Forum: Sexuality in Middle-earth

Discussing: In search of het

In search of het

I'm curious as to why I can't find much LotR het that I like. I've read that HASA doesn't like het, but I don't think that's it, I like het a lot and would love to see more. Yet I don't see much offered that I feel I can approve. So of course I want to know why it's so difficult to write believable het for Tolkien-verse.

I've read a few that I enjoyed very much: Closer to Fine, To Look at You, By Previous Arrangement (WIP) are examples. I've seen some stories where the erotic or relationship part is only a small section, though quite good.

The question - why isn't there more good het? My hypothesis is that it's damned hard to write het and not have the characters go OOC. Even disregarding the difficulty of finding believable situations or motivations, once you have the character in the situation, it's difficult for me to see Tolkien's character there unless the author is very skilled.

I'd be interested in the perspective of others on this.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

Pure speculation follows.

One reason is that it's hard to write good explicit or graphic het, period. (It sounds like that's what you're talking about, rather than G/PG rated romance.) Why - not sure. I've read various speculations that many women prefer not to write het because it makes them more vulnerable - it's much easier for the story to be taken as reflecting the author personally. Makes a certain amount of sense to me - I've written a little bit of it and find it more difficult to write than slash, frankly. Have you tried writing any, Lyllyn? What's your feeling on that, if you have?

The point about OOC that you make I would also agree with. There are certainly plenty of couples in the Tolkien-verse to choose from. The problem is that the way that Tolkien himself portrayed them, it can be difficult to conceptualize the characters sexually. Sam and Rosie had thirteen kids, but we never see the sexual dimension of his character in anything that Tolkien ever wrote, and it's hard to overcome that in a way that is believable. With slash there's already a certain necessary suspension-of-disbelief, which perhaps makes the sexuality more acceptable?

Possibly one reason that there's little good het out there is that what does get written may be more often by younger authors, who just don't have the experience to draw on to make it realistic and erotic? Granted most slash is M/M, and the authors are typically female, but my impression is that (at least for HASA stories) the authors average a bit older... and so have RL experience to draw on even if it's that of a different gender. Again, pure speculation of course.

I've nothing at all against het in principle - can't, since I've written a bit! - but my problem with the stories I see are that they're mostly Arwen/Aragorn or Eowyn/Faramir, I've never particularly liked either Arwen or Eowyn, and I often find fanfic versions of them less tolerable or convincing than the originals. So that's one drawback for me.

Very good question. I agree that HASA gets a rep as a het-unfriendly archive, and I don't think it's really deserved. I'd say there's no type of story that's universally rejected around here, except the sorts forbidden such as MSTs and RPSes. You name it and there's probably one in the archive, somewhere.

Cel

 

 

Re: In search of het

Thanks, Cel, I'm really interested in the speculation here.

One reason is that it's hard to write good explicit or graphic het, period. (It sounds like that's what you're talking about, rather than G/PG rated romance.)

Not even necessarily graphic, I'd put the range at PG-13 through NC-17. Erotic, whether mild or extreme.

I've read various speculations that many women prefer not to write het because it makes them more vulnerable - it's much easier for the story to be taken as reflecting the author personally. Makes a certain amount of sense to me - I've written a little bit of it and find it more difficult to write than slash, frankly. Have you tried writing any, Lyllyn? What's your feeling on that, if you have?

I don't really feel the vulnerable aspect. I find it more difficult than slash only in that there aren't many well drawn characters to use, and creating originals that are believable and interesting is difficult.

I wrote a brief R rated scene, an extra chapter of True Jouney Is Return. It might have been easier since it was a birthday present, hence a specific scene, and I didn't see it as a serious part of the story; rather like Isabeau's One Night as an extra for CMC (except that she did it better).

What would be hard is finding a real reason for the erotica to occur in context of a serious story - not that there aren't reasons, but sitting down and creating them is work. Perhaps too many start the other way round?

I certainly appreciate well done PWP, but even there I need the characterizations to work, or I might as well read generic sex scenes.

The problem is that the way that Tolkien himself portrayed them, it can be difficult to conceptualize the characters sexually. Sam and Rosie had thirteen kids, but we never see the sexual dimension of his character in anything that Tolkien ever wrote, and it's hard to overcome that in a way that is believable. With slash there's already a certain necessary suspension-of-disbelief, which perhaps makes the sexuality more acceptable?

This is a key part - in one of the older sexuality discussion I mentioned the mythic aspect of certain characters, it's harder to put someone like that in a sexual situation and make it work. The suspension-of-disbelief point is a good one.

Possibly one reason that there's little good het out there is that what does get written may be more often by younger authors, who just don't have the experience to draw on to make it realistic and erotic?

I think that may be a part of it when it comes to the younger authors on ff.net, but there are others writing het as well. Yet a lot of those just don't ring true to me- they don't permit me to suspend my disbelief.

Do you think there is a tendency for someone writing erotica to skip too much that is essential to good writing so they can 'get to the good part?' Maybe your first comment has an application I didn't see - not so much vulnerability as that writing slash makes it more difficult to do a self-insert, and the distance forces the author to put more into it.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

I would chirp up here, very briefly, & say that as a writer of specifically hobbit het I see a great deal of hostility to it within the fandom in general (not merely HASA at all). So many fans are now convinced that either Frodo & Sam, or Merry & Pippin, were meant by JRRT to be lovers for life, that to suggest otherwise gets your head bitten off, launching of Mary Sue witch-hunts, snide comments about soap operas, etc.

But part of the problem is the all or nothing approach in a lot of LOTR fanfic--either everyone is pure as the driven snow, or screwing each other like rabbits, both of which toss realism out the window. The middle way would be showing people having an awareness of one another's sexual quality, without always acting upon that knowledge. This is a hellishly tricky thing to pull off well; I am currently tackling it in an Frodo/Eowyn hurt/comfort fic that is proving to be a hard birth for that reason.

And I will really stick my neck out & observe that such a subtle angle does demand a level of age & experience that most young writers, however gifted, simply do not have.

Regina

 

 

Re: In search of het

I would chirp up here, very briefly, & say that as a writer of specifically hobbit het I see a great deal of hostility to it within the fandom in general (not merely HASA at all).

Regina, do you see this as a conviction, or as a reaction to the quality of much of the het that is written? And is it specific to this fandom, or a general fanfic phenomena? I have no experience of other fandoms, but I know slash is widespread.

I have read some of your work and liked it, particularly Capturing a White Queen. I haven't seen anything that wasn't rated General. Did I miss something?

I will mention that without trespassing on the general rating in the least, there is a nice tease of sexual feeling in The Finest of Vintages .

But part of the problem is the all or nothing approach in a lot of LOTR fanfic--either everyone is pure as the driven snow, or screwing each other like rabbits, both of which toss realism out the window. The middle way would be showing people having an awareness of one another's sexual quality, without always acting upon that knowledge. This is a hellishly tricky thing to pull off well;

Yes, that is part of the problem, the screwing like rabbits slant kills the suspension-of-disbelief stone dead. Subtlety works much better to build the tension, and I think some tension is a part of good erotica. Or even a non-erotic portrayal of a developing relationship.

And I will really stick my neck out & observe that such a subtle angle does demand a level of age & experience that most young writers, however gifted, simply do not have.

At the very least some sexual experience would be essential, and that's something I suspect a fair portion of writers at places like ff.net, whether writing het or slash, don't have.

Good luck with your fic!

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

Regina, do you see this as a conviction, or as a reaction to the quality of much of the het that is written? And is it specific to this fandom, or a general fanfic phenomena? I have no experience of other fandoms, but I know slash is widespread.

I see it as a conviction in many quarters, since I have seen het stories I considered very fine (not my own, BTW) heavily criticized. But maybe part of my problem is I came into LOTR fandom after writing in a fandom that was, rarely, strictly het.

I have read some of your work and liked it, particularly Capturing a White Queen. I haven't seen anything that wasn't rated General. Did I miss something? I will mention that without trespassing on the general rating in the least, there is a nice tease of sexual feeling in The Finest of Vintages.

Well, that tease is something I try to put in all my stories . . . I will confess the rating system here gives me some difficulty. Many of my hobbit tales have some sexuality in them, but not so much that a rating of 'adult' is necessarily accurate, since I take that to mean the story has actual sex. I would in fact welcome comments from you & others on this issue, since I'm thinking about changing the ratings on some of my work.

Good luck with your fic!

Thanks. Just put up the first chapter here in Beta; it's titled "Stars in Their Courses."

Regina

 

 

Re: In search of het

At the very least some sexual experience would be essential, and that's something I suspect a fair portion of writers at places like ff.net, whether writing het or slash, don't have.

One further point: when I say 'experience', I don't mean just sexual. There are plenty of teenagers who are jaded sex machines by the time they enter college, nowadays. What I'm thinking of is emotional experience, the bone deep understanding of the complexities of the human heart & the way people connect with each other. That is something that only age & living grants you.

And think too, how much more complicated it is to apply this sort of knowledge to a fantasy realm like M-e with invented races that are not human & with life events we would never encounter. Not at all easy, really.

Regina

 

 

Re: In search of het

Do you think there is a tendency for someone writing erotica to skip too much that is essential to good writing so they can 'get to the good part?'

As the author of only two pieces of erotica, one slash, one het, I have to say that in my case, a fair amount of literary "foreplay" had to take place before I could bring myself to write the "good parts". I think that they are both rather PWP, but I had to lay in some background before the bump-and-grind could start. In fact, when I was writing One Night, I despaired of Heth and Faramir ever actually getting into bed together! They wanted to argue, and eat and do almost anything else. I complained to Una that I was beginning to think they really didn't want it to happen!

Maybe your first comment has an application I didn't see-not so much vulnerability as that writing slash makes it more difficult to do a self-insert, and the distance forces the author to put more into it.

Are you saying that slash is more likely to be better written because of the distance? Perhaps that is so, that the author must be more conscious of what the character is doing. I don't think that was the case in my two stories, I think there was more distance in Stud Fee, but that was because I was using two characters I don't normally use, and was not as familiar with them. That had more of a bearing upon the situation than it being a m/m pairing, I think. Though I will confess to a certain amount of wishing for self-insertion in One Night.....

 

 

Re: In search of het

I've read a few that I enjoyed very much: Closer to Fine, To Look at You, By Previous Arrangement (WIP) are examples.

I love those first two, as well- and, in fact, was so bowled over by the first, that I reference it in the next-to-last chapter of my long story. Lyllyn, I was thrilled that you actually had your eye out on my one piece of femslash, which, sadly, may be the only believable one that I can write within the Tolkienverse, but I did consciously try in "Daughters" to have both a couple of R-rated het scenes (though we are talking Rohirrim, so it's still pretty staid!) but also to have my main character, an OFC, be confronted with some subtle bi-sexual emotional/physical issues as she is growing up. [Edit: In thinking about it, actually my scenes are barely PG-13. But I do consider this thread to be a definite Nuzgul... ]

Why isn't there more het? Well, I think that it takes a lot of skill in writing. Which is probably why there aren't more non-Mary Sue OFCs, something that I feel very strongly about. Plus, your point about the age of the authors probably has a lot to do with it. My story (and yes, I'm 33, married, stepparent, yaddah yaddah yaddah) originally was going to all be from Eowyn's POV, and deal with the complexities of her physicality, philosophy, emotions, family relations, etc. until I realized that I was really quite dependent upon my OFC to keep all of the non-book plot going. She is 2 years older than Eowyn and, as an OFC, has many more liberties to actually go through angst, lust, crushes, confusion- everything that a woman goes through. But I would like to think that in my story, anyway (and Eowyn is not a 'maid' when she meets Faramir in it, but since JRRT didn't specify, I can't say that it's noncanon), the women concerned are allowed a very wide range of physical expression, even if they are Rohirric.

