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(Meta) Director's Commentary on 'In Sure And Certain Hope'

25th July 2008 (17:08)

Because I wanted to do something creative yet analytical, here's a director's commentary and analysis of my most recent long fic, 'In Sure And Certain Hope'. This is about Willow and Kennedy, written back at the start of June, and has my thoughts on their personality and relationship, metaphysics, the differences between British and American English and writing sex scenes. :-)  If you've not read the original story, it starts when Kennedy has been dead for a month, as referenced in S8, while Willow went off to learn magical secrets (*ahem*) from the demon snake lady.

Because the original story was 'R' rated (18) and I'm discussing the sex scene (among others) in more detail here, this commentary should also be considered 'R' rated - except of course that it's for educational purposes now rather than titillation, so I think that adjusts the rating downwards, doesn't it? :-)

 

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In Sure And Certain Hope

>> The title is taken from the Church of England funeral service - "We therefore commit [his] body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life". In Kennedy's case, her sure and certain hope of resurrection is placed in Willow. But is she right to trust her, quite literally, with her life?

It's quiet here. Soft and warm. Enveloping. She drifts, empty, silent, still.

>> My concept of the Buffyverse afterlife is informed by Buffy's description of what it was like to be dead, except I'm assuming that there are different versions of it for different people. Kennedy is more in Limbo than your actual Hea-ven; she didn't sacrifice her life to save the whole of creation, so doesn't get to go where Buffy went - at least not straight away.

>> This story is written in the present tense, partly because the prequels were too, but also because I want to convey that Kennedy is in a timeless place. There is no past or future here, only the endless now.  Also, I tend to think present tense lends immediacy and suspense; writing in the past tense implies that the narrator already knows how the story will end.

No. Wait...

There are no memories of pain or sorrow to shadow her existence. No grief or worry. 

Something's wrong. This isn't...

>> She's also too stubborn to accept a pleasant lie.

Only an endless comforting blank nothingness, forever and ever.

This isn't... I shouldn't... I'm not...

In the silence of eternity, the self is submerged into the unity of the whole.

>> Except that Kennedy is too full of herself to let that happen. :-) What I was trying to do her is show that something that's often seen as her biggest flaw is actually the thing that saves her from personality dissolution and merging with the cosmic infinite.

I will not... There's something... I am... I am...

"-enne-?"

>> Willow to the rescue!

The tiniest of sounds, but it shatters the crystal perfection holding her in its silver grip. Time begins slowly moving around her again, faint and tremulous as the first faint rumblings of an avalanche.

"Kennedy?"

A word. A name. My name. Identity flows back in, thoughts move faster.

>> She was hanging to her individual personality by the skin of her fingertips, but she couldn't remember her name until she heard Willow pronounce it.

"Kennedy?"

She has no eyes here, but she can see the moving figure in the distance. Quartering the ground, peering to and fro, searching. Searching for her. 

She has no voice here, but she calls out a name. And the figure comes rushing towards her, faster than thought, crying out her name again, not in enquiry but in greeting and triumph.

>> The constant repetition of "she has no X here" was a stylistic device to create a kind of epic, poetic feel to the writing - it's meant to conjure up rituals and ceremonies, or Homeric literature where epithets and key phrases are repeated as a mnemonic for listeners.

There are no bodies here, no familiar human forms, but the glittering red-golden form shining in front of her is instantly familiar. She'd know her anywhere, in any world. She has no mouth here, but she smiles in welcome.

>> This is Willow's astral form: her soul, if you like, or the condensation of her identity and everything she is. Therefore it's nothing like her physical body yet instantly recognisable as being her.

"Hey, Will. Come to take me home?"

It's hard to picture a glowing avatar of divine light getting flustered, but somehow it happens for a moment, then the voice of her lover echoes in her mind. "Uh, that's the plan. Unless you'd rather stay here?"

>> Willow is flustered because this is the first time she's seen Kennedy since she died, and she isn't quite prepared for Ken's apparently casual and insouciant attitude to being dead (which, as I hope is clear, is something of a false projection by Kennedy; she thinks it would be uncool to be too demonstrative, even if she's feeling it).

"Nah. It's boring, there's nothing to do except contemplate your navel. And since I don't have one here anymore, that got old real fast."

>> I was quite pleased with that line; it seemed to be really in character for Kennedy.

The glowing avatar of divine light grins. "Come on then. Let's go home."

Kennedy stands up - despite her lack of feet, or indeed of ground to stand on - and looks around.

"Um, do you know the way? It all looks the same to me."

