What Are Words For

(When no one listens, when no one listens at all) Sorry had an 80’s Flashback there…

I’ve been reading a mix of erotica, erotic romance and sensual titles lately and it becomes interesting to see word usage and how each individual author uses language to frame the feel of the book, of the characters and story.

I tend to appreciate plain, blunt language. Florid, purple prose, to my mind, is the opposite of sensual and sexy. Cock is really a great word, much better than rod or staff or other euphamisms. Penis will do, prick in some cases, Jaci Burton can work the word dick where few authors can (and that sounds so dirty! Sorry Jaci, that’s NOT what I mean).

Generally though, the most problems come in describing a woman’s vagina. There’s a pussy versus cunt issue at work – I’ve had those discussions many a time, LOL! I used to never use “cunt” I felt it was a gender slur, too hard (and it is a hard word and yes, a gender slur too). But I do use it, I like it in the right place because some scenes are hard and the sex has an edge and cunt seems the better choice. Generally I use pussy. I think pussy is a lovely word. Sleek, playful, fun. But in my sensual romances I usually use sex or core. I don’t think they’re apt substitutes actually and I far prefer pussy to “sex” but knowing your audience and the market is a huge factor in what you write when.

But this is where the florid tends to run wild – her treasure box, a cove, there are things hidden and nestled, lots of “nether”, we’ve got buttons, sheaths, perfumed gardens of love, many directional descriptions – “down there” or “that place between her thighs” that sort of thing. I’d rather hear vagina than perfumed garden of love. (and I have to add, the perfumed garden of love reference came from a book with copious amounts of buttsecks and three and foursomes)

I think words are the most important part of a love/sex scene. They set a tone. The scene can be hard edged, dark, serious or light and beautiful. Hesitant, glorious. Whatever. The choice of descriptors is incredibly instrumental in setting the scene and letting readers feel what your characters do (emotionally, people)

Whatever an author chooses, I think consistency is the key. I read a book recently that was from a “sensual romance” line. So hot, well described sex, but not as graphic as more straight erotic romance (although that line blurs more and more every day I think). But the author mixed her descriptors a lot. Not sensual to erotic, which makes sense (Alison Kent does this quite well, Angela Knight, Anya Bast, etc) but more florid and then sensual. So we had scenes with the word cock but interspersed there were purple phrases like nether lips and her clit was sometimes a clit but other times a button. It led to feeling slightly confused as I read as the switching in what should have been a very hard edged scene jarred away with the use of words that didn’t fit.

And when words don’t fit, the scene doesn’t flow.

8 comments to “What Are Words For”

  1. Seeley deBorn
    March 17th, 2007 at 11:24 am · Link

    I remember the first time I saw the word cock in a story. It totally changed everything for me. In a good way 😈

  2. Charlene
    March 17th, 2007 at 10:37 am · Link

    I kind of feel there aren’t enough words so I like to be free to use all of them. :mrgreen: But sometimes depending on the POV character some words make more sense than others. Men tend to be more comfortable with harder language than women, that sort of thing. But overall, I try to mix it up because nobody wants to read ANY word overandoverandoverandover. Too much repetition is a bad thing, no matter how perfect the word may be.

  3. Lauren
    March 17th, 2007 at 1:24 pm · Link

    Charli – There aren’t enough words for pussy I think. Cock is such a great word I feel like I can work around it better for some reason. Still, one doesn’t want to use cock three times in one paragraph!

    Seeley – yeah! I remember the first time I saw it in a romance it was such a breath of fresh air. No purple helmeted love warriors, no manroots!

  4. maura
    March 17th, 2007 at 9:37 pm · Link

    I do try to mix it up to some extent but it has to work with the characters and the scene.

    But I have to admit an author has failed if I merely break into giggles instead of appreciating the hot sex scene.

    This week’s winner was “honey portal” – sigh….

  5. Jaci Burton
    March 18th, 2007 at 7:18 am · Link

    I do like dick, Lauren. *bats eyelashes*


    And yeah, there are more words for a cock than a pussy, which as a writer is damned frustrating. One gets tired of pussy pussy pussy pussy pussy, so you have to get creative. But some of the euphemisms I’ve read….oy.

    cleft is nice. Been using that one as a substitute lately. Not purply, not offensive, and a good substitute. Beats the hell out of ‘her steamy love garden’ 😯

  6. Lauren
    March 18th, 2007 at 3:42 pm · Link

    Maura – yeah, giggles aren’t good. But honey portal? Really? In a contemporary?

    Jaci – I’ve heard that about you but you know, I didn’t want to say anything, LOL.

    Cleft is good. I don’t mind sex or even center. Core is on the borderline for me but when you’re not writing straight erotics you have even *less* options!

    And seriously, steamy anything makes me sort of nauseated. It’s like purple heads on cocks or gushing pussies – makes me a little alarmed, LOL!

    On a related note once, way back in the day when we had that crit group – I put up a chapter with the heroine who saw the hero and got aroused and I think I may have written something about her honey trickling down her thigh and I’m pretty sure you slapped my hand (albeit with humor) over that. It was a great lesson though, LOL.

  7. Sasha
    March 18th, 2007 at 3:53 pm · Link

    I’m with y’all Cock is a beautiful thing. Pussy is good too. I don’t mind clit, and use it often, but I admit for whatever reason, I like Button too. 😳

    I’ve used cleft, sex, core, entrance, and cunt. But we do need more words.

    There’s enough of us, you think we could create a few more, an if we all used them maybe they’d become “real” words? LOL

  8. laurendane
    March 19th, 2007 at 2:46 pm · Link

    Sasha – you know, I’m quite sure you could work button and it would sound right. But I’m sort of a Sasha fangirl and I love your writing so I’m biased, LOL.

    My agent gave me The Big Book of Filth for Christmas and it’s got pages and pages of cool words for all sorts of things sex related.