As for hobbits, and Elves- it's out of my realm, at least for now. I would be thrilled if I could write something as titillating as "Closer to Fine," but I fear that... well... (and perhaps this is why not many of us write convincing hetfic, or hetfic at all!) it will ring hollow. And I couldn't bear that. But once a challenge has been set...

The Professor was a pre-Vatican II Catholic.

What else can we say??

Go forth... and write hetfic!

~Thevina



 

 

Re: In search of het

Not to hog this forum, but... Isabeau, I absolutely loved "Stud Fee." I know it isn't hetfic, but wow. Excellent repartees in the dialogue, exquisite believability... and quite titillating everything else. *fans self*

Thevina


 

 

Re: In search of het

Well, that tease is something I try to put in all my stories . . . I will confess the rating system here gives me some difficulty. Many of my hobbit tales have some sexuality in them, but not so much that a rating of 'adult' is necessarily accurate, since I take that to mean the story has actual sex. I would in fact welcome comments from you & others on this issue, since I'm thinking about changing the ratings on some of my work.

So far the ones I've read all seem fine for general. The sexual undertones are subtle, and should not take it over PG. I would say something like The Smell of Mint might upset a young child on the imagery and disturbing themes, but a young child wouldn't be reading it anyway.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

As the author of only two pieces of erotica, one slash, one het, I have to say that in my case, a fair amount of literary "foreplay" had to take place before I could bring myself to write the "good parts". I think that they are both rather PWP, but I had to lay in some background before the bump-and-grind could start.

Which is what makes both of them successful, IMHO. I've seen some LotR het which could work, but the groundwork isn't done, so it just seems OOC instead and I give up on it. It's sad, I saw an Eowyn/Aragorn recently. The concept was promising, but the foundation wasn't there and I gave up within the first 2 pages.

The thing that made Stud Fee work for me is that you spent the necessary time to lead the reader down the garden path, as it were, so that something that should have been totally outrageous actually worked quite well.

Maybe your first comment has an application I didn't see-not so much vulnerability as that writing slash makes it more difficult to do a self-insert, and the distance forces the author to put more into it.

Are you saying that slash is more likely to be better written because of the distance? Perhaps that is so, that the author must be more conscious of what the character is doing. I don't think that was the case in my two stories, I think there was more distance in Stud Fee, but that was because I was using two characters I don't normally use, and was not as familiar with them. That had more of a bearing upon the situation than it being a m/m pairing, I think. Though I will confess to a certain amount of wishing for self-insertion in One Night.....


I do think that there is more good slash out there than good het, and this is one possible reason. It could be that using two canon characters means the author has a framework to use, which isn't true of an OFC. It could be the distance. It could be that people think they don't have to work as hard as if it's a 'natural' pairing. Or it could be that people say 'it's just PWP, so I'm not going to work very hard.'

Do you have any ideas on why there is relatively less good het than good slash? Or do you feel that there is a lot of good het out there?

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

Why isn't there more het? Well, I think that it takes a lot of skill in writing. Which is probably why there aren't more non-Mary Sue OFCs, something that I feel very strongly about.

It's frustrating. It can be done well. It is done well at times. Why not more often?

But once a challenge has been set...
Go forth... and write hetfic!


I'll be watching for it.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

Thanks for the rating opinion, Lyllyn--helps give me some guidance on the issue.

Have been writing tonight on my Tar-Miriel story < at Zim> & hope that this may be viewed as good het . . .but then again, is non con sex ever really 'good' in that sense?

Regina

 

 

Re: In search of het

I just find that there's not a lot of het out there, and I, too, looked. Specifically, I looked for Aragorn/Arwen. I surfed over to Open Scrolls not *tooo* terribly long ago, thinking I'd at least find a lot of stories, but I didn't. I clicked through to the end of the archive. I typed in Aragorn/Arwen in google under various combinations and found maybe five explicit het fics; the rest were romantic, but not explicit. Most were just not very interesting to me and showed all the same flaws of writing I could find by clicking randomly at Library of Moria, so clearly there's no het-specific sorts of mistakes (minus a few anatomical differences...). If you can write good explicit slash, you very likely can write good explicit het if you find the right pairing to write about. Likewise, if you can write a good slashy romance that is under an R rating, you can likely do the same with het.

To explain the lack of het in this particular fandom, I'd go with the fact of very few female canonicals and the general difficulty people have with seeing even the men in sexual relationships at first (and if men are not seen as sexual beings, it's almost guaranteed the women aren't), so there's just not much het written.


At the very least some sexual experience would be essential, and that's something I suspect a fair portion of writers at places like ff.net, whether writing het or slash, don't have.


Ah, I'd have to go with a 'no' on this one. As I've said to some who've complimented me on my sex scenes, whether het or slash, writing explicit sex scenes for me is like bluffing an experienced poker player who not only has a triplet and a double (you can tell how much experience of poker I have) with nothing but a pair of twos. Lack of experience is not an absolute bar to writing a good sex scene, even a very explicit one; research and imagination can make up for a lot, and even if it doesn't boost you to the top of the genre, you can still outwrite probably a good 85% of writers who *are* sexually active simply by exercising a little restraint.

As for writing lime-y romances, you don't need to have experienced a romance in order to understand something about how people react to each other; a little observation and careful reflection can give you the basis to write a romantic fic well.

 

 

Re: In search of het

At the very least some sexual experience would be essential, and that's something I suspect a fair portion of writers at places like ff.net, whether writing het or slash, don't have.

and the reply

Lack of experience is not an absolute bar to writing a good sex scene, even a very explicit one; research and imagination can make up for a lot, and even if it doesn't boost you to the top of the genre, you can still outwrite probably a good 85% of writers who *are* sexually active simply by exercising a little restraint.

Yes, but here the research (and perhaps restraint?) is key. Surely lack of experience does not mean an author cannot write about something, no no no. But a good many authors don't bother with that research - they go along blithely and make things up without any thoughtful foundation. In that sense a virgin writing an explicit sex scene is really no different from a city-dweller writing about farm life. Either can be done well, but it takes work. And let's fact it - fanfic writing is done for fun, and a lot of authors aren't interested in putting in that much effort. Which is perfectly fine, of course, but does mean that for readers who do want accuracy and plausibility, those stories aren't going to make the grade.

Funny thing about het in this universe and the frequency of OFCs - well, as I said before, there are in fact a good number of canon M/F pairings. Sam & Rosie, Arwen & Aragorn, Beren & Luthien, just to name three. Three problems. One is that most - not all, but most - of the female characters were not very much developed by Tolkien himself, so it's extremely easy for a fanfic author to characterize them in ways that many readers may disagree with or dislike and consider OOC. Second is that the most popular characters (perhaps particularly for those who came to the fandom through the film) don't have a canonical female partner - Legolas leaps to mind, here, but also Frodo and Boromir. Third, and related, is the fact that many (younger?) authors don't want to necessarily write about the canonical female partner - they want to be able to imagine themselves into the role of lover of X, and can't do that with an extant character, so X's canon partner vanishes, if he had one to begin with. Hence the self-insert-type OFCs.

At least, that's my speculation.

Cel

 

 

Re: In search of het

Not to hog this forum, but....Isabeau, I absolutely loved "Stud Fee." I know it isn't hetfic, but wow. Excellent repartees in the dialogue, exquisite believability....and quite titillating everything else. *fans self*

Thank you, Thevina! I'm receiving pressure from certain quarters to do another slash fic, but there are only a couple of places in my story line that it would be plausible. Needless to say, if I do another, I'll post it here.

And I haven't yet brought myself to the 'prayer rug worthy' "Captain, My Captain." Too many reviews and not enough reading, but you are certainly on the short list.

I hardly think a prayer rug is necessary--there are parts of the story that I really don't like, and need work. But don't put yourself down for reviewing--think of yourself as the oil that keeps the engine of invention going! Feedback is always wonderful! I don't review enough, but between the forums and writing, I just don't have much time. It seems I spend four to five hours a day on the computer as it is. My husband seems to think so! I try to review regularly for the archive, but that's about all I can manage, and it makes me feel bad.

Now that I've read "A Game of Chess," I think I'm ready. I just need to put paper in the printer......

I'm looking forward to catching up to Una in the time line, but that is going to take a while! You're running stuff to read off in hard-copy? You're braver than I am. I have CMC backed up on disc, but I can't afford the ink cartridges to print it off!

At least with CMC's word-count, I can say that I'm doing my bit to single-handedly amend the het/slash imbalance........

 

 

Re: In search of het

Yes, but here the research (and perhaps restraint?) is key.

Actually, in this case, I would say restraint is more key than research. Sex is a bodily experience--we have bodies, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out the basics of what men probably will like even without looking around for sex tips on line. How many stories need to be so anatomically correct in the description of what is being done that the author would need to know about the perinium? Or about how to properly do fisting? Very very *very* few, and the mistake I see in graphic slash and het is overdescription rather than concentrating on feeling and sensation, which does *not* equate out to writing about the exact spot partner A is caressing or the exact manner of caress most of the time. Some stories do call for more detail, but there research does come to the fore; research, or personal experience.

For the romance as such, however, I think you've nailed a number of points—self-insert romances are probably the most popular type of story on line, and the nature of Tolkien's narrative means there's more temptation to do it than not. I know we've been over that before in a few other threads, but it does keep coming up as a plausible reason for why canonical romances seem to be *relatively* rare compared to OC/canonical romances.

 

 

Re: In search of het

Funny thing about het in this universe and the frequency of OFCs - well, as I said before, there are in fact a good number of canon M/F pairings. Sam & Rosie, Arwen & Aragorn, Beren & Luthien, just to name three. Three problems. One is that most - not all, but most - of the female characters were not very much developed by Tolkien himself, so it's extremely easy for a fanfic author to characterize them in ways that many readers may disagree with or dislike and consider OOC. Second is that the most popular characters (perhaps particularly for those who came to the fandom through the film) don't have a canonical female partner - Legolas leaps to mind, here, but also Frodo and Boromir. Third, and related, is the fact that many (younger?) authors don't want to necessarily write about the canonical female partner - they want to be able to imagine themselves into the role of lover of X, and can't do that with an extant character, so X's canon partner vanishes, if he had one to begin with. Hence the self-insert-type OFCs.

So would you conclude that it's a matter of the quality and care of the writing? In line with your last reply to Dwim - which I concede BTW, good research combined with a skillful writer puts head and shoulders above most - are people just Not Doing Their Homework? Is the desire to jump right into a fantasy relationship keeping most authors from writing a decent piece of fanfiction? There are good writers out there, whose other stories ring true, but their erotic fiction just doesn't work for me.

Thinking about this - Regina, you talked about hobbit het. I mostly gave up because so little worked for me. But when I was going over the Mithril winners, I found one of the finalist stories "And Left the Tenderness of Tears", which I thought was excellent. She set the scene carefully, worked out a very plausible scenario, and probably most important, made me care about the OFC before getting into a romance with the canon character.

Maybe that's why the 'extra scene' method is easier on the reader and author - the groundwork has been done in the main story.

Of course, as Isabeau points out, that can make it easier or harder on the author. With the established characterizations, the characters simply may not listen when the author wants them to do x with y.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

the mistake I see in graphic slash and het is overdescription rather than concentrating on feeling and sensation, which does *not* equate out to writing about the exact spot partner A is caressing or the exact manner of caress most of the time. Some stories do call for more detail, but there research does come to the fore; research, or personal experience.

I would concur. It's why people always say nudist camps are not erotic - just knowing the parts are there doesn't have the effect. It's the feelings and sensation that adds meaning.