"Of course." Kennedy reflects that a glowing avatar of divine light can actually project quite a range of facial expressions, despite its lack of a face. This one is currently looking smug. (Not to mention cute and huggable, but that's something that will have to wait until she has, you know, arms.) As she watches, the figure gestures, and then a glittering silver cord fades slowly into existence. One end of it, anyway - the other stretches far away into infinity.

>> Okay, I admit it. The idea that your astral projection is linked to your physical body by a long silver cord is something I took from Dungeons and Dragons. :-) Whether they in turn took it from real metaphysics or mythology, I don't know. Also, I wanted here to emphasise Kennedy's continuing physical attraction to Willow, since it creates dramatic irony for people who know what Willow's been up to recently.

"Okay. Cool. Let's go."

"You'd better hold onto my arm. Don't want you getting lost."

"But you don't have an-- oh. Now you do. Clever."

>> In this place, reality bends to will - or rather to Will - and if she wants an arm, she's got one. Or at least the noncorporeal metaphysical equivalent of one.

And so they move off, Willow gathering up and wrapping the silver thread around her hand as they follow it down.

"So what if there's a demon or something winding up this thread from the other end, and we meet in the middle?"

Her tone is light-hearted, but Willow's flat answer gives her the clue that all of this isn't quite as easy as her girlfriend is making it look.

>> Just like Kennedy, Willow is putting on something of an act here.

"We overpower it. Force it to show us the way back. Or kill it, and trust to luck."

Kennedy stays silent after that, her hand on Willow's arm and the glittering cord the only anchors in a shifting cloudy grey nothingness. There's no time, no breath, not even a heartbeat to measure the passing minutes, so she doesn't know how long it takes, but eventually Willow stops.

"We're here." It doesn't look any different to her eyes, but she trusts Willow. 

"Wait here."

And Willow vanishes.

"Hey!" What was that about trusting her? Kennedy feels the emptiness tugging at her again, and she remembers now, she's felt this before. This is how it started, where it started, and that means...

>> Willow was anchoring her and drawing her back to the real world. With Willow gone, there's nothing to stop Kennedy being pulled back into Limbo. As for where Willow went - she's brought Kennedy's soul back to the vicinity of her body, and has now snapped back into her own body in order to ressurrect Kennedy. If she tried that while Kennedy's soul was still in Limbo, her body would have been left empty, like a zombie, or maybe possessed by a passing random spirit. So Willow's magic needs some careful timing in order to work properly.

>> Willow might have explained this to Kennedy and saved much distress, but unfortunately she didn't think of that. She [thinks she] knows what she's doing, and doesn't want to worry Kennedy by suggesting things that might go wrong...

White hot pain lances through her chest, impaling her on a spear of agony. She screams, clutching at it, collapsing inward, wrapping herself around the pain until it pulls her in and twists her inside out. Her heart pounds inside her, sweat springs up all over her skin, her lungs gasp frantically for air, her hands claw at the carpet beneath her...

Hold on.

>> Willow just pulled out the silver dagger that she stabbed Kennedy through the heart with back in the prequel 'Legally Dead'. I deliberately started describing Kennedy's pain in very physical terms, with references to all her body parts, rather than actually saying flat out "she's back in her physical body now", because I wanted to be subtle. :-)

She opens her eyes - then instantly closes them again as the harsh brilliant light of the sun dazzles them. But it was long enough to catch a glimpse of Willow's panic-stricken face staring at her with pleading, desperate eyes.

Willow's in trouble. She needs me. I've got a body again! God, it hurts, can I give it back? 

>> Willow's terrified because she thought the spell would be easy and painless, and now sees her girlfriend is in agony, and it's all her fault and the magic has gone wrong. Kennedy, on the other hand, sees Willow in distress and her immediate reaction is to protect her and look after her.

Then there's a hand on her forehead, and the pain... vanishes. Melts away in the gentle healing warmth that spreads out from the touch on her skin. She blinks her eyes open again, squinting through her lashes to shield out the glare.

>> Willow is incredibly good at healing magic in S8, compared to her limited efforts in S7. In the prequels, I decided that she went to Saga Vasuki to learn healing magic (snakes are a symbol of healing and the renewal of life in many mythologies). Kennedy is the first beneficiary of her new powers.

"What's the matter? Has something gone wrong?"

"No. Oh Goddess, I'm sorry, I didn't realise... it wasn't supposed to hurt."

"What wasn't - oh! You mean bringing me back to life?"

Willow nods, biting her lip and wringing her hands together. "I'm really sorry..."

"But you healed me, didn't you? Your hand just now, you healed me? So it worked? You got what you wanted?"

"What? Oh, yeah, I've got lots of new stuff now. But I never meant for you to..."

"Forget it. I said I'd do this for you, and I did it, and it worked. So we've won, and we should be happy."

>> Willow's guiltiness versus Kennedy's pragmatism.

