Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Boy Meets Girl Meets Boy

Disclaimer type thingy: This is of course how I approach the subject. I’m not an expert, I just write books. Other people write books in different ways so of course, your mileage may vary and all that jazz.

I like writing ménage books. Still, they’re certainly not all I write by any stretch. Only five of my novels are full ménages (as in – the relationship focus is on a triad). There are reasons for that of course, generally I just let the story go where it wants to and sometimes it wants two heroes, sometimes not.

Ménages are fun to write because they’re rife with all the great emotions a romance novelist can use only to an extra power. And yes, if one hot guy is good, two are even better. But not always! It still takes some work to pull me in as a reader. Maybe I’m jaded because I write sex and read it a lot but just because something is the new/hot/now commodity, doesn’t mean every story is right for a ménage or that the added person in every sex scene can overcome a storyline that doesn’t make sense.

For me anyway, an effective ménage isn’t easy to create and not every story can support one in a realistic fashion. And by realistic, I don’t mean the absence of werewolves or spaceships. The single most important element in a ménage is an explanation of how the threesome would work.

In other words – as I’m reading along and there are these two very alpha guys and one woman, you’d better tell me why a triad would work in their case. Why? Because it wouldn’t in real life. Yes, yes, there are people who have poly relationships and those that work are ones that take a lot of negotiation and communication. So tell me why this combination of people works. Is it mystical? If so, how? Are they negotiating? Show me some of that. I don’t need every discussion, but at least let the reader know they’re all working on it. If a couple needs to work, a threesome does even more.

So sure, there’ll be the prerequisite DP scene and lots of hotness with two nekkid dudes all focused on the woman (and sometimes on each other, which I find hot as well). But it all falls apart if I’m thinking, “and these two guys don’t get jealous?” or even “why? Why are these people even together other than a DP scene?”

Other elements I like? I don’t want every sex scene to be a threesome. I like variety. I like one-on-one time with each person so I can get to know them as a character. Also, don’t make the men two of the same guy or one of the men so much stronger a character that the other just fades into the background. And don’t neglect the emotions! Sometimes a story is all about sex, and whatever, that might be a preference for some people but the strength of adding another primary character is that you give the reader another person to care about. I can’t if all I get to know is his Johnson.

So tell me what you all think? Do you like ménages? If so, what are elements you enjoy most? If not, why? Any favorite authors and or books?

40 comments:

Janine Ashbless said...

I love menages. There's a part of me that is convinced that it is the ideal socio-sexual arrangement.

My forthcoming novel Wildwood features two guys fighting it out for a girl, and I think that relationship could end up as a weird sort of menage (if I was allowed to write the goddamn sequel like I wanted to) but it wouldn't be a comfortable one - there'd be a stable couple with occasional visits from a philandering dominant third. Does that count? Anyway, Wildwood does end with a m/f/m scene.

Olivia Knight said...

I've never written a menage, and I'm not sure I could manage one - whether in real life or in stories - precisely because of the emotions. I couldn't quite see how to make the heroine emotionally invested in two men simultaneously - or if she were, that would be part of the tension, not the resolution. But never say never. And being something I don't write, reading it in other people's work is fascinating. I remember a sci-fi novel I read way back when, of which I can remember absolutely no details, except that it had three-way marriage as standard and some very hot scenes. (I was fourteen. Hotness is relative and may go down as well as up.) It did, however, show how the three-way relationship worked so convincingly that I spent several years wishing we had that system. (To have it as a whole social structure, rather than a menage in a couple-based social structure, also changes a lot.)

Mystery prize to whoever can tell me the name of the book.

Erastes said...

I don't know... I enjoyed reading A Gentleman's Wager as a nice hot romp but the shifting sands of the character's loyalties and attractions wasn't as fun.

I don't know if I'll ever introduce m/f/m into my m/m books - In Hard & Fast, the three characters end up living together but it's mainly as a bearded m/m relationship although Geoffrey knows he'll have to get Emily pregnant. I just don't think I'm good enough of a writer to convince an audience that my men are interested in Flossie. I applaud those writers who manage this.