I've been discussing the difficulty of romantic scenes with Levade, and I postulated that one thing a good romantic or erotic scene needs is tension, and that too many don't have it. What say you, oh skillful writers? Is this a necessary component?

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

I know you said skillful writers, but I'm still going to hop in. ;-)

I've been discussing the difficulty of romantic scenes with Levade, and I postulated that one thing a good romantic or erotic scene needs is tension, and that too many don't have it. What say you, oh skillful writers? Is this a necessary component?

I would say this is a good component -and it has the potential to automatically make things more dynamic- but that there are other ways to add depth (which I agree is essential). Though, I suppose many elements could be listed under the tension header, such as nervousness or stress. That's probably the best word to use, in fact.

Having never written eroticism in this genre (so certainly nothing successful), I can't offer insight into the process. (Well, I've made attempts to tease, once for slash-spoof and once for het, but I don't think those count.)

For the sake of talking, though, it's been my reading experience that eroticism still needs basically the same elements any genre needs. Good writing, foremost IMO (you'd think this would go without saying, alas *g*). Speaking of the Library of Moria, I've seen stories that had potential, but I honestly couldn't get through them without giggling over homophones or poor grammar making a sentence say something it shouldn't. Actually a seamless delivery might be even more crucial for a good erotic scene - who wants to be distracted while reading something like that?

What I've also seen frequently is that characterizations in erotic scenes tend to be interchangeable: a guy and a girl, but not necessarily Aragorn and Arwen, for example. When the characterizations are distinct, it's much easier to suspend disbelief and get into the story, I feel, in the case of slash or a basic PWP (roll in the hay type set-up). As not to say that slash is inherently unbelievable, by the way. But I'll be much more likely to believe that Erestor and Lindir are lovers if they are acting like individuals with distinct (ideally elvish) personalities. (I've never actually seen an Erestor/Lindir piece, so I'm not pointing fingers.)

*sigh*
Sorry, what was the subject? ;-)

-AE, the meandering...

 

 

Re: In search of het

Is the desire to jump right into a fantasy relationship keeping most authors from writing a decent piece of fanfiction?

That's my sense. It doesn't necessarily mean the creation of OFCs, either - can mean the use of canon characters, but not developing them sufficiently in advance to convince the reader with respect to sexuality.

I can't illustrate this from any het fic I've written - "Leavetakings" has an explicit though not graphic scene in chapter three, but the purpose is to illustrate Finduilas's illness through her reaction to Denethor, rather than to titillate (and I don't think it is erotic at all, frankly). Though I hope it was plausible and convincing the way it was written. Since I prefer not to use others' stories for illustrative purposes if I can help it, I have to use my slash story "Passages." That began with the intention of being a short PWP, and in the event it took me well over 5000 words to just set the stage. If I were starting it over again, it would probably be more. Now, I don't know that it's convinced all its readers, but I do think that had I not done some of the initial character development, there wouldn't be many who kept reading later.

The author does have to make the readers care about the character for the scenes to work - true for het or slash, either one. It may be harder in het because of the characterization issues I've already mentioned, but it's not impossible, even with an OFC.

Don't get me started on characters who won't behave, either!

Cel

 

 

Re: In search of het

For the romance as such, however, I think you've nailed a number of pointsl-self-insert romances are probably the most popular type of story on line, and the nature of Tolkien's narrative means there's more temptation to do it than not. I know we've been over that before in a few other threads, but it does keep coming up as a plausible reason for why canonical romances seem to be *relatively* rare compared to OC/canonical romances.

This has been a very interesting thread, and I'd like to respond to many of the messages, but it will have to wait until I can use my work computer, because mine is locking up for some reason everytime I try to cut and paste anything. So I'm having to type out everyone's quotes by hand, which is tedious to say the least.

I'm not active in any other fandoms, and would be interested to hear from one of our multiple fandom authors some comparison as to het/slash ratios in something besides Tolkien. I've read a bit in Stargate fanfiction, and it seems that the ratio may be slightly more equitable, but the slash, particularly of the Jack/Daniel variety, is still more prominent.

I know that when I look at the Tolkien canonical romances that are presented to me, I don't have any desire to write them. Beren and Luthien, or Celeborn and Galadriel, are simply too mythic. And movie!Elrond has so poisoned my formerly beloved Elrond that I would have to do some considerable mental sorting out before I could write an Elrond/Celebrian romance. Aragorn and Arwen are also similarly mythic, though other people handle them well, particularly Dwim, who made some nice, hot love scenes between them very plausible despite her lack of personal experience. I love Faramir, but am not an Eowyn fan, so I really don't want to go there. I will say that some people have written some really good, explicit Faramir/Eowyn fic--Maledisant leaps to mind. Strangely enough, though I've never written hobbits, Sam and Rosie are probably the most accessible to me, and I've noticed that she does enjoy a fair bit of action in the limited amount of het that's out there. Go Rosie!

The fact that some of the major characters (Legolas, Frodo, Boromir) don't have any partners is a situation that is simply too tempting I think. And it's possible to write a decent romance with them and an OFC, if you're not wedded to the idea that your character is going to have the happy-ever-after ending. I know that I would find the idea of doing a gap-filling, pre-Ring romance with one of them and an OFC more appealing than trying to write one of the canonical romances.

 

 

Re: In search of het


Do you have any ideas on why there is relatively less good het than good slash? Or do you feel that there is a lot of good het out there?

A couple of thoughts:

as far as I know, research indicates the majority of fan fiction writers are women who define themselves as heterosexuals.

As one explanation for the popularity of slash goes, straight women have more erotic interest in the male body than the female body, which is why it is far more fascinating and enjoyable for them to write of two men together than of a man and woman getting it on. This is how someone put it in a fan fiction panel at FinnCon: "If I, as a straight woman, am watching/reading/writing a sex scene, what do I need a woman for in that scene, when I can have two men?"

It makes sense to me.

Not all Tolkien fan fiction writers are interested in exploring sexuality in their stories. Those who are, are most likely to be straight women - simply because the majority of fan fic writers are straight women -, and thus more inclined to writing slash than het.

Another explanation which I think someone already referred to is that there are far fewer interesting female characters in canon. This goes for popular culture in general and is the case in many fandoms.

These explanations are simplistic, of course, but perhaps they cast some light on the lack of good het stories (or any het stories, in fact)?

- Elina

 

 

Re: In search of het

I know that I would find the idea of doing a gap-filling, pre-Ring romance with one of them and an OFC more appealing than trying to write one of the canonical romances.

Interesting. For me, writing the canonical females as wives and lovers has been one way of reclaiming them for myself from the Annals of a Teenaged Dwim, in which none of them, with the exception of Éowyn, were at all interesting, and darn it, Éowyn went all gooey at the end! Granted, I usually write then through their husbands/lovers, but at least it's something that gets me to the point of seeing them as desirable. What is Arwen like when the door shuts? What was dancing with Lúthien like? What is it like to be Denethor's wife (my answer: monumentally, health-threateningly frustrating)? Funnily enough, Éowyn has never been reclaimed by me through a romantic interlude with Faramir. It's always been the tensions of her pre-Houses of Healing personality that have interested me.

The allure of the OFC/canonical romance for me is always tempered by the fact of future marriages and the fact that I'm not a writer who deliberately sets out to write a straight out romance. There almost has to be some other problem or plot that I'm addressing that subordinates the romantic interaction.

Aragorn and Arwen are also similarly mythic, though other people handle them well, particularly Dwim, who made some nice, hot love scenes between them very plausible despite her lack of personal experience.

Thanks! I'll take that hand, then. Hand over the chips! ;-)

Lyllyn wrote:

I've been discussing the difficulty of romantic scenes with Levade, and I postulated that one thing a good romantic or erotic scene needs is tension, and that too many don't have it. What say you, oh skillful writers? Is this a necessary component?

I would say so. What's the point of the scene? There has to be focus, something towards which one builds. Even if there is essentially no plot, if you want simply to get a sheer hormonal response and one-handed reading from your audience, the described sex act had better mimic the real thing in terms of anticipation, otherwise it won't even rise to the level of pornography.

The other thing that I always look for is whether there is a sense of place—not just physical locale, but of society, of this being more than a solipsistic universe in which consequences do not exist or do not truly count in determining how the characters behave toward each other. If there's no sense of who the characters are apart from their names, if they act anachronistically, if there's a serious mismatch between the characters' responses and their situation, then the romance will fall flat.

Take Aragorn and Arwen. Yes, they're married, they are (at least in my universe) very much in love, and they don't have the problem of sneaking around trying to have trysts behind people's backs (well, save perhaps on occasion when it's been a really bad week in terms of workload and stress). But they're the King and Queen of Gondor. They need heirs. Sex isn't private, it's a performance in itself, despite the lack of an audience—if Arwen doesn't get pregnant, that could cause problems politically. Aragorn has wars to fight, they both have diplomatic knots to unravel—time alone is precious, and then there are the kids they *do* eventually have, the joys of one partner aging faster than the other, plus their whole history of a very extended, trying engagement and a significant sacrifice by Arwen. If none of that plays into how the author writes their sex life *somehow* (not all of it at once, but some of those factors should be there), it's not as likely to be a successful sex scene, and the further from bed, the more those factors have to play a part in setting the romantic scene, I think. But even in bed, all of that can have consequences that are quite mundane: I'd like to see someone write them a night where Aragorn's just plain too tired. Even elven assets aren't enough to turn him on and that would have to be something they'd deal with by turns without losing the sense of closeness and companionship.

 

 

Re: In search of het

The fact that some of the major characters (Legolas, Frodo, Boromir) don't have any partners is a situation that is simply too tempting I think. And it's possible to write a decent romance with them and an OFC, if you're not wedded to the idea that your character is going to have the happy-ever-after ending. I know that I would find the idea of doing a gap-filling, pre-Ring romance with one of them and an OFC more appealing than trying to write one of the canonical romances.

Ka-ching, Isabeau! That's what I don't get, really. Why bother violating canon by shoehorning a romance/affair into the main plot of LotR (when all the male characters frankly have more important things to worry about), when there are the green fields of their salad days? A truly creative writer could come up with some interesting reasons why Boromir, Legolas, Gimli, etc. remain single.

But as you said, part of the problem is the great reluctance to have an unhappy ending through a doomed affair. I hate to use my own stuff as an example, but since I know it best--here it goes, & forgive me. I began my whole Frodo/Pearl Took series (which is becoming fairly complex) with the intent that their early romance would be doomed & turn into a disaster, with Frodo still going to the Havens & Pearl finally becoming a half-crazy old woman. This sort of story is not necessarily going to be a very popular tack for readers who are looking for some kind of wish fulfillment, & some writers might shy off taking that path as a result.

Regina

 

 

Re: In search of het

You're running stuff to read off in hard-copy? You're braver than I am. I have CMC backed up on disc, but I can't afford the ink cartridges to print it off!

Oh yes. I hate reading people's incredible stories on my computer screen. Ack. Better to print them up even on the crappy printer in the kids' room than sit in front of the computer. Yours, however, I may need to do in batches. ;)

Back to the hetfic line... someone recently wrote in the thread about how believability is so much easier with a lesser-known character and an OFC (or, at least in the hobbit-world, an OC) as opposed to trying to put the non-partnered folks from LotR with somebody (except Alon, whose works have already been discussed). I think that is a valid point, and perhaps why fics in this particular genre may be much more successful outside of the LotR arena. This brings back the topic of the author doing her research, however, which I do think makes all the difference. Somebody wrote something about the "suspension of disbelief" being so inherent in M/M or F/F slash which can potentially make hetfic more of a challenge, precisely because it should be more believable - I think you're on to something.