She tries to get up, and her head spins and she quickly lies down again. 

"Do me a favour and pull the curtains across, would you?"

As Willow hastens to comply, Kennedy takes stock of herself. The pain has gone, she just feels dizzy and tired and weak. Apparently being dead can do that to you. And there's a funny taste in her mouth, and her skin feels kind of gritty. But all her major organs and limbs seem to be still attached, and experiment shows that she can still move them.

"Can you sit up, if I support your head?" She tries, and then there's a coolness against her lips, and she opens her mouth to the blessed taste of pure water. She opens her eyes again, and in the dim half-light of the curtained room she can see Willow kneeling beside her, still looking anxious. Not to mention naked, which surprises her until the memory floods back of how this started, all that time ago--

>> A reference to 'Legally Dead'. Willow and Kennedy were both naked for the magical ritual where Kennedy died and Willow went through the portal to Saga Vasuki's realm. (Where she needed to be naked for other reasons too...) Willow didn't stop to get dressed in between returning from Saga Vasuki's dimension and resurrecting Kennedy.

"How long has it been?"

"Huh? About three-four minutes, I went to the kitchen to get the glass..."

"Dumbass. How long was I dead?"

>> I can definitely imagine Kennedy calling Willow rude names, in an entirely friendly way, rather than endearments like 'sweetie'. 'Time of your Life' came out after I wrote this, but her attitude to Willow there ("Didn't miss you") supports my choice. :-)  On the other hand, I'm not too in love with the specific choice of 'dumbass' - it's more a Dawn word - but I needed something that wouldn't sound too hostile.  

"Oh. Y'know, I don't know. It's been one night and one day for me. How long was it for you?"

>> Time passes differently in different dimensions. Willow has spent 24 hours with Saga Vasuki while an entire month went by on Earth. As for Kennedy: her reply in the next paragraph is copied directly from Buffy's response to Spike when asked the same question.

"Longer. Or maybe no time at all, I can't tell." She sits up fully, and grey feathery strands drift off her body and float to the ground. She looks at them, puzzled, then realises what it is. Why her skin feels so gritty. It's dust. "I'm covered in dust!" She brushes at her arms in shock, repeats her words in sheer disbelief. "I'm covered in dust!"

>> Would an uninhabited room really get so dusty in just one month? I don't know. Maybe they left the window open, and they live in a very polluted city. I did like the idea of Kennedy's dead body lying there so long it gets covered in dust, which she discovers when she reinhabits it

Willow looks at her in astonishment; their eyes meet... then suddenly, simultaneously, they both burst into giggles. Arms mutually encircling, they cling to each other in a helpless fit of laughter, as Willow chokes out "S-s-s-o much for b-b-being houseproud."

"M-maybe you need to get a f-french maid outfit and a feather duster to get me clean."

"Don't tempt me."

>> The laughter fit is there to relieve the stress and tension between them, and put them on a proper relationship footing again.

At last they calm down, and Willow looks over at the side table where she's left her mobile. Rather than get up - which would mean letting go of Kennedy - she gives the phone a Significant Look. It obediently floats up through the air and drops neatly into her outstretched hand. "This'll tell us the date... oh. Battery's run down."

>> Telekinesis was one of the first magics Willow mastered, after all.

>> I realise that Willow and Kennedy would think of this object as a 'cellphone'. If I had them mentioning it in direct speech, that's the word I'd use. But I'm writing the story in British English, and so when the narrator refers to it, I'm calling it a 'mobile'. That's pretty much my standard rule, although I sometimes compromise when a word has a completely different meaning in another dialect of English, to avoid confusion. 'Jumper' and 'sweater' are interchangeable words in British English, for example, but refer to entirely different garments in American English. As such I'll normally use the one that's not confusing to either audience rather than talking about Wesley wearing a jumper and having half my flist wondering why he's wearing a pinafore dress...

"Try your computer? Anyway, while you're doing that, I think I need a shower."

"Sure you wouldn't fancy a bath? The candle shop had some new scents last time I went. Just make sure you don't use the Toad, that one's for rituals not bathtimes..."

>> I've never really seen the attraction of lighting a bunch of scented candles while you have a bath myself, but it seems the sort of thing Willow would do. The mention of the Toad scent is a reference back to Buffy's retail nightmare in 'Life Serial' when the male customer wanted to buy it.

"Nah. A bath's too relaxing. I've been dead for... however long it was. I need reinvigorating!"

Kennedy stands up - she has to pause a moment as a fresh wave of dizziness takes her, but she's already feeling much better than a few minutes earlier. Laughter is clearly, um, the third-best medicine (with Slayer healing powers being the second and Willow herself, obviously, being number one. Always.) She smiles at her lover as she pushes open the door to the bathroom.