What I think I don't like about the genre is that the publishing world seem to be using it as a back-door (excuse the pun) way to introduce m/m to a mainstream audience. Some may say that's got to be a good thing, but I'm not sure.

On a purely personal note - I've tried it several times and jealousy is a big fat option in real life!!!

Portia Da Costa said...

I've written some sort of menage things and they were fun to do.

Gemini Heat, two twin sisters after the same guy, although never all having sex together, I must admit. He didn't even know there were two of them... although that's what *they* thought. ;)

Gothic Heat, one man involved with two women again... only the two women were inhabiting the same body! Again, no actual three way sex. LOL

I've also had fun writing three way sex scenes occasionally, but usually where a couple temporarily hook up an extra male for mutually agreed pleasure rather than long term commitment. There's mostly fondness for the third guy, from both elements of the 'couple' but it's not a relationship as such.

Entertaining to write, but sometimes tricky keeping track of all the 'parts'. :)

Olivia Knight said...

I do remember writing one three-way scene (in Magic and Desire) where I accidentally had one of the heroes sucking his own cock. Sex scenes are always so tricky to proofread... Luckily my proofreader has nerves of steel and always picks up if someone is fellating themselves or it's suddenly her cock...

Amanda said...

lots of gay erotica features threesomes and moresomes. take a look at "Long Lost Brothers" by Ben Harris in "Doing It For Daddy" (Alyson Books, 1994) edited by Pat Califia, for example.

the best threesome story is hot and fun. it could be a planned scenario that goes completely awry; it could be a surprise adventure; it could be an accident... like any good story the characters need to be compelling and the pacing needs to be strong. as someone who has enjoyed lots of mmf threesomes, i can speak from experience and say they come with a lot of possibilities for both ecstacy and agony, joy and conflict, just like any other form of sexual activity. the possibilities for depth and arousal in a threesome story are endless. my favourite threesome stories are pansexual ones where everyone plays together. Another great mmf story is in "Bondage: An Anthology of Passionate Restraint" (Masquerade Books, 1998)-Six Handed Fugue by Anonymous; it makes use of the jealousies and complications involved. There are likely many more that I've read that i've enjoyed, but these are the ones that spring to mind.

Madeline Moore said...

Interesting topic, Lauren. 'Polyamory' is a buzz word these days for 'loving someone who loves you and someone else' (my awkward, first coffee of the day definition.) I think it's more of a 'I get MWF, you get TWS, and she gets Sunday off. I tend to think of it in terms of the woman being the shared lover, as one man loved by more than one woman is called 'typical.'

Sorry, unfair, I know...or at least, pusillanimous.

Both my novels feature menages. I like writing them, had to laugh at Olivia's dilemma - a man who can suck his own cock? Would there be a happier man on the planet?

Hmmm...it's obviously too early for me to comment without throwing barbs at the unfair sex. Probably because my independent, clear-sighted daughter-with-goals has fallen in love and overnight become an addled, twittering, misty-eyed slave. Before someone makes the 'like mother like daughter' comment I'll make it myself!

Later, all...

Samantha Hunter said...

Hi Lauren. :)

The first menage I read was in Megan's Dirty, and I was probably unconvinced before that point that they could be done in any way that was both sexy and romantic, but she made a convert out of me. I enjoy reading them when they're done well, with the emotional complexity you address, and not just sexual gymnastics.

I do wonder why I hear/see so little of f/f/m -- because that is a male fantasy, maybe? Just curious...in my very limited experience, it always seems to be m/m/f...

Sam

Lauren Dane said...

Janine - LOL, I'm sure it does count if that's what the threesome wants/needs/is okay with.

For me, what I find fascinating is the culture of a relationship. What the face of it is. If I believe it, I'm transported.

Lauren Dane said...

Olivia - that's good though. Frankly, I wish more authors would make that choice. There are things I don't delve into with my writing either - because I don't find it realistic or perhaps I don't think I can portray it right or whatever. I think if you can't find a way to believe it, you definitely shouldn't write it - that makes sense to me.

Madelynne Ellis said...

