One of the things I love about being an author is the power I have to construct a setting, create a hero or twist a plot. And just a choice word here or there can make things dark and dangerous or sexy and passionate.
Let me use a scene from my erotic romance, Invitation to Ecstasy to show how I give a scene life and depth.
Sara had paddled the kayak for nearly thirty minutes to get to the private beach on the backside of the island. She wasn’t sure she really wanted to do this.
The above paragraph is adequate. But it doesn’t paint much of a picture. An author’s job is to put the reader in the scene. What’s the weather like? What kind of beach? Sandy? Rocky? And what the heck didn’t she want to do?
How about if I give the reader some of that information?
Sara pulled the red kayak up the sandy beach and out of the gentle wash of the surf. Though it was only a thirty-minute paddle around the backside of the island to the private lagoon, it had taken her well over an hour to get here.
Trepidation and fear had battled her determination to face her past. She’d turned back nearly as many times as she’d pushed forward. But stubbornness to finish what had begun had gotten her this far. And now that she was here, her bare feet shifting nervously in the warm sand, Sara wasn’t sure why she thought she could take this final step alone.
Ah, now we’re getting an idea of what’s going on. She’s forced herself here to face her past … and she’s doing it alone. Now what?
Sara could see the bungalow from where she stood. It was filled with some very bad memories that had taken her two years of therapy to get over. She only needed to go in and face the terrible things her late husband had done to her in that space and she could move forward with her life.
Oh, so we find out she’s come here to confront the horrible things her husband … who’s dead … did to her in the cabin. But the reader has no idea how this makes her feel. Is she afraid or happy to finally be making this journey down memory lane? And what did her husband do to her? Add those details and you have this …
The secluded bungalow, barely visible through the lush tropical foliage, had been both her paradise and her hell. It was the purgatory of memories that Sara had intended to purge when she’d left the main lodge. All she had to do was go in, slay the dragons causing her nightmares and close the book on one ugly-ass chapter of her life.
But two years. Two years of intense therapy. Two years simply putting one foot in front of the other. Two years battling to survive the ghost of her late husband had taken its toll.
The manacles Marc had put around her soul imprisoned her as completely as any physical bindings that had held her captive. If she could manage this one last task, this one last look at the ugliness Marc had made of their marriage, then she could banish him once and for all into the dark corner of her heart where life’s other hard lessons had left their scars.
Ah, now that tells the reader soooo much more. Using strong emotional words like trepidation, fear, stubborness, battling to survive certainly brings the reader into her frame of mind. Purgatory of memories and slaying dragons continue the feeling that this is not a happy place for her. Also, notice I used repetition to drive home “two years”. Repeating a word or phrase three times in that second paragraph makes a point with the readers. But use this writing device judiciously. Too many times and it will pull the reader from the story.
So now what?
But she wasn’t ready to go inside the bungalow. She wanted to go for a swim instead. Sara stripped naked, grabbed her snorkeling equipment from the kayak and jumped into the ocean. As she was swimming the cool water stroked her body turning the swim into an erotic experience.
That paragraph “tells” the reader everything they need to know, it doesn’t show the reader anything about Sara’s actions. But there’s nothing there to connect the reader to our heroine and make them care what’s happening. How about if I add some of those details?
But the little excursion down memory lane seemed impossible to face at the moment. She needed to work off a little nervous energy before braving the bungalow, and a swim in the warm Atlantic seemed to fit the bill.
Feeling the need for a little adventure, she slipped off her red tankini bathing suit and dropped it on the sand. Though she knew from experience this secluded cove was usually deserted, Sara felt delightfully naughty as she grabbed the mask, snorkel and fins from the storage compartment in the back of the kayak.
The salty breeze danced with her hair and slid wantonly over her skin like a lover’s caress as she walked into the ocean. When she dropped into the surf on her back, the normally serene water rolled into gentle waves that cradled and rocked her. Comfortable in the water, Sara easily slipped on her swim fins and mask, putting the snorkel in her mouth before rolling onto her stomach.
With practiced kicks of the fins, her thighs rubbed pleasantly together and water drifted over her breasts, belly and mons as she headed out into the lagoon. Cool water stroked heated flesh, steepling her nipples. Despite the heartache that had driven her here, the simple swim to clear her head and shore up her courage had turned into an titillating experience that had her libido humming. Her laugh echoed strangely through the snorkel at how proud Ethan would be that his paradise caused such salacious thoughts.
The awful trip down memory lane could definitely wait until she’d experienced a little pleasure.
So there you have it. Intermingling emotion, internal dialogue and backstory into your action keeps the story moving forward and your reader turning pages. What makes a great read for you? Anything in particular that will keep you turning pages?
Buy INVITATION TO ECSTASY from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.