And now to write! Lyllyn, thanks to this thread I think I've managed to find a way to try and sneak a scene like this in my new 4-part vignette. With hobbits, no less! Be very afraid...


 

 

Re: In search of het

And now to write! Lyllyn, thanks to this thread I think I've managed to find a way to try and sneak a scene like this in my new 4-part vignette. With hobbits, no less! Be very afraid...

Always happy to facilitate the creation of smut... er, literary exploration of culture, sexuality, and the stimulus-response arc of the various races.


Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

I'm having trouble keeping up here, not that I'm complaining with all the interesting points being discussed!

AE,
it's been my reading experience that eroticism still needs basically the same elements any genre needs. Good writing, foremost IMO (you'd think this would go without saying, alas *g*).

When the characterizations are distinct, it's much easier to suspend disbelief and get into the story, I feel, in the case of slash or a basic PWP (roll in the hay type set-up). As not to say that slash is inherently unbelievable, by the way. But I'll be much more likely to believe that Erestor and Lindir are lovers if they are acting like individuals with distinct (ideally elvish) personalities.


It goes even further than that, I'd say that if the characterizations aren't distinct, even if OOC, that the reader isn't led to care about the character, whether it's a canon couple or Erestor/Lindir. For me, that somewhat kills it, even if otherwise well-written. At that point one could read any PWP type material posted at an adult site, and it wouldn't be any different. Even there, I suspect the most successful draw you into the story and character, or why bother? Just go read a biology text. (somewhat exaggerated; I know.)



Lady E,
As one explanation for the popularity of slash goes, straight women have more erotic interest in the male body than the female body, which is why it is far more fascinating and enjoyable for them to write of two men together than of a man and woman getting it on. This is how someone put it in a fan fiction panel at FinnCon: "If I, as a straight woman, am watching/reading/writing a sex scene, what do I need a woman for in that scene, when I can have two men?
These explanations are simplistic, of course, but perhaps they cast some light on the lack of good het stories (or any het stories, in fact)?"


Not simplistic, but not the whole picture. Some of this has been discussed in other threads on this forum, and Shadow975 put this sentiment in a nutshell: 'if one hot man is good, many of us think two hot men are better.'
But I still think many people would be happy to read good het as well when we can find it. I know I am. And I know people are writing and reading tons of het, look at ff.net and other non-slash-only sites. But I question why I find relatively little that I want to finish reading.


Dwim,
I'd like to see someone write them a night where Aragorn's just plain too tired. Even elven assets aren't enough to turn him on and that would have to be something they'd deal with by turns without losing the sense of closeness and companionship.

I'd like to see it too. I think you should start an 'adult theme' challenge of the month or quarter or what have you. We've now got several nuzgul that have been bandied about.

---

I went back and found this on one of the other threads in this forum; it was posted by Tyellas:

"This raises the question of what makes a good fanfiction PWP. I'd say a good PWP is not so much "Plot, what plot?" but a short character-focused vignette moved along with a light/uncomplicated plot or a simple character goal."

I think this applies whether it's PWP or embedded in a more plot driven story - the character focused vignette part is essential.

I'll speculate that the POV matters, also. If you are using an OFC or undeveloped canon character, you have to interest the reader in the character before the action starts, or be very, very skilled at getting the reader interested in parallel. The author can probably get away with more from a developed canon character's POV, as the reader is already invested.

Possibly some het fics written from the female POV would work better from the male canon character's POV, but that may be less compelling for women to read.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

Lady E wrote:

As one explanation for the popularity of slash goes, straight women have more erotic interest in the male body than the female body, which is why it is far more fascinating and enjoyable for them to write of two men together than of a man and woman getting it on. This is how someone put it in a fan fiction panel at FinnCon: "If I, as a straight woman, am watching/reading/writing a sex scene, what do I need a woman for in that scene, when I can have two men?"

I agree that this does explain a lot of the popularity of slash but it also begs the question, “Why are Harlequin romances etc so popular?” Obviously millions of women enjoy reading hetfic.

Lyllyn wrote:

I've been discussing the difficulty of romantic scenes with Levade, and I postulated that one thing a good romantic or erotic scene needs is tension, and that too many don't have it. What say you, oh skillful writers? Is this a necessary component?

I think it is usually necessary but not always. I was recently reading a slash series where some sex scenes have no real tension at all as it is a long established relationship. They still largely work because it such a happy celebration of each other. There's no reason this kind of scene couldn't work in hetfic. I don’t think it could work well as a PWP nor could it be done too many times in any given pairing without getting stale.

 

 

Re: In search of het

I think it is usually necessary but not always. I was recently reading a slash series where some sex scenes have no real tension at all as it is a long established relationship. They still largely work because it such a happy celebration of each other. There's no reason this kind of scene couldn't work in hetfic.

This is another place where the angsty tendencies of so much fanfic is damaging--I rarely see any fanfic sex scene, either slash or het, that's written with a real sense of joy or celebration. Instead, at least to me, there always seems to be an aura of doom, grief, or tears huddling over the encounter. Even if an unhappy ending is in the offing, sex is supposed to be fun, & that never comes across.

Regina

 

 

Re: In search of het

Possibly some het fics written from the female POV would work better from the male canon character's POV, but that may be less compelling for women to read.

I've tried this in a hetfic written in another fandom. Actually both characters are canon, but it's written from the male POV - and let me tell you, writing a "first time" from the male POV was a real challenge! (I'll admit that there's also implied slash... and then a threesome in the next chapter. But that scene was just plain het.)

That raises a question for me - in hetfic do you think there's any noticeable difference in average quality based on choice of POV - male, female, or authorial-omnipotent? Third person vs. first person (or my personal dislike, second person)? Curious to know whether folks think one approach is easier to write/read/like than another.

Cel

 

 

Re: In search of het

That raises a question for me - in hetfic do you think there's any noticeable difference in average quality based on choice of POV - male, female, or authorial-omnipotent? Third person vs. first person (or my personal dislike, second person)? Curious to know whether folks think one approach is easier to write/read/like than another.

Purely in a spirit of research, I have skimmed several R rated het fics on ff.net and a few NC-17s elsewhere.

Some of them switch POV back and forth every few sentences in an effort to show what both parties are feeling - which usually doesn't work well at all. Unless the author is really expert at POV switching, he or she has a much better chance to engage the reader (or me, at least) staying consistent. Showing the other person's reaction's through the eyes of the first would be a better technique than switching POV. The POV switching stories also tend to be the least well-written of the batch.

For second person POV, I too have difficulty with reading it, and tend to avoid it. I've seen a very few exceptions to this.

As a generalization, it might be easier to engage the reader with either male or female POV. Probably more difficult but doable with author-omniscient POV. Usually dreadful with rapidly switching POV.

Other opinions?

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

This is another place where the angsty tendencies of so much fanfic is damaging--I rarely see any fanfic sex scene, either slash or het, that's written with a real sense of joy or celebration. Instead, at least to me, there always seems to be an aura of doom, grief, or tears huddling over the encounter. Even if an unhappy ending is in the offing, sex is supposed to be fun, & that never comes across.

That's a good point, and one that's never occurred to me; but you're absolutely right. Thinking on it now, it's my guess that in the author's effort to provide a poignant backdrop for the erotica (as in, make it "not just PWP"), they establish surrounding concerns and such for the characters. Which potentially turns the love scene into an interlude of some tragedy. "Quick, let's make love; the bombs are about to fall."

A very good perspective on the subject, and one I'm going to ponder over.

-AE

 

 

Re: In search of het

katakanadian wrote:

I agree that this does explain a lot of the popularity of slash but it also begs the question, “Why are Harlequin romances etc so popular?” Obviously millions of women enjoy reading hetfic.

Very true, and a damn good question.

When we look outside the fandom, most erotica out there is het, of course - published novels, movies, television, etc. But the case is different inside the fandom, at least in this fandom.

In the case of younger fans and writers, I believe this may have to do with the fact that - let's face it - a lot, perhaps even a majority, of them have been drawn into the fandom mainly because of the need to squee at the attractive bunch of male leads starring in Jackson's film adaptation. So the reason they're here in the first place has mostly to do with sharing fantasies of the male characters (and of the actors - I have a profound dislike for RPS, but I'm well aware it's widely popular in the LotR fandom). There's even quite a bit of misogyny towards the female characters in many stories - a sign that often reveals the immaturity of the writer.

But this doesn't explain, of course, why older fan fiction writers, who may have different priorities, opt for writing slash more often than het. Because I agree that when done well, het is very enjoyable, and it would be great to see more of it.

Lyllyn wrote:

As a generalization, it might be easier to engage the reader with either male or female POV. Probably more difficult but doable with author-omniscient POV. Usually dreadful with rapidly switching POV.

Switching POV's is always problematic, but more so in a scene where the sensual experience is the focus, and any misplaced disruption will destroy its pull. I think sex scenes require a very clearly fixed POV for this reason. I don't see why author-omniscient POV wouldn't work, if there's consistency. Yet I agree that writing in first person may provide the most intimate entry into the experience.

I had something to say about characterisation and how the reliability of narration may become questionable in first-person narration but the point slipped my mind. Oh well. Back later, if I remember.

- Elina

 

 

Re: In search of het

That's a good point, and one that's never occurred to me; but you're absolutely right. Thinking on it now, it's my guess that in the author's effort to provide a poignant backdrop for the erotica (as in, make it "not just PWP"), they establish surrounding concerns and such for the characters. Which potentially turns the love scene into an interlude of some tragedy. "Quick, let's make love; the bombs are about to fall."

Well, I've used that background in some of my non-LOTR fanfic, so maybe I'm guilty too; but such a plot doesn't have to color the sex scene itself. The characters, after all, may not know disaster is around the corner, which means the encounter could still be a happy one. In fact, that approach could make the later tragedy even sadder.

Maybe the other element I find missing is a sense of sensuality. While I've not yet written LOTR erotic fic, I have in another fandom, & I felt it helps the reader enormously to pile on sensual detail--what the characters are tasting, smelling, touching, hearing. By the time you get to the act itself, you've already heated the reader's imagination to the point you don't have to be gorily explicit to get the erotic effect. This would also address the joylessness problem, IMO. One reason I tend to find slash offputting is that many couplings (i.e. Aragorn/Boromir) sound more like duels where penises are being used instead of swords. What's arousing about that, truly?

I was recently asked why I like hobbits so much. I suppose it's because, to me, they have a kind of light-hearted sensuality I find very appealing. Their love of food & drink, IMV, is Tolkien's sneaky way of suggesting that quality without being explicit about it. That's why I like writing eating scenes between canon characters; it's a great way to establish a covert sexual undercurrent.

Regina

 

 

Re: In search of het

Well, I've used that background in some of my non-LOTR fanfic, so maybe I'm guilty too; but such a plot doesn't have to color the sex scene itself. The characters, after all, may not know disaster is around the corner, which means the encounter could still be a happy one. In fact, that approach could make the later tragedy even sadder.

Maybe we need to define 'guilty' and guilty then. ;-)
Point being, I think there's a time and place for everything. One love scene might need that drama, while another might have delivered twice the impact without it. I guess it's a matter of context, and also what the goal is.
To speak of myself, I wrote a story that had two un-graphic love scenes, and they each served a different purpose. One was for the sake of characterization, to portray a couple in love - here drama would have blurred the purpose, definitely. The other scene started the same way, but an element of drama was introduced for the purpose of demonstrating something that could alienate that same couple in love from each other - here the drama was essential and the hook whereas the erotica was the bait.