Well I think you all know how I feel about writing threesomes, so I won't reiterate. But I have to say it's the character dynamics of keeping it together, despite the jealousy, guilt and angst that makes it interesting for me. I have real trouble believing it when I come across threesomes where everyone gets along wonderfully and nobody ever feels even a teen bit left out.

I do remember writing one three-way scene where I accidentally had one of the heroes sucking his own cock.

Hm, I had a scene like that in Phantasmagoria, cept in his case it was deliberate.

Lauren Dane said...

Erastes - personally, I steer away from menages where two of the characters have a defined relationship and the third is sort of the author's way of titilating but without making him or her a three dimensional character.

Now, I think you can have a couple who plays with a third - I've read it done well. But I find, quite often, the one male solidly gay, the second "sort of" gay and needs a chick and the chick who "heals" them storyline to be one that rankles me. Becuase it seems to me the only person fulfilled is the person in the middle. Also, I get wary of needing a woman to be complete storylines.

When I do menages it's generally a situation where all three love each other but the main focus is the woman. I have a futuristic coming out in December though, where the two men have a relationship when the woman comes into it (although she was involved with one of them in the past)

As for introducing MM? Could be. I don't know. I think erotic romance has introduced a lot of things into a more mainstream audience and frankly, I've seen the opinions about MM and about gayness in general, change for the better over the years I've been writing. When people love characters and those characters are something they may have been wary about in their lives before, I think it's a positive. So in that way, I do think it's good.

Lauren Dane said...

Portia - mapping a normal love scene is hard enough but yes, there are times when I'm editing and I have to pause and sort of envision it and do an arm/leg/pink part check!

Lauren Dane said...

Amanda - absolutely!

Lauren Dane said...

Madeline - well unfair? I don't know. It's romance, at least what I'm discussing, and so the woman is the center of the story. Some folks write gay romance so it might be two women or two men or three women/three men - I think that's writing to market but everyone's mileage may vary on that.

Lauren Dane said...

Hiya Sam! I can tell you from my experience why you don't see more MFF - editors aren't buying it.

I love to write it but I can't sell it. I've found over the years that while the overall response to MFM menages has changed and acceptance of two men having a loving, sexual relationship has been accepted more, readers and editors both seem to be very resistant to FF stuff. You'll see small bits here and there, mentions, but outside of small erotica presses and more "literary" erotica, the full MFF stuff is very rare.

Lauren Dane said...

Madelynne - I'm with you and I think one of the reasons why I enjoyed Gentleman's Wager so much is that it delved into the emotional meat (heh) of how you'd manage the jealousy, the fear of losing or of not being important to your lover, etc.

Janine Ashbless said...

I've never written a menage, and I'm not sure I could manage one - whether in real life or in stories

Give it time, Olivia. I was monogamous too, when I was young.
;-) Or maybe I just thought I was...

Samantha Hunter said...

Lauren, really? How shortsighted of the eds, I mean, really. I agree MM is very sexy, but I think FF can be, too. And the emotional entanglements would be so different and interesting. Oh well. Maybe it will come around...I hope you keep trying to sell some, here and there...

Sam

Megan Hart said...

Tempted is about a threeway relationship and what I felt the realistic challenges to maintaining such a relationship would be. Because as hot as I think M/F/M might be, I just can't wrap my mind around the fact it would work, long term, without a lot of discussion, work and committment, and even then it seems like it would be a really hard relationship to maintain.

Lauren Dane said...

Sam - I agree and I will keep trying.

Megan - yes. It's why I keep my menages mainly to paranormals and the futuristic one. The one contemporary I wrote was more realistic, IMO but girl, no one wanted that!

Madeline Moore said...

So far there's been some f/m/f in both my novels. actually in Wild Card there was a lot of it, and in Amanda's Young Men there's...let me see...a lot of it, but in AYM I have f/m, f/m/f, f/m/f/m, f/f, m/m so...

AYM is a story of a woman's exploration and expansion of her sexual boundaries. She becomes a 'player' and has to deal with the boundaries of being a player, her own confusion about what is, really, 'just' lust and what is or has the potential to me more than lust, and the responsibility of the older partner towards younger partners, even if the younger partner is a horny guy dying for experience.