>> They're living in a single-level penthouse apartment in a big city, with kitchen, bathroom and bedroom opening off the main living room or a short corridor leading to it.

There's an antique full-length mirror against one wall, and she studies herself carefully in it for a few minutes. First things first: she does have a reflection, which gets rid of one nagging little worry she's had ever since Willow brought her back to life. She looks a bit pale, but otherwise trim, fit as ever, and still damned sexy if she says so herself. Although the rust-coloured smears all over her body aren't helping much. She looks down, and there's a crusted scab between her breasts, right over her heart. She rubs at it, and dried blood flakes away under her fingers and reveals smooth, unblemished brown skin beneath. Huh. She shrugs, and steps into the shower cubicle.

>> She has a reflection, so she's not a vampire. The dried blood is from when Willow stabbed her through the heart, but there's no actual wound or scar on her body, because it was a mystical stabbing. 

She lets the water run for a while, sluicing away the grime and dust, then reaches over to the temperature control and twists it all the way to the left. Then screams in mingled agony and exhilaration as freezing icicles slam against her skin, sending shocks right through her and blasting away every last cobweb in her brain. She dances from side to side on the spot, unable to bear the cold on any one part of her for more than a second or two...

"What's wrong... oh." Willow has dashed in, hearing the scream, then her worry fades and her expressive mouth curls into a grin as she rolls her eyes.   "I forgot. I'm living with a masochist."

>> The implication being that this is something Kennedy has occasionally done before, and Willow thinks she's mad.

"C-c-c-cold showers are part of my c-c-cultural tradition. D-d-don't mock them."

"Your cultural tradition? Are you speaking as a native New Yorker or a Mexican-American, 'cause I don't think either of them are...?"

"Adopted t-t-tradition then. I'm an English boarding school g-g-girl as well, don't forget."

>> This is where I slip in some of my own semi-invented, semi-canonical backstory for Kennedy: 

a) Iyari Limon (the actress who played her) was born in Mexico, so I account for Kennedy's appearance and ethnicity this way (I've actually assumed, for my own personal fanon, that her father's parents immigrated to the US from Mexico, started their own business and made their fortunes; her father inherited their wealth and increased it many times over).

b) Kennedy's family has a 'summer home' in the Hamptons, which is on Long Island near New York. I've assumed that their main home is in New York City, and Kennedy was born there.

c) In 'Bring On The Night' Kennedy arrives from England with Giles, Molly and Annabelle, and says to Buffy "Sorry about the British invasion", apparently including herself in that category. She speaks American English with an American accent, however, and there's the bit about her family living in NY. My deduction is therefore that she was in England training with her Watcher before The First started its attacks on the Potentials; and my personal fanon is that the Council persuaded her parents to send her to boarding school in England - a school which just happened to be owned, through proxies, by the Watchers' Council. Kind of like St Trinians except with crossbows and battleaxes. Kennedy still returned to America during the school holidays, thus keeping her accent.


"Was the plumbing there really that bad? And did they-- sweetie, uh, I don't want my first use of my new powers to have to be curing you of hypothermia. Are you sure you're okay?"

>> I was actually going to include Willow giving a long list of English boarding school stereotypes in this passage, but it interfered with the flow of the action so I cut it. They were going to include bad food, corporal punishment and rampant homosexuality, and Kennedy was going to protest the first ones then smile in fond memory and agree with the last one. :-)

"F-f-fine. Though maybe I do need warming up...?" Kennedy reaches out a hopeful hand, but Willow shys away as if it were on fire.

"No way you're getting me in that thing."

"Ch-ch-choices, choices. Cold shower or hot Willow?" Kennedy grins, then reaches over and shoves the temperature control back to a more civilised level. Immediately the bathroom fills with steam, and she does her best to bat her eyelashes in a winsome and imploring manner. Willow snorts at that, but this time at least she doesn't pull back when Kennedy reaches out to touch her again.

>> Willow's initial reluctance was because there's no way on the Goddess's green earth she's getting into a cold shower willingly; but she's also hesitant because she feels guilty about cheating on Kennedy with Saga Vasuki. (Even though in her conscious mind she's convinced herself that "it wasn't really cheating, it doesn't count", her subconsious still feels guilty.)

"I've been kind of dead. I want to know I'm alive again." Willow still seems strangely hesitant - maybe the magic took more out of her than she's letting on? So Kennedy tries a different tack. "At least you can scrub my back for me."

>> Kennedy is the sort of person who knows what she wants, sets herself an objective and then goes for it. :-) Even she is not so insensitive as to ignore her partner's feelings in the matter, though.

