Hey, you! Yes, you. We're not done with you yet. The wonderfully talented EllaRegina has stopped by to give us the insider scoop on one of the most celebrated second person narratives in erotica, "The Lonely Onanista," which first appeared in Best Women's Erotica 2008, was recently reprinted in The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 8, and received top honors from the Rauxa Prize Committee. Here's EllaRegina!
Perhaps some details about the story's original context might be helpful regarding its POV -- that is, understanding the circumstance under which it was written; I believe it informs the piece to some degree:
"The Lonely Onanista" began life as a Craigslist "Casual Encounters" personal ad (in the w4m category), one of eleven such pieces I posted anonymously over a six-month period.
Even though I was posting things closer to narratives/stories than the typical Craigslist ads, my approach was to write them as if they were ads -- elaborately written ones but ads nonetheless -- and as such I consistently used the second person voice in all eleven posts; to do otherwise (in my opinion) would have been presenting them as obvious fiction (even if, paradoxically, they were precisely that to many) and possibly deflecting potential readers in the process.
And, although I was writing to an audience comprising unknown entities in an unknowable quantity -- I was, in my mind, writing to one person, if that makes any sense. And I wanted him, whoever he was, to feel like I was addressing him alone, even if (again, paradoxically) it was quite apparent that he could not be the only one reading the post -- I wanted an urgency, an immediacy. I think many writers have done this, whether to give their work a relevance or to provide a focus -- writing as if they were sending their words to a single individual, known or imagined; Anne Frank and her "Kitty," for example. At the same time "The Lonely Onanista" was, conversely, a love letter to a specific man, someone known to me, and while I composed it the fantasy of this man contributed to my writing momentum.
It wasn't that I sat myself down and said "OK, now I'm going to write a second-person narrative" as a literary exercise. I made a choice in the POV, certainly, but it had to do with my chosen context and audience. (Maybe that decision was, in fact, a literary exercise!). It came naturally. I needed a voice that would connect directly with a prospective reader, putting him in what I call the "driver's seat."
I did get one "complaint" about the specific voice employed, from one of my Beta-testers (a cluster of friends heard these pieces over the phone or read them as they were written). This particular friend's objection was that the voice was too much of a directive: "You will do this," "You will do that" -- and he resented being told what to do, receiving instructions.
Full disclosure (TMI alert): He was a former lover and a major controlling narcissist -- everything was on his terms: a phone call or an evening would terminate when he decided it was over; I wasn't permitted to ask him about "his stuff," et cetera. So, in retrospect, it is no surprise that he reacted the way he did, especially to a piece where I happened to be the author.
I'm not saying everyone who objects to the second person voice is a control freak but I can understand how, for some people, this POV might read like a list of stage directions.
Anyway, that's a back-story tidbit for "The Lonely Onanista," at least pertaining to my use of the second person voice and (hopefully) germane to any POV ponderings.
However, I think my points here regarding POV could be applied to any story. Sometimes the voice called for is obvious. Sometimes the story finds its own voice.
We covered more about the particular genesis, among other things, of "The Lonely Onanista," in our interview, a year ago. Thanks again for that, Donna. It was great fun!
And now, an excerpt from "The Lonely Onanista":
You approach the left side of the bed, the direction where my head is turned. My face is at its edge—I am in a somewhat diagonal pose—and I look up at you, my dark hair in disarray, fallen over my pale face, my bangs in choppy clumps across my forehead. You see one big brown eye following your gaze, half a nose, a portion of mouth, its carmine lips slightly parted. You are still fully clothed. You unbutton your coat and take it off along with your beret and scarf. I watch as you undo your trousers, slowly, button by button. I would reach out and admire the soft wide-wale fabric of the corduroy but my hands are totally occupied. You extract your prick from its hiding spot. It is fat and long and I can see that it is already slightly throbbing. Although it is not the optimum setup for such things, given your height and the relative counterpoint of my horizontal state, you introduce yourself, in lieu of a handshake—another formality not physically possible at the moment—by gently easing your warm erection into my eager mouth, the saliva there already welling, and yet despite the awkwardness of our respective postures it is a most pleasant how-do-you-do. But, oh, I would so very much like to be able to properly arrange myself around your sweet upright cock and give it the salutation it so richly deserves!