I suppose it's backwards, in terms of 'erotic romance' because it's about a woman who's only ever loved her sexual partners makes a conscious decision to explore sex without love.

Anyway, lots of menage action in both my novels, because it's integral, in both cases, to plot, as well as fun and hot and, I suspect, something women readers might like to fantasize about even if they'd never really participate.

Maybe polyamory will become a genuine option for people but I suspect it will remain unusual. The menage a trois is more likely to really happen, either with a couple accepting a third into their lives for a little spice, or three friends falling into it for the experience and the fun.

Certainly, a lot of fun to write!

jessewave said...

Hi Guys

As a reader I would not buy M/F/F books because they turn me off but I do read and review quite a few M/F/M and M/M/F books. One I still like is Colter's Woman (I think there were 3 men - all straight and 1 woman). You didn't mention the M/M/M menages which are growing in popularity.
What I do hate is when I start reading a series that is M/M and become invested in it then the author in the second book changes it to a menage M/F/M. This happened to me with a paranormal series by a well known author partnership and I just stopped reading the second book when I realized where they were going with the series.

Just my 2 cents worth.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

The question of MFF or FFM or FMF or whatever :gg:: comes up frequently in various writers forums and discussions. While editors are the ones nixing the idea, they seem to be getting it from readers themselves. Many women clearly state they're not interested in reading about two women together. The reasons vary and generally fall into two categories: physical and emotional.

With the physical, it seems many straight women just don't have an interest in reading about two women together. Some of that may stem from the porn cliché (the unrealistic depiction of women having sex together soley for male titilation). As for the emotional aspect, I've frequently heard women say they can't imagine two women being in a relationship with one man and not imploding with jealousy.

I'm not saying I agree with any of it, but it's what I hear over and over...

magdalune said...

I love to write it but I can't sell it. I've found over the years that while the overall response to MFM menages has changed and acceptance of two men having a loving, sexual relationship has been accepted more, readers and editors both seem to be very resistant to FF stuff. You'll see small bits here and there, mentions, but outside of small erotica presses and more "literary" erotica, the full MFF stuff is very rare.

Well, that's thoroughly frustrating. I'm a lesbian woman who still loves men from a distance (which I guess puts me on the bisexual side of lesbianism, but for heaven's sake, let's not make this complicated). What are bisexual, lesbian, or open-minded women? Chopped liver as a demographic?

Maybe if it were more prevalent, it would catch on.

It's disappointing because I tend to write my characters as bisexual, focus on discovery. Sexuality is fairly fluid. To hear that my preferred reading and writing decisions aren't popular except in queer fiction (with a more sociopolitical agenda than standard romance) is... well, annoying. And I'm bordering on angry. I guess I shouldn't take it personally.

More on topic: I haven't read any menage stories, but then again, my romance reading is limited. I'm trying to expand my horizons.

magdalune said...

"Lesbian woman" is redundant. Sorry about that. I usually say that I'm either a lesbian or a gay woman, and this time it just... meshed.

Angell said...

As for the emotional aspect, I've frequently heard women say they can't imagine two women being in a relationship with one man and not imploding with jealousy.

I agree with Dayle on this front. Jealousy is traditionally felt more strongly in females than it is in males, and putting two women on the same male for a lengthy period of time is just begging for a whole emotional mess (bad example here, but anyone watching Rock of Love? Point proven).

My newest outline for a book involves my first m/f/m menage. I've never really written one before, but am looking forward to the challenge.

I do enjoy reading about them however, as I always seem to be able to place myself in their shoes.

magdalune said...

Jealousy is traditionally felt more strongly in females than it is in males, and putting two women on the same male for a lengthy period of time is just begging for a whole emotional mess (bad example here, but anyone watching Rock of Love? Point proven).

Traditionally, perhaps. But maybe it's time to change tradition. And I know several poly females who are just fine in these sorts of situations. :) Maybe if the expectation of violent jealousy lowers, the incidences of violent jealousy will go down as well.

Or maybe I'm expecting too much from the genre.