"Well, okay. As long as you scrub mine." Willow manages a grin at that, and a few seconds later the bathrobe she's put on in the meantime is lying pooled around her feet again. She steps over the rim and joins Kennedy in the shower.

"You can help me wash the dust off. I still can't believe that, you know. How long was it?"

"Um... longer than I thought. A month."

"A month? A frickin' month?"

"'Fraid so. Today is February 23rd. Um, still 2004, thank Goddess. It's the late afternoon. And you would not believe how many emails we've got stacked up. I haven't even dared to check the phone messages..."

>> That date puts this story almost exactly halfway between the end of Season 7 and the start of Season 8. It's also possibly significant in terms of what was happening in Angel Season 5 on that date, but that's a story for another time...

"February? An entire month?"

"Mm-hmm...?"

Kennedy rests her forehead against Willow's shoulder, still trying to process it. Willow pats her awkwardly on the back. "I-I'm still getting used to it myself. I said it was only one day for me..."

"I've been dead a month?" She snorts with sudden laughter. "Why am I complaining? Most people who die are dead a lot longer than that..."

"Was it... are you okay, sweetie? Really? 'Cause when Buffy came back, uh, I mean, when I brought Buffy back, it was pretty bad. For a long time."

>> Willow corrects herself here because she's making a conscious effort to take ownership of her mistakes. Buffy didn't 'just happen' to return from the dead; Willow chose to do it, and therefore she is responsible for the badness that happened after that. Reminding herself of this occasionally is Willow's method of making sure she doesn't do it again.

"Now you tell me." But Kennedy says it with a smile. "I think I'm okay. Not got the urge to eat your brain or anything like that. Well, not that it's your brain I'd want to eat anyway..."

>> As Anya would tell you, zombies don't eat brains unless commanded to do so by their zombie master. As for what Kennedy would like to eat right now - she's talking about Willow's hot, delicious cookies. Obviously.

"You've kind of got a one-track mind thing going here, haven't you?"

"Oh come on. It's been a month!"

"Only objectively."

>> That line really tickles me for some reason. It's been a month objectively, but subjectively it's been either much longer or no time at all for Kennedy.

"But we--" Kennedy suddenly stops, and decides to try a radical new approach instead: giving the other person chance to talk about herself. "What was it like for you? What sort of tests did Nehushtan put you through?"

"Saga Vasuki."

"What's that mean?" And why does Willow seem even more uncomfortable now?

>> When I wrote the prequels, we didn't know the snake goddess's name and so I called her 'Nehushtan'. However, in 'Wolves At The Gate' we learned that she is called Saga Vasuki. Watch now in awe and wonder as I retcon my story to make it compatible with canon again. :-)
Also, I hope it's obvious why Willow feels uncomfortable talking to her girlfriend about the sexy snake lady...


"Uh, it's the name she prefers to use these days. 'Cause, I suppose when you're a billion-year old goddess you pick up all sorts of names, and it's like clothes, you use one for a while and then you get tired of it, or you associate it with that party where the guy, or, uh, girl you fancied goes off with someone else so you never want to wear it again 'cause it brings back the pain, so you..." 

>> I hadn't been in fandom long before I realised there's actually a jargon term for this: Willowbabble. I suspect she's talking about a real-life pre-Season 1 episode of her life here.

After a while Kennedy tunes her out, only half-listening to what she says. She's known Willow long enough to recognise her classic avoidance tactics when she sees them; but she's also known her long enough to realise that head-on confrontation rarely works out well. So instead she grabs the shower gel from the shelf, kneels down and rubs up a lather in her hands, then starts stroking them gently up and down Willow's leg. After a while her girlfriend's long, complicated explanation trails to a halt, and Kennedy's sure she's breathing more heavily than she was.

"I thought you were planning to scrub my back, not my legs?"

There's a husky tone to her voice that wasn't there before, and in the privacy of her mind Kennedy thinks "Score!" But outwardly, she smiles demurely and says "I can if you like."

>> If Kennedy were a nice girl, she would have listened patiently to what Willow had to say instead of tuning her out and concentrating on seducing her instead. But she's bad and naughty. And for some reason Willow doesn't seem to object too much.

So she stands up, and Willow starts to turn her back; but Kennedy puts her hands on her shoulders to stop her, then squeezes out more gel. She grins at Willow's confused expression.

"Got a better way of doing it."

And with that she slides her hands under Willow's armpits and encircles her back, rubbing the foam into her body and taking a moment to slide her finger down the length of her spine and make her gasp and arch her back, and their breasts are pressed together and Willow's breath is warm and fast in her face, and her heart is thudding. 