But looking at vignette-type erotica, written basically for the purpose of, achem, the pleasure of reading, I'd say many such stories might benefit indeed by focusing on the sheer joy of it, and maybe taking some of that 'heaviness' away.

(snip)
One reason I tend to find slash offputting is that many couplings (i.e. Aragorn/Boromir) sound more like duels where penises are being used instead of swords. What's arousing about that, truly?

LOL!
Wholly amusing mental image aside, yes, I can agree that such is off-putting. Or at least, that's a particular kind of erotica, more along the lines of BDSM, I guess. Still, heh, there's a time and place for everything. ;-D

(snip)
That's why I like writing eating scenes between canon characters; it's a great way to establish a covert sexual undercurrent.

Oh, my! One more reason for me to reexamine my stance as a general Elf-fancier. ;-)

-AE

 

 

Re: In search of het

Well, I've used that background in some of my non-LOTR fanfic, so maybe I'm guilty too; but such a plot doesn't have to color the sex scene itself.

I'm definitely of the 'love hurts' school of 'romance' (mainly because I prefer stories that have a dark edge to them), but I do agree that gratuitous angst never helped a story—it has to be earned. And earning it depends on what the story is trying to achieve overall as well as the competence of the writer when it comes to execution.

Maybe the other element I find missing is a sense of sensuality. While I've not yet written LOTR erotic fic, I have in another fandom, & I felt it helps the reader enormously to pile on sensual detail--what the characters are tasting, smelling, touching, hearing. By the time you get to the act itself, you've already heated the reader's imagination to the point you don't have to be gorily explicit to get the erotic effect.

I agree. This is somewhat akin, I think, to piling on the carefully constructed narrative, so that all you need is a single line, spoken or thought, by a character, and the whole situation and the character's response to it, is illuminated in that one or two line observation/conclusion or even action. There's no need to go further then, and readers seem to like it.

One reason I tend to find slash offputting is that many couplings (i.e. Aragorn/Boromir) sound more like duels where penises are being used instead of swords. What's arousing about that, truly?

The power relationship between Aragorn and Boromir is one of the few ways of getting 'to the point' as it were without completely short-changing characterization. Writers tend to like the A/B pairing because uneasy alliance makes for the possibility of power plays in bed. Some writers write that well, others (probably the vast majority from what I've read) do not.

This is another aspect that may make het more rare: how many of the canonical women give writers an *obvious* opportunity for exploring power relations? I really think that's a big part of a lot of A/B slash (other than the "so hot together" reaction thanks to the movies), and perhaps it holds for other m/m pairings as well (poor, abused Isildur comes to mind). Women characters do not seem to lend themselves to that sort of 'play', or at least, it seems as if they'd be likely to get beaten every time by virtue of the male's physical dominance. Where's the fun in a foreordained outcome? Particularly when the mindset seems to be 'stand by my man' with very few notable exceptions, it just doesn't seem as if the canonical females would be all that interesting for those of the 'love is war' school of writing romance.

Hm. Perhaps that would be an interesting het experiment? Write something where positions of power in the relationship get played out romantically. Try to avoid the black widow scenario unless your character is Berúthiel ;-). Or Ungoliant or Shelob, of course, whom we must excuse simply by virtue of their natures.

 

 

Re: In search of het

Women characters do not seem to lend themselves to that sort of 'play', or at least, it seems as if they'd be likely to get beaten every time by virtue of the male's physical dominance. Where's the fun in a foreordained outcome? Particularly when the mindset seems to be 'stand by my man' with very few notable exceptions, it just doesn't seem as if the canonical females would be all that interesting for those of the 'love is war' school of writing romance.

Perhaps, but my response would be that the way someone is in the outside world is often not the same as his or her sexual self. . . there are lots of alpha males in RL who pay good money to dominatrixes to be humiliated in BDSM relationships behind the bedroom door.

Hm. Perhaps that would be an interesting het experiment? Write something where positions of power in the relationship get played out romantically. Try to avoid the black widow scenario unless your character is Berúthiel ;-). Or Ungoliant or Shelob, of course, whom we must excuse simply by virtue of their natures.

An excellent idea. So, those of you who believe loves hurts--how about it? Does Faramir in fact prefer being tied up & ridden like a horse by Eowyn? Might Nerdanel have held a literal whip hand on Feanor once upon a time? The possibilities are endless if you check preconceptions at the door.

Regina

 

 

Re: In search of het

there are lots of alpha males in RL who pay good money to dominatrixes to be humiliated in BDSM relationships behind the bedroom door.

Not being of the BDSM camp myself, I'm not sure what exactly the mindset is there. Is it really a desire for real domination? I guess I'm just not able to reconcile the insistence that BDSM is exploratory and primarily aimed at enjoyment and role-playing and then using it as some sort of way of *actually* dominating or controlling one's partner through acts that are staged.

For any het scenario, I'd like to see a *real* confrontation that plays out in bed, not a constructed one, if that makes sense.

 

 

Re: In search of het

Ah, I see--the real conflict that spills into the bedroom, not role-playing.

But the role playing could be good too . . .

Regina

 

 

Re: In search of het

Might Nerdanel have held a literal whip hand on Feanor once upon a time?

Sorry. I am just going to have to take a few line breaks to get over that.



The 'love hurts' school works marvellously in LotR, because, as someone pointed out, the whole trilogy functions in 'doom' mode. (The word occurs 135 times altogether, for utterly useless info.) Speaking as a Silm person, it works even better there. And we all know how populated with women LotR seems after reading Silm. Point 1 for Silm slash v/s Silm het.

Here's other speculation as to why young writers feel more comfortable with slash: In a world of the far and the further, perhaps it seems more acceptable to go with 'further' and write slash (which is like writing fantasy) than het, which is both too near and too distant in terms of RL experience? I write m/m as opposed to m/f because I'm uncomfortable with het. It seems entirely too familiar, unless one is gunning for a self-insert type fic.

Dwim's idea is a great one. One relationship that I've always believed ought to be explored beyond it's conventional non-con connotations is that of Miriel and Pharazon. Despite the fact that canon says he married her by force, she must have been strong enough to deny him something. One cannot be a daughter of the Kings of Men and be a -- wimp. Perhaps she even managed to control him to some extent until Sauron stepped in.

I mentioned on the list that in JRRT's earliest versions of the Numenor myth, they were both equally responsible for the Downfall.
It would make for a brilliant AU - how the Akallabeth might have occurred even without a Dark Lord. Ample scope for sexual politicking there.

Did I ramble?

And oh, Feanor and Nerdanel!!

Thanks. I'll live with that for very long.

 

 

Re: In search of het

Here's other speculation as to why young writers feel more comfortable with slash: In a world of the far and the further, perhaps it seems more acceptable to go with 'further' and write slash (which is like writing fantasy) than het, which is both too near and too distant in terms of RL experience? I write m/m as opposed to m/f because I'm uncomfortable with het. It seems entirely too familiar, unless one is gunning for a self-insert type fic.

I do have to disagree with the notion that het has to involve self-insertion; it simply requires a measure of imaginative sympathy IMV. As to the rest, I have no idea because I've never wanted to write slash--l find nothing arousing about it. Since I'm a hetro woman, I just find it hard to produce descriptive prose about a kind of sexual experience so removed from my own. I guess I'm puzzled at the feeling het is too distant for some to write about. You don't have to be a call girl, IMHO, to be able to transfer some emotion from even limited sexual activity to your characters.

And you're very welcome for the memorable image; sorry if you have to pluck your mind's eye out.

Regina

 

 

Re: In search of het

After considerable heartburn, I've decided to, in a way, lay my cards on the table.

I've written one explicit het fic from my previous fandom, which was neither fantasy nor sf. I only circulate it privately, so if someone here would like to take a look at it (Lyllyn?), I'd be glad to send it if you e mail me. It may better illustrate some of the points I've been struggling to convey.

Regina

 

 

Re: In search of het

I do have to disagree with the notion that het has to involve self-insertion; it simply requires a measure of imaginative sympathy IMV.

No generalisation there, Regina. It has to do with me specifically. I am entirely lacking in imaginative sympathy, sadly.

I guess I'm puzzled at the feeling het is too distant for some to write about

Oh, I don't say it's necessarily true. I was merely speculating about the inclinations of wondering, virginal young writers towards the whole m/m thing. Shot in the dark.

My leaning has been and remains towards het. I've begun a slash fic (and it's not REALLY slash - nothing is explicit, or not yet) because my protagonists insist on being homosexual. I found the whole + + attraction rather fascinating.

12 hours later, and the memorable image is still disturbingly clear. Dang, you should do this more often!


 

 

Re: In search of het

I'm taking an awful chance, here, jumping in having read only half the thread, but my online time for today is nearly at an end. So please bear with me and be gentle if I've missed something major in the discussion.

Perhaps part of the problem is that "recreational sex" was probably not a part of Tolkien's world view?

I must admit that, for me, sex in isolation, or sex for the sake of sex is boring. I used to read the stuff, and have dipped into it on occasion since, but in the long run I find it unsatisfying, kind of like eating cotton candy when what I really want to sink my teeth into is a juicy steak that will stay with me for awhile. I'm much more into relationship, and any "stuff" that goes on between the characters I write is incidental to the relationship that has grown or is growing or has potential to grow between them. In addition, I find it much more exciting to hint at something and leave large chunks to the imagination--am I alone here?

I remember reading selected writings of Anais Nin (I think that was the name) for a college class and being impressed at the erotic tension (she?) could generate without explicit detail. Too many stories that go into detail begin to sound like "how-to" manuals, have you noticed that?

I have been frustrated in the past by comments from readers who want everything spelled out blow-by-blow (and not just in erotica, I'm talking other kinds of scenes). Is this because they are a product of the television and video age and have difficulty visualising something unless someone visualises it for them? Or what?

Anyhow, I find myself most satisfied by reading (or writing) about two committed characters, where the "sex" is actually just another expression of the love they hold for each other. I know, it's old fashioned...

Fascinating discussion, Lyllyn.

Lin

 

 

 

 

Re: In search of het

While I completely agree that physical disparities are a factor, I think there's more to confrontations than just that - which could play out in bed.

Assume that the man is a decent kind of guy, and therefore doesn't really find sex all that satisfying unless his partner is willing - and by "willing" I mean "interested-and-active," not just "lie-back-and-let-him-have-fun." So then - if there is a confrontation outside of the bedroom, it could very plausibly play out inside the bedroom through sexual politics - the female partner need not be withholding, she need only act uninterested to potentially gain the psychological upper hand with regard to sex.

If you take "confrontation" to be exclusively physical, that's another matter, of course, but I don't think it need be. And, if I'm remembering rightly, Tolkien presented male and female Elves as being relatively equal in terms of their physical abilities, so there a physical confrontation might not be a foregone conclusion.

Cel

 

 

Re: In search of het

That's more of what I meant, Cel, and I think that's part of the problem when it comes to het, if one is of the 'love is war' school and one has fixed on the very clear opportunity for 'sex as battle' presented by m/m explicit or graphic slash. How to work out the power relationship in the bedroom between a man and a woman introduces a difference that has to be accounted for, so the 'fight' wouldn't look the same.

Take Berúthiel, for example, since she's the only promiscuous female I have written, and she's just a character sketch at that. She does war with Tarannon through taking lovers, and highly politicized lovers at that. When she sleeps with him, she enjoys it, but she denies him what he wants, which is to say control and access to her feelings; they go back and forth, sniping at each other but you get the feeling that despite the ending to her story, as I write her, there are some areas where Tarannon will never dominate her, and it shows in the sexual politics between them.