You take off your shirt, your undershirt. I ask you to keep your trousers on as well as your shoes. You get onto the bed, between my legs, move my knees apart and sample, with your fingers and mouth, the glistening egg white substance emanating from my body. You lay yourself on top of me, face down, your body perfectly aligned with mine, like open scissors. Your corduroy on my nakedness, your shoes decisively holding my booted feet still, your heavy knockwurst—now steadily pulsating—in repose along the length of my ass crack, cradled as if in a warm bun. I am aware of your heart pounding, almost in unison with my metronome beat. I match my breathing to yours. You lightly bite the nape of my neck, tug my head by the hair, then release it. Your belt buckle presses into the small of my back, hurting me, and I suggest that you remove it. You pull the leather strap from your trouser loops in one motion, like an expert swordsman unsheathing his rapier from its scabbard, and throw it to the floor. My ass is tilted slightly upwards, giving the hands below me room for leverage. This stance offers you the perfect angle for your entrée. You guide your prick inside me, slowly but firmly, filling me up. You lie there for a few moments, not moving, keeping enough stress on my body to make me feel in your command yet allowing me space to freely continue pleasuring myself.
You begin to thrust, at first exactly corresponding to my speed but soon I find that I am following the tempo of your movements instead of leading with my own. The roll of coins imbedded in my ass puts some weight on your prick and this excites you. You grind into me, con gusto, gradually increasing the intensity of your delivery. At a certain point I use all the energy I can muster, untangle myself from your powerful restraint and draw my legs shut. I hold them rigidly, as if they were glued from cunt to heels, knees pressed immutably together. I like doing this. It makes your plunging more challenging yet you are of such sufficient length that you don't dislodge a millimeter—there is a sensation of unretractable tightness, as if you were fucking the virgin of all virgins. I squeeze my buttocks, amplifying the effect.
The original idea was that you would "assist" me. I am, in the end, an Onanista, generally used to pleasuring myself, thanks to the lonely confines of my profession. But you have other plans....
This is so rich. It needs to be whispered in a soft sensual voice. I could see a reading of this driving the audience crazy with desire. It is so intimate and immediate, if I were a party to this this in a skype text, for instance it would really turn me on... .
I don't know what problem people have with second person. These two examples are stunning. Thanks Donna and EllaRegina.
Perfectly said, Isabel. I concur.
I think I have a small crush on
2nd POV. Oooh, baby.
It's funny, because examples that I've seen written in the 2nd have been more like orders given to someone. Hmmm...damn that's sexy too, isn't? :-)
Thank you again EllaR and Donna.
Yeah, the more I read these second person examples the more I like them. I know I've written in it - but I know I haven't really done it consciously - I'm tempted to go back and look through stuff to see what I have and also keep finding myself getting ideas for this.
Maybe the problem people have with it is twofold - it's hard to do and so there isn't as much to read and become familiar with. Not sure that made sense.
I've been a fan of The Lonely Onanista since I first read it. I love the story, and I love the back story. It has the characteristic EllaRegina vivid imagery. The second person works exactly the way you intended.
Isabel is on the money; it has the immediacy of a whispered, seductive conversation.
More second person. That's what we need!
And, although I was writing to an audience comprising unknown entities in an unknowable quantity -- I was, in my mind, writing to one person, if that makes any sense. And I wanted him, whoever he was, to feel like I was addressing him alone, even if (again, paradoxically) it was quite apparent that he could not be the only one reading the post -- I wanted an urgency, an immediacy.
That's a beautiful analysis of the "voice" strategy behind your beautiful story!
P.S. Donna, I love your title for this post!
Thanks, everyone for joining in the appreciation of this great story and the POV discussion. I'm afraid I can't take credit for the title, except maybe in putting that as my first choice!
I'm always looking for ways to slip into someone else's skin and "Onanista" made me feel as if I were a man, the lover. There was definitely urgency there ;-).