>> When I write sex scenes I tend to use a lot of really, really long run-on sentences, so by the time you reach the end of the paragraph you're as breathless as the participants... It also helps build the idea of things spiralling out of control for them, conveying urgency and need. I also try and include concrete physical details - like Willow's breath in Kennedy's face here - to make it seem more real and vivid.

And Kennedy tilts her head for a kiss, and again there's that strange moment of hesitation, but then Willow's mouth meets hers and her lips are parting, and her own arms are embracing Kennedy and their bodies cling together, and Kennedy's own excitement is mounting hot and hungry inside her, and she twists them both around, Slayer grace keeping her sure-footed on the wet, slippery floor of the shower, putting her back to the wall, feeling her own urgency, then gasping in shock and pleasure as Willow's fingers unerringly seek their target, push up deep inside her, thrusting right to her core. 

>> I've mentioned before that in Willow/Kennedy scenes, I try to include a reference to Kennedy being a Slayer at least once every time. More generally, I also try to keep track of where my characters are and how their bodies are arranged, both to avoid them doing anything physically impossible and to give the readers the sense of location - in this case, that they're both standing under a hot shower. Also, I was uneasily conscious of the fact that making love standing up in a shower isn't necessarily the safest thing to do, so the reference to Kennedy's supernatural sense of balance and agility was useful. :-)

>> That last paragraph contains the word 'Kennedy' three times, 'Willow' twice, 'she or her' referring to Kennedy nine times and 'she' or 'her' referring to Willow twice. The problems we writers of femslash and slash have to deal with... At least I didn't once use the expressions 'the redhead', 'the witch' or 'the older woman'. :-) I do refer to Willow as 'her lover' a few times, but I think that's acceptable because it's something Kennedy herself might think.

It's sooner, faster, more than she'd normally like it, but now it's perfect, it's exactly what she needs, it's like Willow's read her mind, except of course she's promised she doesn't do that (except in emergencies) but Kennedy's sure she cheats sometimes, not that she minds if this is the result, 

>> My own mind went off at a tangent about Willow's telepathy here, so I made Kennedy do too. I do think Willow would try not to read people's minds on a casual basis but would forget her scruples in a heartbeat if she thought it was necessary; and that Kennedy wouldn't care because she loves and trusts Willow, and perhaps also because she's a bit too blasé and sceptical about magic and hasn't really thought through the implications. Also, Willow doesn't need to read Kennedy's mind directly when she's broadcasting strong emotions everywhere.

and she can feel herself starting to spasm, her muscles clamping down around Willow's fingers...
Which are suddenly withdrawn, leaving her hollow and whimpering at the loss.

>> Not having any direct experience of what it's like to be a woman, I have to rely on extrapolation, observation, asking questions and reading NC-17 fanfic written by those people who actually are female to know how to write passages like this. :-)  So far I've not had anyone reply in comments "Dude, it doesn't work like that", but that could be because you're all just too polite to tell me...

Kennedy's heard of delayed gratification and decided long ago that she wants nothing to do with the concept. But Willow's got an odd expression on her face, almost timid, and she asks hesitantly "C-can we do it like this instead?" And she's pushing her thigh up against Kennedy's crotch, wriggling it to and fro so it sends shivers up inside her. So she only hesitates for a moment, then sets her feet apart so Willow can put her leg between Kennedy's, and as she does Willow suddenly devours her in a deep, passionate, hungry kiss, all her reserve gone, tongues swirling and intertwining, clinging to her lover desperately. 

>> Willow reacts so strongly because the position they're in now is the one thing she could never do with Saga Vasuki, who's a big snake and doesn't have any legs to spread. It's finally brought home to her that this really is Kennedy, her long-term partner whom she still loves.
Also, I've already written sex scenes in the past involving oral sex and fingers, and thought this would make am interesting change to write about.

She braces her leg on the rim of the cubicle, and they're moving together, Kennedy grinding herself into Willow's thigh, wet and slick with more than the shower water, faster and harder and closer and faster and deeper and faster until she gasps and screams and her whole body shudders and the world spins and darkens and it's only Willow's leg beneath her and arms around her that stop her from falling. 

>> You can catch your breath again now,  the run-on sentence has stopped. :-)  You'll note that in this particular fic, I never refer to the character's naughty bits by name, instead using circumlocutions like "grinding herself". That was partly to keep the rating down; with one short sex scene in a long fic I didn't want to distort expectations by calling it 18R or NC-17 up front. More importantly, I'm still not entirely sure which terms to actually use... 'Pussy' seems to be the generally accepted fandom term in fic, but to my British ears it sounds kind of twee and old-fashioned and reminds me of Mrs Slocumbe from 'Are You Being Served'. (If you're unfamiliar with British 1970s sitcoms, rest assured that this association is not a good thing.) I get the impression it's a more common and current term in America? I can't write 'fanny' because of the differences between dialects I talked about before; the word means something very different on either side of the Atlantic. 'Vagina' is actually the word I'd generally use myself in real life, but a lot of people on LJ complain that it throws them out of fic by sounding too clinical and medical. (And purists quibble that it should be 'vulva' anyway). So what to do? 