Of course, not every female is Berúthiel, she's just an easy example in a lot of ways. How things might go between Éowyn and Faramir is a different story and wouldn't look either like A/B or Sam/Rose. Doing this properly, I think, entails far more than a simple sexfic, which is perhaps another reason, related to the first (that A/B is an obvious pairing that allows for equally obvious power play in bed), that hetfic doesn't get written as often—it's much more individualized and doesn't admit of easily slapping on a label (King/Steward) that allows the PWP "love is war" writer to get away with minimal attention to anything but the sexual interlude.

Lindelea wrote:

Perhaps part of the problem is that "recreational sex" was probably not a part of Tolkien's world view?

I think that may well be part of it. Which would be another reason why I am not terribly upset by sex that is portrayed in a less than celebratory manner *so long as* the angst isn't gratuitous. If the couple exists because "they do look cute together", then even if there are other reasons (opportunity, for example), it is a couple that *shouldn't* exist in a way. If art imitates life, then I feel that that couple should be treated fictionally like any forbidden relationship in real life. There are consequences in the latter; ergo, there should be consequences in the former.

I must admit that, for me, sex in isolation, or sex for the sake of sex is boring. I used to read the stuff, and have dipped into it on occasion since, but in the long run I find it unsatisfying, kind of like eating cotton candy when what I really want to sink my teeth into is a juicy steak that will stay with me for awhile.

I agree with this entirely. I don't think I can do a straight out PWP, and though I read them, they are not going to compare with a story that really takes the time to set up the relationship and ground it in some very specific context. What does interest me is just how far I can write the sex scene (assuming I have set up a situation properly) before it becomes too much. That's something of a separate question, but it does have to do with the notion of restraint in writing. How far can I go before the demands of the story for explicitness/graphicality cross the line into indulgence? That goes for het and slash, btw.

 

 

Re: In search of het

I´m not sure it is actually possible to write, plausibly (let´s forget about realistically, even) a scenario where there is a real confrontation that plays out in bed between a man and a woman. The problem, as ever, is physical unbalance: unless your partner is a 100 lbs weakling, you don´t stand a chance. There are, of course, a lot of couples who dabble in domination games, but the bottom line is, the man always, and I mean always, allows it. Thus it is resolved, yet again, in a staged, all but choreographed , situation: he *agrees* to be submissive and thus plays the part.

My own take is that the more dominant *personality* will generally win. There is more to a partnership than sheer physical relationships - personality plays a strong part in the whole business. It is also worth noting that largely, Tolkien was aware of the personality dimension - those pairings we *do* see, canonically, tend to be of equal strength. Both partners have their strengths and their weaknesses; Rosie Cotton is strong enough to be Sam's wife; Arwen is powerful enough to match up to Aragorn (and vice versa, of course); and Éowyn is strong enough to be an equal for Faramir. I can see any of the canonical women being strong enough to pick up where their partners left off.

Oh, and if you want a canon relationship which *really* plays on the notion of a strong female character, you can't go past Galadriel/Celeborn. Which one of them is the bearer of one of the Three, after all?

Just dropping bits and pieces in.

 

 

Re: In search of het

Dwim said:
How far can I go before the demands of the story for explicitness/graphicality cross the line into indulgence? That goes for het and slash, btw.


Excellent point! In this area, like so many others, balance is key, if you are looking to write something that will stand by itself, and not merely be sought out when a reader is feeling twitchy.

I am thinking of a story of Ariel's that I read recently, where the adult material was skilfully incorporated into a well-written, otherwise gripping story. The sex was not the be-all and end-all of the story--well, maybe it was, but if so, Ariel certainly disguised it well with plot and character development...

Lin

 

 

 

 

Re: In search of het

With all the ideas bandied about, I keep returning to the idea of a challenge. We now have a few nuzgul looking for ankles:

Aragorn's virginity
Power politics in heterosexual sex
Aragorn is 'too tired tonight, dear'

Any takers?

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

On nuzgûl and suchlike:

Stories concerning Aragorn's virginity can very easily be submitted to "Culture and Sexuality", since that is indeed what the nuzgûl's substance is (and if just three people adopt it other than poor, fang-marked Lyllyn and I, then it becomes a Challenge. Think about it. Doesn't have to be Aragorn, after all...).

"Too tired tonight" is so very specific that I would think it wouldn't in itself attract five writers on its own merits, but it may work as a nuzgûl or as incorporated into a larger story.

Power politics in heterosexual sex seems like one that has the scope to attract five writers. Do I see hands already on this thread for this one?

STB wrote:

Is it possible to write PWP (Aristotle, call your office), and I stress, PWP, as a *confrontation understood in the terms posed by Dwim, Cel and Meg* (i.e., psychological confrontation/domination games/bedroom politics)?

I think there was a somewhat similar question raised on the first PWP thread (PWP--Guys and Gals Going At It). There, it was a general question of how much scene setting could occur before the fic ceased to be a PWP.

Hooking that back up to this question in a preliminary way:

1) We would need to decide how much scene-setting a PWP permits before it ceases to be one;

2) We would need to figure out how sparely we can draw a given couple while still generating a 'real' conflict that is not purely physical *and* which doesn't mischaracterize or fail to characterize to the extent that we suffer an inability to accept that this is a good portrayal of the two characters. Or at least, that the couple can be *used* in this manner and used well.

Or does the fact that het doesn´t lend itself as easily as slash to type-characterization (i.e. sex as real war, sex as real physical domination , not only mental "see who gets the upper hand here") *preclude* even such a possibility?

This might or might not be a different question. There are sexual types for women, so het, taken across all fandoms, might simply have different typical characterization (in the sense of category, type) and certain universes would admit of these types of relationships more readily than others.

Some 'typical' characterizations I can think of that relate to women sexually are: black widow, slut, vampire (perhaps related to gold-digger, but a bit more sinister, though stopping short of black widow), manipulator. Notice the extreme negativity relating to sexually active and powerful women which excludes most canonical Ardaverse females immediately. Note also that the victimization of their lovers also generally excludes Ardaverse males, most of whom we do not tend to characterize as victims on this level, and if they're victimized on other levels, it takes more skill than the average PWP writer demonstrates to make the one sort of victimization represent the other well.

However, if we are working with the canonical females in the Ardaverse, it seems as though there is a real problem in adopting any of these. The typical characterization of an Ardaverse female seems to be one of the two: pedastal-occupier or else ice woman. Galadriel's identification as the penitant makes it a bit more difficult, but I'd still lean towards pedastal. This could be because I'm not sure I really want to try playing out a 'penitant sex' story--just let's not go there for the sake of my sanity, k? ;-) It'd give a whole new meaning to the phrases "going to church" and "missionary position"...

Anyhow, point being, the typical characterization that I see as present in Arda (and let me be clear: that I think these types are present does not mean that that's the extent of the story for me; digging a little turns up a lot of possibilities for some women, but there is clearly a baseline of fidelity or refusal, with Erendis and Aldarion having, I think, probably the most concretely characterized marital relationship) does not really admit of casual sex nor does it obviously encourage looking to the bedroom for any sort of playing out of problems—in the one case, the problems attending any real relationship are well disguised; in the other, one gets the idea that sex isn't happening at all. While there's nothing inherent in the idea of king/steward that rules out the possibility (however unlikely) of power plays moving into the bedroom, with pedastal/adoring knight, there is a problem—have sex, and you're off the pedastal, thereby violating immediately the strictures of typical characterization. The ice woman who is seduced tends to lose her status as such. So I would argue. Thoughts?

 

 

Re: In search of het

[snip] with pedastal/adoring knight, there is a problem—have sex, and you're off the pedastal, thereby violating immediately the strictures of typical characterization. The ice woman who is seduced tends to lose her status as such. So I would argue. Thoughts?

I agree with this. In the end, I think both types end up as being victims, in a way, needing their male to comfort and heal. I don't know whether that would be a bad thing for this sort of fic, but as a reader I think it might leave me wanting something more.

To analyze these sorts of questions, I always turn back to the basic: "What am I, as a reader, looking to find in________?" (please, fill blank with "het") Not having read many het examples myself, I am ill qualified to say much, but for me, it's always the characterization that I am after. Or, if not the characterization, I want to know about motivations and changes, or at least, I want to be able to see an evolution, a change, however small, that occurs as a result of. I don't think I would read a sex scene just for the sex in it (I am not reading to get *instructed,* as it were) I want to be convinced of the reasons why this pairing is working (or not working, but not in the sense of the story, in the sense of the relationship) and why they resort to sex to fix whatever's wrong or attain a certain object.

May a give a couple of examples? For instance, there is Isabeau's "One Night," or Alon's "Box of Rain" (and the one that comes before of that, when Faramir is 16- can't remember the name, though) Those stories set me up in this world, where both characters have needs, motivations (Faramir/Heth and Faramir/Nínim) and, by the end of the story, they both emerge different, changed. The sex was needed to achieve something (in the second case, something more than losing Faramir's virginity) Another thing that draws me to either is that it's not just the two characters involved in the sex scene whose motivations and destinies are modified by the exchange. There are believable, well set up reasons why the characters "indulge" and the scene just works very well.

We have also talked of Katakanadian's "By Previous Arrangement" which is another one that I like, and she's not even gotten to the sex part, but she has managed to create such an appropriate mood, resorting only to subtleties. That is one of the main reasons I think that is a good example, and this relates to a question posed by one of you: "How much do I need before it becomes too much?" In this case, I think subtle is most of the times best, and evokes so much more than explicitness.

There's also Dwim's Denethor and Finduilas story (I can't remember the name now) that portrays one of those "love hurts" scenes that I think works marvelously. Even though Finduilas is seen throughout the story as a weak, ill, frail woman, in this scene we actually see her initiating sex and we get Denethor drawn in to it, until everything changes and... (well, you'd have to read the rest of it) As in the previous examples, in the end I see changes, big changes, that show me why sex was needed to bring those changes to pass. We see emotional development manifested through physical action.

This brings us to the problem of Ardaverse females not being quite up to filling those roles. I think that digging (and digging very deep, sometimes) the author might find a way to make it work, as in the stories I've mentioned above, which all occur during the third age. However, most of the females I would envision for such roles are first age/second age ladies. I think of Ancalime, or Morwen, Haleth, Aredhel (some authors have done fine jobs with her)... Interesting to note that, in two of the four exampes I mentioned, the characters were actually original female characters. It's the same problem all over again, it's just hard to see those ladies playing those parts. It would, indeed, be a challenge to make it work. I think it all depends on a believable approach. I read one of Finch's stories with Feanor and Nerdanel. In this story Nerdanel was leaving him-for good. The best part is the twist: she doesn't give us explicit sex scenes, but we are led to believe at first that she is a victim, that he comes to her whenever he wishes and she has to comply... in the end, it turns out that it is a bit of the opposite, though neither of them know. It was a nice discovery.

To sum things up, I guess that, for me, it's a combination of motivations, emotional interplay, evolution of characters/desires/ or well-set up dynamics that would make a het fic work. What would it be for you?

 

 

Re: In search of het

For second person POV, I too have difficulty with reading it, and tend to avoid it. I've seen a very few exceptions to this.

Quick question: what is a second person POV??

 

 

Re: In search of het

Second person PoV is when the reader is being addressed directly. Invented example:

"Legolas reaches out to take your hand. His fingers are warm, but you notice that his sky-blue eyes are filled with tears, and you want to hug him and make it all better."

To me this PoV almost invariably screams "self-insert," and on the rare occasions it doesn't I feel rather as if I'm back in junior high reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Cel

 

 

Re: In search of het

"Too tired tonight" is so very specific that I would think it wouldn't in itself attract five writers on its own merits, but it may work as a nuzgûl or as incorporated into a larger story.

It could be *cough* one of the possible choices for the quarterly Quickies?

