's a looker, but not always, and she's usually under the age of forty. If she's fairly untouched at the beginning there must be a reason why. That one can be a brain twister. If she hasn't just left the convent or a bad marriage, and she's an adult, what's she been doing,sex-wise, all those years? Alternately she could be experienced at sex but jaded by the game. Somehow, whether she knows it or not, she's looking for love. Won't say: "No." Will say: "Yes!"

The best bit about writing contemporaries
• Right now, Black Lace wants erotic contemporary romance novels written by women. So if you're a woman who writes contemporaries you're in luck.
• You really can write what you know. Love fashion? Describe the clothes! Fine dining turn your crank? Use it to turn your reader's crank, too. Harbor a secret yearning to be a card shark, concert pianist or athlete? You may never get there, but she can. Love giving head but scared of anal? She's just like you!
• Fucking is reclassified as research: If what you're writing isn't turning you on, how's it gonna turn on the reader? Your sig oth will love it.
• All the world is your stage, baby. Your friends might not enjoy seeing their sexual peccadilloes published (though mine love it) but hey, it's not like they didn't know you were a writer when they spilled the beans.

The best bit about reading contemporaries
• Possibility! The story takes place on planet earth, in the present day. If it happened to her, it's at least possible it could happen to you.
• Chops! These days, Black Lace is looking for literary erotic romance. When you pick up a BL contemporary novel, you can be sure it's well-written, with a plausible plot and interesting characters. In fact, with the new covers, you could read these books in public without shame. Who knows? Your reading material could spark the initial conversation that just might lead to...
• Sex! Yeah! Lots of it, and not the "rocket into space" or "train hurtling into the tunnel" kind, either. Whether it's kinky, romantic, experimental, vengeful, wild or even wrong, there's gonna be lots of it, it's gonna be well done, and it's gonna be hot.

Top tip: internal logic
Of utmost importance when writing a contemporary novel is the very same rule Olivia Knight offered last week, only doubly so. Within your story, the logic has to be absolute and consistent. In regards to contemporaries I add this: the logic must also be believable. So - yes the plane needs fuel to fly, but no, in a contemporary, the pilot may not be a chicken.

What to say
• "Is this so well written it'll blow the socks off Adam Nevill?"
• "How does this make her feel? What does she think about this?" and, "How can I describe it without starting the sentence with "She felt..." or "She thought..."

What not to say
• "It happened to my friend." Doesn't matter. If it doesn't ring true, the fact that it is true means nothing.
• "My goal in life is to be published and if I have to write about yucky sex to accomplish that goal, then dammit I will!"

Over to you:
• What’s your favourite "contemporary" fantasy?
• Who would you like to see used as the basis for the hero in a contemporary erotic romance?

A note about the covers: I haven't included all the new covers in the body of the post, or even all the new Portia da Costa covers(!), due to space constraints. I chose to use at least one of the new covers of our members, past and present, and all the gala Black Lace 15th anniversary covers I could get my hands on.

I'd like to thank Madelynne Ellis for her technical assistance in the creation of the post. Without her, you wouldn't have this final image to consider as you formulate your comments:

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