Samantha Hunter said...

//So far there's been some f/m/f in both my novels. actually in Wild Card there was a lot of it, and in Amanda's Young Men there's...let me see...a lot of it, but in AYM I have f/m, f/m/f, f/m/f/m, f/f, m/m so...//

I'll check them out. :) My interest is because 1) I'm a little tired of the same old relationships between women in romance/erotica -- the "Sex and the City" type best friends who talk about the guys they're doing, or so forth... and basically I can see interesting stories here. I think it's more about the relationships than the parts involved, though the parts can be fun, too, obviously.

I not only agree that some readers prefs/fantasies are being excluded, but there starts to be a kind of fetishizing of the M/M relationship as well as M/F/M that is just as bothersome as the popular exploitation of F/F, don't you think?

Violent jealousy is a personality defect I think happens equally in the sexes...IMO.

Sam

Kate Pearce said...

I have menage scenes in my historicals and futuristics but not in my contemporaries. I just can't seem to imagine 2 contemporary alpha males being okay about sharing-but that might just be me.

Even my historical menages are a bit wimpy as I found out when I tried to write a proper one in the upcoming Simply Sinful. I realized about half way through that I really wanted my hero to have something different. You'll see how that worked out when it comes out :)
I just have a very strong feeling that in real life menages are very difficult to maintain-I might be wrong, but part of the joy of writing about them is the opportunity to explore all that angst and jealousy and compromise-now that I can really get into :)

Edie Bingham said...

I love to read about menages, I think because they'd be so much work in real life. Reading about them is so much easier :)

The most delicious part for me is the sheer indulgence for the "loved" by the two "Lovees" - it's so hedonistic, isn't it.

I actually don't mind if they work out long term or not and for me usually I'm more likely to believe that ultimately they won't last that long - Kinda like the two bulbs running on one battery thing where the bulbs burn bright but only fior half the time. Or do I mean two batteries powering one bulb... I'll bet some clever boffin would be able to work out the maths of menages :) :) Hmmm, and now I'm wondering if him and his competitive colleague might need help with the research

Sorry, where was I - Oh yes,as a reader I think I prefer the menages that burn bright but are ultimately doomed - they are so intense for my sexual palate that I'd soon get overfaced or nauseous like too much rich chocolate.

Edie B xx

Lauren Dane said...

I don't know. I'd tend not to take Rock of Love as an example of any normal human relationships, LOL. I do know as a woman I'd cringe to think anyone would compare my behavior to any of those women. Ever.

I think jealousy exists equally across gender lines.

Frankly, I can't imagine three of any gender making a triad work in the long term no matter the combination of genders. I don't think it's about the ratio of men to women actually. It's why I write them in paranormals and futuristics but the menage I wrote as a contemp ended with one of the men falling away from the relationship.

Lauren Dane said...

Edie - welcome and good point.

kirsten saell said...

I agree MM is very sexy, but I think FF can be, too.

Oh yes.

I'm a lesbian woman who still loves men from a distance (which I guess puts me on the bisexual side of lesbianism, but for heaven's sake, let's not make this complicated). What are bisexual, lesbian, or open-minded women? Chopped liver as a demographic?
...
To hear that my preferred reading and writing decisions aren't popular except in queer fiction (with a more sociopolitical agenda than standard romance) is... well, annoying. And I'm bordering on angry. I guess I shouldn't take it personally.


I'm a straight woman who loves women from a distance, and I agree, it is very frustrating to find my choice of reading so underrepresented. What I have found--in ebooks, anyway--tends to be not my kind of story (I prefer pansexual as well, so I am NOT interested in f/m/f), or worse, poorly edited. It's as if the publisher knows the book won't sell, so they don't even bother. Or they're contemporary, and fraught with all the politics of gay rights and gay culture. I'm not interested in sociopolitics. That's not why I read romance. I just want a love story with some hot sex in it, and that's what I've tried to write.

Discussions like this make me realize how very lucky I am. I think I've stumbled on the only editor in existence who is open to the idea of a f/f/m menage. All my books have some f/f in them, and my third is a full on f/f/m.