Cel

 

 

Re: In search of het

To sum things up, I guess that, for me, it's a combination of motivations, emotional interplay, evolution of characters/desires/ or well-set up dynamics that would make a het fic work. What would it be for you?

All of those- and it also depends on whether you're looking for some really titillating, erotic, (as has been said) 'going at it' fiction, a PWP, or if you're looking to read a good story with some engaging relationships explicated and a hint of their physicality. Not all slash is sexual, really.

There do seem to be many opportunities out there that are perhaps not as often explored- I'm having a great time writing about Erendis during her happier days, but a nice long story full of pathos could be written about that relationship with Aldarion and the various power struggles and personality conflicts and meshings as it goes along. Somebody in the thread described is as the most concretely described marriage (or something close) and I would concur.

And goodness knows, one of these days I'm bound to write something about a Dwarvish courtship- somebody begat Gimli, son of Gloin!

~Thevina

 

 

Re: In search of het

Cel wrote:
To me this PoV [=second] almost invariably screams "self-insert," and on the rare occasions it doesn't I feel rather as if I'm back in junior high reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

I tried second person for a couple of brief LotR sex scenes once (the prologue/epilogue in my story Missing), in a context that certainly wasn't intended as self-insertion. In the prologue, the intention was both to implicate the reader, and to shield the identity of the protagonists, whilst distinguishing them from the first person of the succeeding narrative. The epilogue scene intentionally mirrored the prologue; I wrote it several ways, but in the end it felt natural to have Faramir (the first person narrator) address Eowyn as 'you'. Dunno how successful it was, but I liked it at the time of writing...

I've also used second person in sex scenes in writing for other fandoms, partly again as a useful device to obscure the identity of the protagonist, but also because I find it easier to write (in the sex context) than first person, but less impersonal than simple third person.

Tavia

 

 

Re: In search of het

Ah... haven't read that particular story, and in a framing sequence second person might work effectively. Sounds like it should from your description, at least.

But most of the second person stories I run across tend to be of the squee!fangirl type. For some reason it seems to be a popular POV for those authors, so there's a strong badfic association for me. This may not be true for other readers!

Cel

 

 

Re: In search of het

To me this PoV almost invariably screams "self-insert," and on the rare occasions it doesn't I feel rather as if I'm back in junior high reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Heh. You might like to try Iain Banks' book Complicity for a very clever use of second person which I most certainly hope isn't self-insertion on the part of the author.

 

 

Re: In search of het

I do write het, I just don't show it outside the "family." But I write it, and so does Jim - and we also write it together, and for each other.

These are all different animals. If we start a story together, I tend to get more romantic than I would on my own, and he tends to get more graphic. And I love having that male viewpoint! And since Jim is a *real* romantic, it also depends very much on the who and where of a story. (I love when I take a story somewhere, and Chris thinks I have gotten too romantic in the male POV, and Jim will read it and complain that it isn't nearly romantic enough yet.)


Anyway, what I came in to say was - I need character, place and tension (though I like it best when the couple is filled with joy for each other and the tension comes from the situation)

One of the biggest reasons I don't write more of it, and **especially** of why I don't show it - is vocabulary. The most accepted vocabulary of female body parts and the act of het sex squicks me to the core. And there is only so much misdirection and metaphor you can use without losing the moment.

 

 

Re: In search of het

I do write het, I just don't show it outside the "family."

We wantsss it, my precioussss...

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

[beans Lyllyn] Down, girl!

See, Tay, this is why you never let on about these things because then you find everyone knocking on your virtual door demanding sneak peeks. ;-)

I do find it interesting that you say female anatomical terms squick you to the core. Not that I disagree that the language of sexual anatomy is hysterical (in both senses of that word), but I wouldn't necessarily say the terminology squicks me in the strong sense. Bluntness bothers me, makes the writing ugly, and that holds for any description of sexual anatomy, male or female. But 'squick' I would reserve for something like graphically described female circumcision or male castration or something of that nature that would induce a strong sense of horror and revulsion in real life.

But I do agree about the specific difficulty presented by female anatomy in the sense that it is harder for me to write women into a sex scene. It is harder because there isn't much in the way of positive (and pretty or even just womanly, to take some sort of correlative of 'manly') vocabulary available, but also because I'm aware that these (unlovely, often derogatory) terms are used to describe my body and I don't like the way it is described most days if I think about it. Writing m/m slash can actually be more comfortable because men are the other, and whether gay or straight, that they are sexual beings and should be sexual beings is never put in question in this society. That's why virginity, I think, is a much more difficult thing to write for men than it is for women, and why I think the question of the value of virginity in men should be written... somehow. The reverse argument—that female sexuality as positive somehow in M-e, probably in marriage, should be written somehow— would clearly hold for female characters.

 

 

Re: In search of het

(it is hard to have this discussion in the open forum... trying hard not to be too specific --)

Maybe I am misusing squick. It makes me want to shower!

It might have to do with my age - but I am pretty loose with most of the vocabulary. I dislike sex words that have come to be used as stand ins for rage, violence, and derision... except of course for that ever popular fornicative. Especially the ones you almost only hear used that way - with the male, as with the fornicative, there is some balance. And the ones I am comfortable with don't seem time and place appropriate for M-E , and pull me right out of the moment. Jim is compiling a list of race-specific M-E possibilities if anyone wants to help him! He's pulling them from the Silm at the moment! LOL!

I am not sure how I apporach the male or the female side reveals as much about my writing as it does about me!


Lyllyn, I think I would disappoint you - not so much the erotica, but the stories that surround them. They are not deathless prose by any means.

 

 

Re: In search of het

Tay, I share some of your preferences here. I don't want 'street' names, but use the anatomical names more than a few times and it's too clinical and breaks the mood.

Jim is compiling a list of race-specific M-E possibilities if anyone wants to help him! He's pulling them from the Silm at the moment! LOL!

Now this sounds like a worthy research project, and funny as hell too boot. May I see a sample, either by email or posted? I might join the project.

I think I would disappoint you - not so much the erotica, but the stories that surround them. They are not deathless prose by any means.

I doubt it as regards the writing. Having read some erotica, (especially to check on things for this discussion ) I realize that one's person erotic is another's squick/embarassment/ uproarious laughter/ or just plain disinterest.

Bringing us back, of course, to the topic of what makes good het and why there is so little.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

As to the second person POV question, I never though about it as a self-insert. I have read a few where it's a good device, but on the whole it knocks me right out of the story. I'm trying to understand why.

My best guess at this point is that it demands certain things that don't work for me. It insists that I take a certain role, as opposed to being along for the ride, and it feels like the author abdicated their responsibility to provide the other character.

Tavia, I did read the prologue and commented on it in your forum. It bothered me a bit, but being so short and focused, I got used to it easily. Someone else wrote one that worked well - I can't remember who (?Avon). For me, these are the exception.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

As to the second person POV question, I never though about it as a self-insert. I have read a few where it's a good device, but on the whole it knocks me right out of the story. I'm trying to understand why.

Perhaps because it has to be simultaneously intimate and universal in order to be effective? Which makes it very hard to get right.

 

 

Re: In search of het

On reflection, I'm surprised that people find the second person inappropriate for romantic/sexual scenes. I'm a complete ignoramus about poetry, but surely there's quite a bit of love poetry that uses the second person -- two of the most famous love poems of all time for a start ('Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?' & 'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.') and also my personal favourite, Emily Dickinson's 'Wild Nights'.

Tavia

 

 

Re: In search of het


Jim is compiling a list of race-specific M-E possibilities if anyone wants to help him! He's pulling them from the Silm at the moment! LOL!

Now this sounds like a worthy research project, and funny as hell too boot. May I see a sample, either by email or posted? I might join the project


*grin* His two latest finds (during our road trip with the Silm on cd) are "Tumladen" (the hidden valley or the valley of smoothness) and "Haudh-en-Elleth" (the Mound of the Elf-maid.) All it takes is a dirty mind!

 

 

Re: In search of het

*grin* His two latest finds (during our road trip with the Silm on cd) are "Tumladen" (the hidden valley or the valley of smoothness) and "Haudh-en-Elleth" (the Mound of the Elf-maid.) All it takes is a dirty mind!

Which most of us have, or we wouldn't be in on this discussion anyway.
The Valley of Smoothness - perfect! I can't help but imagine some amusing ways to use all these in a story...

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

Firerose, I read and enjoyed your piece 'Missing'. Thanks for mentioning it.

I think the difference between second person that works like in your piece and those pieces which end up feeling Mary-Sueish is the way others are identified. In your story (the very beginning and end bits), I thought it was essentially told in the first person addressing the second person. In many other pieces, the primary POV is second person (which the reader is supposed to insert themselves in) and relates to a third person with no first person present at all.

I don't particularly like this form in erotica tho others may because I feel like I am being held hostage to whatever the author thinks will turn on the reader. I don't find oral sex appealing so I don't really want to be made to feel like I'm supposed to enjoy it. When reading such stuff in the third person, one can say "Well, that's what turns them on."

 

 

SSP

Since it got mentioned in the post that started this thread, I'd like to point out that By Previous Arrangement has been updated.

Enjoy

 

 

Whoo, have now read entire thread.

I started thinking about why I haven't written any het in this fandom (well, there's that Goldberry love poem, but that's pretty G-rated--and aren't you glad?)....because for me it's really just a matter of where the bunnies bite; I write tons of het in my other fandom.

I think it has something to do with those discussions of power dynamics and the "love hurts" idea, and realizing the relationships that interest me the most are the ones that have some power oddity, some conflict, something about them that takes them through moral grey areas. And in Tolkien, males just interact much more that way with other males than they usually do with women--chances are if I got a bunny in my current mood it would be one of the exceptions.

Even as a known slasher, can I just say that as far as happy, *un*-problematic "pairings" go, I just LOVE, love, love the idea of an open, loving Frodo/Sam/Rosie triad that lasted until Frodo had to sail?

 

 

Re: In search of het

Dwim wrote:

>> there are lots of alpha males in RL who pay good money to dominatrixes to be humiliated in BDSM relationships behind the bedroom door.<<

Not being of the BDSM camp myself, I'm not sure what exactly the mindset is there. Is it really a desire for real domination? I guess I'm just not able to reconcile the insistence that BDSM is exploratory and primarily aimed at enjoyment and role-playing and then using it as some sort of way of *actually* dominating or controlling one's partner through acts that are staged.


Maybe I don't understand the question here.

I think the mindset is in the desire to give up control - for any of a vast array of reasons.

But I guess part of what I don't understand is how you're using the word "actually." Do you mean you don't understand how roleplay for mutual enjoyment can also involve truly dominating another person or truly submitting? Or is your concern with representations of BDSM in which the d/s is used to control one's partner non-consentually?

There are people within the BDSM community who believe that one is not "truly" dominating or submitting if the d/s is not of the 24/7 power exchange variety, but they're a small minority. Yes, roleplay can involve truly dominating another person and truly submitting, and it can be tremendously empowering and positive for both, or all, partners. The fact that it occurs through staged scenerios, if it does, or that the time-frame is limited to "scene space" as it were, doesn't minimize or trivialize the power of the experience, for either partner.

Using a power-exchange relationship or element of a relationship to non-consentually manipulate a partner, however, is abuse, to a greater or lesser extent (many vanilla partners, after all, manipulate each other non-consentually), and is an abuse of the trust the partners should be able to safely place in one another. So, in that respect, it can't be reconciled with BDSM as people in the community generally understand it.

For any het scenario, I'd like to see a *real* confrontation that plays out in bed, not a constructed one, if that makes sense.

I don't know.... Could you say it again using different words?