WOW!!! I go away for a few hours and come back to so many nicely-wrapped presents! Thank you all for your thoughtful comments!
Ciao, Isabel!! You really clinch it, I think. I'd love to be at such a reading. It sounds like an underpant-throwing out-of-control Elvis situation! Cyberspace indeed lends itself to the use of second-person in certain kinds of encounters. And, as the Beatles said: I love to turn you on....
Hi, Neve! You know, I don't necessarily mind orders, either, if they are given in the right way. Maybe whispering them, as Isabel suggests...
Hi, Erobintica! Yeah, sometimes it's not conscious -- it just happens, although I'm sure that sounds like a cop-out instead of a valid explanation. Do go through your stuff and continue to explore this. I'd love to read your you business! I think what you say makes sense; maybe if there were more "successful" examples of this POV to read the second-person voice might lose some of its tarnished reputation.
Oh, Craig! YOU really know what to say to a girl! ;-) I'm glad you're a fan of this story. I'm very proud of it. It's a bit weird, given that it was never written with the idea of being published beyond Craigslist. Funny, how things evolve. Who knows if that was part of it, too. I wasn't thinking about the cardinal rules of writing -- the supposed does and don'ts. But then again I never do. [Insert evil laugh here.] Thanks again for your continued support of my words. I agree: more second-person! Maybe someone should propose an all-second-person POV anthology! It could be called "Only You."
Thank you, Jeremy! Yes, that was pretty much what was fueling me, though it never felt like it was a very conscious decision. (Titles R Us over here. I could do it all day. Maybe I should look into a career on Madison Avenue, or writing headlines for the New York Post.)
Donna, thank you so much for asking me to put my second-person two cents in. I was happy to share, especially since it's a voice that's troubling to some -- both readers and writers. I spilled whatever second-person dirt I had. You're the ideal reader -- slipping into the lover's skin. You landed right in that driver's seat. I'm so happy you enjoyed the ride! ;-)
What a fascinating backstory! It does seem to me the second-person pov worked very well for this story. I first read it many months ago and didn't really think about it, to tell you the truth, but in doing so I can hardly imagine it in any other pov.
I think Isabel makes a good point that the two examples showcased here have been tremendous. What an interesting discussion, Donna! Thanks! And thanks, ER, for sharing!
And I love the idea of a second-person-themed anthology! (As well as the prospective title. :))
Maybe I should propose that antho, indeed...
I think "Only You" has great potential! We've proven conclusively that the second person is perfect for erotica with more proof to come....
OK, let's make it official, then. I'll propose this, which means first writing a proposal and then sending it around with a few sample stories. Interested parties can email me: ella.regina(at)yahoo(dot)com. This is not an official call for submissions but more of a testing the waters and putting out of feelers, no pun intended.
My only hesitation here is that, while it is interesting from a literary standpoint (for us and other writer/academic types), most publishers of erotica wouldn't really (I don't think) see it as marketable based on that aspect, per se, like an anthology where the theme is a specific sex act, locale, et cetera.
So, I think the selling point to a publisher would be that the stories were providing an urgent access to intimacy -- lifting the shrouding veil. That they did so by being written in second-person would be their "hidden" armature, if that makes sense.
And, if the stories are done well, the reader might not even realize that they were uniformly in that voice, or they may notice but wouldn't care because they were too busy being driven crazy with desire (hi, Isabel!) while reading them.
For the record, I will throw my proverbial hat (not a fedora, I leave that one to Jeremy) into the ring, and would be glad to write a story for a proposal.
I understand publisher's hesitance. As we work out a few stories, maybe we can come up with an additional "hook" for the collection. Kind of like making a song with jazz infusion but a pop melody to keep more listeners interested.
A fusion collection, as it were.
I will email you as requested separately, EllaRegina.
I'm hoping the "hook" will be in the mysterious subtitle; the important thing to convey is that it is HOT, close up and personal.
Thanks for the email. I guess things pertinent to my crazy scheme should continue in email.
Donna has unleashed ER, editrix! Uh-oh!
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