I agree with Dayle on this front. Jealousy is traditionally felt more strongly in females than it is in males, and putting two women on the same male for a lengthy period of time is just begging for a whole emotional mess

That's where I think authors are getting it wrong. That dynamic--two girls hot for the same guy--is a staple of male-centered porn and comes with all sorts of ridiculous connotations (the same way male-produced lesbian porn still seems to be all about the penis).

Why not a woman and a man both in love with the same woman? (Madelynne Ellis did it with a man and a woman in love with the same man, and that was freaking hot!) Why not keep the woman, the heroine, at the center of the relationship? I think with a f/f/m menage written for a female readership, you would have to make the women as deeply in love with each other as they are with the man. That's just something very few authors can write convincingly. But when they get it right, those are the books I most love.

magdalune said...

I think jealousy exists equally across gender lines.

Several people said this, and I'd like to chime in.

Isn't the romance genre fraught with equally jealous monogamous heterosexual couples? Isn't that what is attractive to some romance readers: the idea that a man wants a woman so much he trembles in fury, or that a woman wants a man so much that she wants to rip out a competitor's hair? That gets some readers going.

So why is jealousy between more than two romantically interested people considered so strange and off-putting? And why is jealousy between two women and a man considered more likely than jealousy between two men and a woman? (All romantic interests being equal, rather than being a temporary threesome to spice up a couple.)

kirsten saell said...

And why is jealousy between two women and a man considered more likely than jealousy between two men and a woman? (All romantic interests being equal, rather than being a temporary threesome to spice up a couple.)

I don't think it's more likely, just more attractive and interesting in the way it's usually presented. Jealousy between women tends to be viewed as petty and shrill (just look at the smug indulgence of men concerning the catfight), whereas jealousy in men is viewed as an integral part of the male dynamic. It undermines women's strength, but only serves to make men more "alpha". But I almost feel this is a matter of men's attitudes dictating what women like. Why should we sit back and let men assign all the associations and contexts concerning women's (especially f/f, ffs)behavior?

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Isn't the romance genre fraught with equally jealous monogamous heterosexual couples?

It's not the jealous that's the issue; at least, not from the many discussions I've read about the issue. It's that many readers can't suspend their disbelief that two women can coexist peacefully in a relationship with a man. That is, of course, hogwash. But if the majority of readers don't believe it's possible and are thus not interested in reading books about it...

Alas, I don't have a solution!

Amanda said...

what about MMM or FFF or MMM+ or FFF+ or MFMFMF++ or MFTG etc, etc...
i think the reading public is less conservative than publishers think. i like to read stuff that isn't traditional.

hurray for poly...i'm a polyamorous woman myself. but it's not common where i live, for sure.

kirsten saell said...

But if the majority of readers don't believe it's possible and are thus not interested in reading books about it...

You wanna talk suspension of disbelief? I find m/f/m kinda out there myself. You want to know a real life m/f/m menage? The woman is in the kitchen washing dishes while the one guy is in his boxers on the recliner drinking beer and watching football, while the other is in the rec room downstairs surfing porn on the net. Yet some authors, not many, can make a m/f/m menage scenario believable for me.

I have a feeling it has to do with personal squick factor, and in some cases that has a lot to do with how uptight women are about their own sexuality (or heterosexuality). That they think it would be awesomesauce to have two guys (Hey, I'm extra hetero!), but get totally freaked if they get turned on reading about women together (Oh nooooeees, I'm really a lesbian!)

As far as reading, I like any combination gender- and number-wise, but I'm not that interested in f/m/f or m/f/m. There's something that seems inherently isolationist about that kind of triangle. I'd rather have a shifting center, at least in the bedroom. You can't do that if the women won't touch each other, or the guys get grossed out if their cocks rub together.

Give me a good story with interesting characters and heavy, delicius sexual tension, and I don't really care how many tabs and slots there are.

i think the reading public is less conservative than publishers think. i like to read stuff that isn't traditional.

That's good news for me. My first two are m/f with some f/f scenes, my third is a f/f/m, my fourth will be m/m/f. I'm not much for traditional.

Amanda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.