A month late to the party -
Rachel

 

 

Re: In search of het

Coming very late to the party, but I have just written my first PWP/erotica piece, het or otherwise, (SSP - Later)

First, a huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to this thread so far for their many excellent suggestions, which I was able to use when writing my piece.

Second, I now feel in a position to offer an answer to Lyllyn's original question: why isn't there more good het?

And my short answer (which agrees with Lyllyn) is: because it's damned difficult stuff to write.

My longer answer is in several parts

At a very high level, it was easy to plot out what my couple would get up to. At the detailed level, it was extremely difficult to write what they were doing. Dwim pointed out the importance of concentrating on the sensual rather than the mechanical and it's so true. Even so, you need to give the reader some idea of what is happening eg what kind of kiss is it, where are their hands, how are they touching. But you need to give no more detail than necesary, otherwise you start sounding like you're writing the assembly instructions for flat-pack furniture. It's a really, really tough balancing act.

A second point is that hetfic (in fandom or in real life eg Harlequin Romances) is littered with cliches, particularly cliched metaphors about how desire and passion feels. Good hetfic probably avoids these cliches if it can. Now, I actually forced myself into being more creative in my descriptions by choosing to write my hetfic about Faramir - a character who does not allow you to use any of the conventional metaphors for passion that equate it with fire and burining. (Well, OK, you could use fire-related images, but I think you'd pretty quickly have your readers either in fits of giggles or going "euww"!) I had to search for more unusual metaphors to convey what he was feeling - without straying so far that I lost the readers. So I think good hetfic demands its writers simply try a lot harder and it punishes sloppy writing more heavily than other genres .

Sticking wth language, just describing parts of the body is hard. It's easy to get too clinical, too coarse or too coy.

What did help me was, as Lyllyn suggested, writing the piece from the POV of the character who is the opposite gender to me. Again, this made things more difficult because I really had to think about what the encounter would feel like from a man's point of view, instead of having "instant access" to what my own reactions would be. But it also provided me with greater distance from the scene, so it was much easier not to "self-insert" myself in the scene and to really think about what was happening and how to describe it.

Finally, there has also been some discussion about the difficulty of seeing Tolkien's characters as sexual beings and therefore sending them completely OOC in hetfic. This was a huge issue for me at first, since my story was a pre-marital tryst and my personal conception of Faramir is that he is extremely honorable, so pre-marital sex didn't seem like something he would get up to.

The way I approached writing my story helped be solve this because I began by thinking about what I could see him doing at the start of the story and realising that if he was going to be kissing a beautiful woman he is in love with, it would be ridiculous for him not to get an erection. The question then was what the characters (and I) were going to do about that.... My answer may be OOC to some people, but I felt comfortable with it in respect to my overall interpretation of the characters.

Bit of a ramble but I hope my experiences are of help to others.

Cheers, Liz

 

 

Re: In search of het

Glad to welcome you to the party, Liz!

I didn't even notice until you mentioned it in your forum that you'd avoided all heat/burning metaphors, which meant you were very successful as the ones you did use obviously worked.

I like the idea of starting with what you could see as 'in character', and writing from that. I'll have to examine how that applies to my two R rated stories - both stop short of intercourse and use solutions similar to yours.

If I was to distill something from the discussion and your (and my) writing experience, I'd say use as little of the mechanics as possible. Of course that leads to the challenge of doing a fully graphic, successful PWP - one I don't think I could succeed at, at least not any time soon.

Dwim ::whines:: we really need an occasional adult challenge - could give new meanings to the category of 'Quickies'.

Delighted, Liz to see the list of good het growing!

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

If I was to distill something from the discussion and your (and my) writing experience, I'd say use as little of the mechanics as possible.

Agreed. But thinking about it some more, one approach that did work for me in a couple of places was for me to first write a very "mechanics" based version of the scene so that I, as author, knew exactly what was happening. Then I could work out what were the key "mechanics" moments and just keep those (often with a complete rewording) and write all the sensual stuff around that.

This worked for emotional as well as physical scenes - I originally wrote about 20 paragraphs of dialogue for Eowyn's "confession" in the middle, since I needed to understand her chain of thought in detail. I was then able to boil this down to two or three paragraphs with the really significant elements in the argument.

Of course, this approach means you have to be prepared to write something in the knowledge that you are almost certainly going to junk 99 per cent of it!

(And it helps to have a beta who is not afraid to tell you that you've put in too much detail!)

Of course that leads to the challenge of doing a fully graphic, successful PWP - one I don't think I could succeed at, at least not any time soon.

I think it would require an extremely skilled writer to succeed - and even then, I'm not sure. It depends what you mean by "successful". I personally don't find "graphic" to be "erotic", because unless the author and I are exactly in agreement about what is pleasurable (highly unlikely), there is almost certainly going to be a moment where I am going either yuck or ouch! Graphic can also seem very controlling - and that's not something I find at all attractive!

Delighted, Liz to see the list of good het growing!

Delighted to add to it, but don't expect any more in a hurry from me. This is too difficult to do on a regular basis!

Cheers, Liz


 

 

Re: In search of het

Also coming very late to the party...in fact, de-lurking for what is, I think, only the second time in about seven months of hanging around this amazing archive. First of all - thanks to all for a fascinating discussion. I'm in awe of the thought that clearly goes into so many of the postings both here and elsewhere in the forums.

Various people have referred to the fact that there are so few well-rounded female characters (not to mention male-female relationships) in LOTR as one of the reasons why there is so little good het fic out there. I agree - but I would like to respectfully submit that we (fanfic writers, I mean) might regard this as a challenge, not a limitation. The fact that Arwen, for instance, comes across in the books as almost a nonentity, only makes me WANT to figure out all kinds of backstory for her...give her some personality and her relationship with Aragorn some depth, both emotionally and physically.

Shameless plug starts here: I've just posted a first attempt at the above. It starts out as almost an interior monologue by Arwen, and only becomes het fic when Aragorn shows up in chapter two. And it isn't graphic at all, so I don't know how useful an example it would be for this particular discussion...but I *was* aiming for a definite undercurrent of sexual tension, and would be interested to know if anyone thinks I succeeded at all...

My biggest difficulty so far, after the delicate balance between describing too much or too little that so many others have referred to, is the fact that Arwen is an Elf. She's got to think differently about sex and relationships than human/Dunedain Aragorn, at least in some respects, right? Ditto Eowyn of Rohan and Faramir of Gondor...or Legolas and Gimli, for that matter! It's not just a het fic problem - a lot of the sex scenes out there, especially if they are part of a PWP, seem to check cultural differences at the door (probably an extension of the fact that they often seem to expect the reader to forget everything he/she knows about the characters and just see them as two bodies getting it on)...which I think is not only simplistic and unrealistic, but also a real shame from a writerly point of view, because there's potential there for some fascinating character interaction. Dwim brought up the way that power relationships and imbalances might play out in bed, as a premise for good het fic...what about other kinds of differences?

[goes away to re-read posted fic and agonize over whether Arwen comes off as too human!]

 

 

Re: In search of het

JeannieMac - welcome. Haven't had a chance to read your fic yet but will try and take a look soon and give you some feedback.

It's not just a het fic problem - a lot of the sex scenes out there, especially if they are part of a PWP, seem to check cultural differences at the door (probably an extension of the fact that they often seem to expect the reader to forget everything he/she knows about the characters and just see them as two bodies getting it on)...

This is a really good point and probably a major reason why characters go OOC so often in PWPs and hetfic.

There's maybe also a difference between someone wanting to write a pure PWP, in which they just want to write about sex, and the characters (or a M-e setting) are somewhat irrelevant (I have this vague memory someone made this point somewhere above but haven't time to re-read the whole thread - apologies to whoever it is if I am repeating what you said) and wanting to write a hetfic (albeit maybe with a lot of sexual content) in which the point is character development and the sex is merely a mechanisms for that. In the latter case, maintaining character during the sex scenes is essential.

Lyllyn: Dwim ::whines:: we really need an occasional adult challenge - could give new meanings to the category of 'Quickies'.

I have an idea for one coming out of the discussion over on my forum. Off to post in the prospective challenges forum

Cheers, Liz

 

 

Re: In search of het

but I would like to respectfully submit that we (fanfic writers, I mean) might regard this as a challenge, not a limitation.

Hear ye, hear ye!
Welcome, JeannieMac. I certainly see the undercurrent of sexual tension in your story, definite but not overplayed IMHO. As the elf/human perspective problem - I may have to read it again [horrors! ] and I'll post in your forum.

And if this thread gets any longer, I'd better start a new one.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: In search of het

Well, I finally made it to the end of this thread, and I think that earns me the right to post to it, if nothing else. And lo and behold, I may actually have a point -- and one that no one seems to have made, at least not explicitly. What is it that makes het so hard to write? People have offered various suggestions, some relating to the author (one hunk of manflesh = GOOD, two hunks of manflesh = BETTER) and others to the character (ice queen or pedestal princess, mythic quality of female characters, general tricksiness of believable OFC's [which is a whole other discussion]). But I think the heart of the matter is that Lord of the Rings at least, and even moreso The Hobbit, is set in a very man-filled (in the sense of males, not the Edain or whatever) and female-poor world. To make this point I'm going to go, as quickly as I can, through the different cultures. The Shire and Old Forest. The main home we see (Bag End) is a bachelor pad. There's the occasional female relative (tho Lobelia could make for an interesting hetfic...), and there's the occasional housewife to pour the ale, wash the mugs, and worry while the men go do the dangerous things (Mrs Maggot). But we don't really see them. Crickhollow is another bachelor's pad, and then there's the escape into the Old Forest -- where the one woman, Goldberry, is conspicuously missing for most of the Tom B chapters. Bree. Again, women are conspicuously absent. Given that the Prancing Pony is a family establishment I assume there's a Mrs Butterbur somewhere, but we never see her. Even the maids (I can't remember the term the book uses -- Nob) in the inn are male. Rivendell: The only woman mentioned to my recollection is Arwen -- and we really only see Aragorn talking to her and Bilbo explaining who she is to Frodo. The Council scene is full of men discussing politics. The Fellowship certainly doesn't contain women Lothlorien: The Fellowship is met by border guards -- all seemingly male -- and meet with Celeborn and Galadriel. They are then shone to their own fairly isolated place where they stay more or less separated until they are escorted by guards to the river. Here we meet one of the few strongly developed female characters: Galadriel. But -- ah, Galadriel, she is a conundrum! At least to me. If I wrote Elves I would be most tempted to write her, but only to try to figure her out. And we never really get to see her acting just as a woman. She is Galadriel the ring-bearer, Galadriel the temptor. In the gift-giving scene we see a bit of a motherly Galadriel, but the only elf-men are remarkably silent, so we still don't get that male-female interaction. Rohan: The major woman mentioned is of course Eowyn. But think of how much mention is given to book!Eowyn when she's not in "Dernhelm" mode. She's standing beside Theoden when Gandalf and the others first arrive but then quickly disappears to Dunharrow while the plot goes to Helm's Deep. In RotK there's some interaction between her and Aragorn when she wants to go to the Paths of the Dead, but Aragorn interacts with her more like a commander than a woman. Then she is acting every bit like a male soldier until the Houses of Healing, at which point she promptly drops out of the story. Gondor: With the exception of comic relief like Ioreth, women are largely absent. This isn't to say that we don't learn anything from the books about women, just that we very rarely see women interacting with men as women. So it's very hard not to impose our own culture on Middle-earth cultures -- and this, in my mind, is just as much a danger with Gondorians, Rohirrim, and other types of Men as it is with Elves, Hobbits, etc. Sheesh that was a long way to say something rather simple. But it's the idea that struck me on reading this forum. Marta

 

 

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