In previous stories, I've finessed the issue by using the word the POV character would probably use - so in 'For A Few Kisses More' which was from Buffy's perspective I used 'pussy', in fic from Willow's POV I used 'vagina' because she's the sort of girl who thought that 'playing doctor' meant reading actual medical textbooks; and if I write explicit fic from Faith's point of view I'd probably use 'cunt'. Or I do what I did here, and just avoid explicit terminology entirely. 

I'd be interested to hear other people's thoughts on this subject?

And when her breath slows down and she can hear herself again over the thudding of her heart she smiles up into her lover's eyes and breathes a 'Thank you' and then a 'My turn now'. And there's no reluctance or hesitation left in Willow that she can see, but she does say "Can we get out of the shower first? I don't wanna turn into a prune. And I'd like to make love in our own bed."

Kennedy grins, her insouciance returning. "Whatcha like me to do to you there, eh? Other than make you come lots of times, of course..."

"That sounds like a good plan itself..." Willow hesitates. "I really do love you. And I've missed you."

>>  I think she's genuine in this. She's guilty about what she's hiding from Kennedy, but from her perspective, it doesn't affect the way she feels about her so why raise it?

For a moment, Kennedy wants to push, ask the question... but she doesn't. She's got her Willow back, and that's all that matters. All that will ever matter.

>> Kennedy isn't stupid; she knows there's something wrong. But it's not something she wants to let herself think about, so she doesn't. 

>> The tragedy of Willow and Kennedy's relationship is this: Willow has become the centre of Kennedy's world. She's deeply and passionately in love with her. She'll play it cool and pretend to casualness because that's the way she is, but it's a big sham and both she and Willow know it. She's utterly devoted to her. 

Willow, quite simply, is not. She loves Kennedy, she wants Kennedy to be a permanent part of her life. But she's not the centre of her life. Willow has more important things going on - the magic, saving the world from unspeakable evil, becoming a goddess - and her lover will always come in second place to that. Part of Willow knows this, and she feels incredibly guilty about it; but it doesn't stop her.

"'Course you did. And I'm going to show you what you missed."

Hand in hand, all coy smiles and giggles, they make their way to the bedroom. Unregarded, over on the other side of the room, the 'Messages Waiting' sign still flashes on Willow's phone...

>> Yes, that's a set-up for a potential sequel if I ever get around to writing one. :-)

.

Comments

Posted by: candleanfeather (candleanfeather )
Posted at: 26th July 2008 16:21 (UTC)

Umm so many thoughts behind the construct of this text,the majority of them paying attention to characterisation.

About the sexual terminology to use when writing porn, it's certainly difficult: using academic terms can lead to clinic description, using slang can lead to insufferable vulgarity, circumlocutions to ridiculousness, all of them the death of sexyness. And on such an intimate matter that engages personal sensitiveness, whatever your choice of word, there'll always be the risk, that one of these words is the incarnation of "repulsive" for someone. So, my conclusion is, feel free to use the whole range of vocabulary :), but pay attention to the feelings and atmosphere you want to create with them. Your choice to use various terms for various characters, respecting their characterisation seems totally right to me. Also, from a reader's POV, for me, the most efficient sex scenes are not the ones that enumerate endless lists of naughty bits but include descriptions of moves, sensations, feelings which give significance to the scene. These descriptions doesn't even need to be very detailed, one original,unforeseen detail can be sufficient because it's the right detail, the one that brings significance. Now from a writer POV (but my experience is very limited in this area),I found the word sex to be very interesting because of its simplicity and direct aspect which allow further descriptions not drifting into clinical enumerations.
I hope this was clear and helpful.

On another note, you were into role playing? ADD? Hee. Me too. Adored it.





Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 27th July 2008 12:48 (UTC)
tara

Thanks! A lot of my fiction is also meta; rather than write an essay on, say, Kennedy's personality I find it's easier to write a story about it. Show, not tell.


there'll always be the risk, that one of these words is the incarnation of "repulsive" for someone

Unfortunately, I think that's inevitable - or at least if not repulsive, maybe comical or incongruous or in some other way mood-killing...


the most efficient sex scenes are not the ones that enumerate endless lists of naughty bits but include descriptions of moves, sensations, feelings which give significance to the scene

Oh, definitely. It might be different if you're writing a PWP with the sole purpose of getting your readers aroused, but if it's a sex scene as part of an ongoing story, you want to write about these specific people in this specific situation, not a generic list of actions that might be copied out of a sex manual. I like the idea of focussing in on one specific element of the scene in a lot of detail rather than trying to describe everything.

