Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The words that turn us on

There’s a line in Making Waves that my editor loves with a blinding, white-hot passion that borders on obsession.

I can’t actually tell you what the line is, because those nine words give away two of the book’s major plot twists.

I will tell you that while the line was meant to be funny, I’m pretty sure no one else finds it as hilarious as she does.

Nevertheless, I’m flattered by her passion for anything I’ve written, even if I am a little flummoxed by her command that I give her something similar in all future books.

No pressure.

It’s a terribly good reminder of two important facts in writing:

1)      It’s all subjective. Whether you’re talking editors or agents or your bikini waxer, few people will have the same reaction to the words you write.
2)      The simplest lines can have the biggest impact.

I’m a passionate believer in the first principal, but since I’ve hammered that home so many times it actually has its own label in my blog archives, I thought I’d touch on the other one for a minute.

A lot of people who’ve gotten their hands on advance copies of Making Waves have emailed to tell me what they like about the book. I love this more than you can possibly imagine, and there’s one line readers consistently praise that I can share without giving away any major plot points.

The line is spoken by the book’s hero (Alex) in response to a question from the heroine (Juli) about his biggest turn-on:

Anytime a woman does anything with her mouth anywhere near my neck, I lose it completely.

It appears several more times in the book, and I can’t actually take credit for it. I borrowed it from a pal who’s well aware I used it, and who, for the record, has never had my mouth (or any other body parts) anywhere near his neck.

But I do understand why the line resonates with readers, particularly of the female persuasion.

Part of it is the context. At the point in the story that Alex says it, he’s already established he’s a fairly take-charge, sexual guy. There’s something sweet and disarming about having his biggest turn-on be something so simple and innocent.

For Juli, it’s a heady feeling being handed the key to making someone else’s toes curl. Even better, it’s something easy to execute. I doubt anyone would be as excited if Alex’s weakness was having a woman eat beluga caviar out of his navel while executing a downward dog yoga pose.

There’s also something charming about the fact that Alex trusts Juli with this detail about himself. True, he’s not revealing some embarrassingly kinky fetish, but he is giving her a fairly intimate piece of information. The fact that he’s willing to do that – and the way she chooses to respond to it – says a lot about the dynamic between them.

Are there certain lines in your favorite books that resonate with you more than others? How about in your own writing? Please share.

And please don’t attempt that caviar thing at home. I take no responsibility for injuries or carpet stains.


Matthew MacNish said...

I think anything like this, that reveals exactly how two people (characters) relate to each other, can be pure gold. Every character is going to have a specific opinion about every other character, and treat them in certain ways.

Linda G. said...

One of the best things my editor did in her editorial letter for IN A FIX was point out candidates for "best line of the book" as she came across them. It was so much fun to see what stood out for her!

Oh, and I loved Alex's sensitive neck. *swoon*

Shain Brown said...

I love watching a character's personality grow because of the situation he or she are in, or simply because of other characters around them.

Michelle Wolfson said...

Please promise me you won't do a blog post about my favorite lines and I promise I'll keep sending them to you (unedited).

Patrick Alan said...


Wait? Waht? We're not talking about your shaved kitty anymore?

Sorry. I seem to be fixated, you saucy girl.

Wait! I don't mean to imply that ALL girls are saucy, specifically anyone's sweet innocent daughter. Except, Tawna's mom's daughter. But I am calling her saucy in a nice way! Kind of like her nice tits! I can say that, because she said it. Oh crap@! I am implying ALL tits are nice by saying that.

Wait. ALL tits ARE nice! Well, except when someone is being a stupid tit. Can someone be a smart tit?

This is not going well. How did I start talking about tits? Someone is going to be offended. I'm offended that someone is offended. No. Wait. I am just crazy. I need to stop now.

Danica Avet said...

Recently, my mom was reading one of my books. The line is something like "It pained her to listen to the song because love was a crock of $*&%". I love that line because it's a perfect representation of how my heroine feels about love and romance. When my mom read it, she started laughing hysterically. I mean, she couldn't even stop laughing long enough to tell me what was so funny about my book.

That made me feel great because yes, it's funny, and it also reveals a lot about who she is. It was a good moment as a writer.

Nicholas said...

"There’s something sweet and disarming about having his biggest turn-on be something so simple and innocent."

Maybe this says something about me, not the act itself, but I concur with your character. I think a mouth anywhere near a neck is downright cunning. One of those things that's either outright seduction or cruelty.

Christine Tyler said...

Wow, gut reaction? Yeah, that is a hot sentence.
I love your explanation of why it works.