Having said that, I do think the story needs some level of detail. I've read fic where you might get the impression the participants are two disembodied spirits hovering in space next to each other and somehow interacting on a purely mental level, because the writer never mentions a single body part or physical activity, or uses really vague language if they do.

I've always been taught that good writing needs to engage the reader with every sense: you need to describe sight and sound and touch and taste and smell to really engage them and make the scene vivid and real for them. Although using all five senses in a single scene might be excessive. :-) There's also the argument that sex is physical and sometimes messy and sometimes funny and somtimes awkward, and a realistic desciption of it in fiction needs to show those elements to bring it to life for the readers.


I found the word sex to be very interesting because of its simplicity and direct aspect

Do you mean using 'sex' as a synonym for a person's genitals? As in "Spike grunted in mingled triumph and wonder as he thrust deep into Buffy's willing sex"? Because I have to say, that's one word I personally find rather awkward and twee and romance-novelly.... Sorry. :-)


On another note, you were into role playing? ADD? Hee. Me too. Adored it.

I'm a proud owner of the original three-booklets white-box D&D ruleset... though once Runequest and then Call of Cthulhu and Pendragon came out my gaming group moved over to them. Apart from a one-off convention game a while back I've not played RPGs for years though. :-(

Posted by: candleanfeather (candleanfeather )
Posted at: 27th July 2008 14:20 (UTC)

"Oh, definitely. It might be different if you're writing a PWP with the sole purpose of getting your readers aroused, but if it's a sex scene as part of an ongoing story, you want to write about these specific people in this specific situation, not a generic list of actions that might be copied out of a sex manual. " I understand the difference you're making, though I've read fics etiqueted as PWP that were in reality study of characters and their relationship, the sex scene being just a means to describe it.


"Having said that, I do think the story needs some level of detail." I agree of course, but I'm not sure if I was clear enough,is that I've seen very detailed sex scenes, not necessarily badly written either, which in the end felt flat and uninteresting, whereas much shorter scenes, because the writer knew how to focus on some details, had something real and concrete about them that was lacking in the other ones.


"Do you mean using 'sex' as a synonym for a person's genitals? " Sorry, it must be a problem of language because in French (and I write in French, even though I'm trying to translate my story in English), "un sexe" is the person's genitals. Could you explain me the nuance of the word in English?

" "Spike grunted in mingled triumph and wonder as he thrust deep into Buffy's willing sex"? " Urgh, urgh, urgh! Why are you doing this to me, Stormwreath? There's a reason why I've never read an Harlequin romance. Urgh!

"I'm a proud owner of the original three-booklets white-box D&D ruleset... though once Runequest and then Call of Cthulhu and Pendragon came out my gaming group moved over to them. Apart from a one-off convention game a while back I've not played RPGs for years though. :-(" You're amongst the pionneers then! :) We played at Runequest and the Call of Cthulhu too, we had an excellent master for the latter one, but like you it's has been years since I've had an occasion to play.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 27th July 2008 18:33 (UTC)

Sorry, it must be a problem of language because in French (and I write in French, even though I'm trying to translate my story in English), "un sexe" is the person's genitals. Could you explain me the nuance of the word in English?

It sounds old-fashioned and coy and, well, the sort of word you'd find in a really bad romance novel. Exactly the way I used it in that sample sentence that you hated so much, in other words. ;-)

If 'le sexe' is a fairly standard term in French, I wouldn't be surprised if the word wasn't originally a borrowing by English writers who wanted to sound sophisticated, daring and smutty. (Since a hundred years ago, the French language was considered to be all three by people from Britain...) Unfortunately, it's now the 21st century and the word just sounds old-fashioned.

Posted by: candleanfeather (candleanfeather )
Posted at: 27th July 2008 20:04 (UTC)

Thank you, I understand better your reaction now. It's interesting and very different from France where le sexe is a fairly standard term, though it has other uses, for example in demography where you study the sex ratio of the population. In fact, it's such a standard meaning that you can't use it for demographic studies at school without the teens turning a bright red and laughing.

"Exactly the way I used it in that sample sentence that you hated so much, in other words. ;-)" Yes, you evil, evil creature. Do I have to call you Stormwreathus now?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath )
Posted at: 28th July 2008 10:41 (UTC)
angel

Yes, you evil, evil creature. Do I have to call you Stormwreathus now?

While I enjoyed this little interchange, it didn't give me a moment of perfect happiness - so no.
Sorry. :-)

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