Monday, May 1, 2017

Pec or chest? Bicep or Biceps? And just what the heck *is* a trapezius?

Capcom's Human Anatomical Reference for artists
Steamy romance isn't as easy to write as some folks think. You have to be part doctor, part wordsmith, part matchmaker--and still love to put your couple through hell before they get their heaven, lol. But the biggest challenge is making detailed body descriptions both easy to understand and sexy.

Here's an example.

Biting Nixie by Mary Hughes – Smoldering hot vampire alert
     In the center of the room, naked to the waist, was Julian Emerson.
     He stood like some latter-day Goliath, his fists raised over his head. Muscles bunched and strained in his arms and chest. Loose black trousers hung low on lean hips. He slid one bare foot out, legs bent. Crossed powerful wrists in front of him. Pivoted and punched both arms up in a fluid harmony of motion.
     My breath punched out as well, like I’d been hit by a truck. Julian’s body was beyond gorgeous. His abs were cut like diamonds, his chest was chiseled marble. He turned and his back…stars above. His back made me want to wrap my thighs around him and ride him like a horse.
     Twin wings of pure, hard muscle flared from his narrow waist to his immense shoulders. I could see individual muscles work as his fists spun out in a ballet of power. A thin sheen of sweat slicked his skin. I wanted to lick it off.
     He turned again and I was overwhelmed by color. Bronze skin, deep bronze nipples. Short black hairs feathered up the center of his abs and over his broad chest. Black glossy hair curled around his ears as his two-hundred-dollar haircut absorbed the sweat of his exertion. Laser-blue eyes, made even more startling by his black sweeping lashes, stared—
     Julian Emerson was staring straight at me.
So what I'm describing here is Julian (a lawyer) doing the second blackbelt form in Taekwondo (Keumgang (금강)) - second dan ("diamond", symbolizing hardness, unbreakable)).  Specifically his pectorals are chiseled marble and his latissimi dorsi (lats) are flaring, and certainly I could have named particular muscles as they contracted and released, but that wasn't the point of this passage. The point was to let the reader experience Nixie's stunned reaction to her first sight of Julian.

In Nixie and Julian's honeymoon story, Biting Christmas (free as part of Biting Holiday Honeymoons on Amazon, Nook, and others) Nixie does mention more specific muscles. She's mounting him in a hot tub.
I grabbed the tops of my husband's broad shoulders. He lifted them slightly, making his trapezius muscles two convenient handholds.
Since Nixie had identified the "tops" of her husband's shoulders, I was pretty confident the reader would know the trapezius was the neck-to-shouldertip muscle without being disrupted from the story.

The more erotic books gained traction in the marketplace, the more confident I was using anatomical terms. In Passion Bites, first published in 2015, Alexis was using pectorals by page 14. Then again, she's a doctor, so she'd know her body parts, lol.
Passion Bites by Mary Hughes – Steamy vampire kiss alert
     I stood, palms on his chest, and pressed flush to him.
     A thin layer of cotton shirt covered hot boulders beneath my palms. I’d touched well-built men, toned muscles and warm skin. I’d never felt a man like him, like scaling bare rock cliffs. A moan tore from my throat.
     His groan twined in. “You taste amazing. All hot and wet.” His head slanted, his tongue beginning to plunge. Angel wings became angel fire.
     I gasped. That driving tongue pistoned with intense male power. His heat rushed in, waking every bit of my mouth. Like biting a cinnamon red-hot, my lips, then my whole body flushed with desire, a flame spiraling through me like a coiled, lit fuse.
     Luke might look like an angel, but his kiss was hotter than sin.
     Hunger rushed through me, dark and powerful. Suddenly I was the most excited I’d been in my life. Ready to hop up on the exam table, pull out the stirrups and play doctor. My fingers curled, digging into iron-hard pectorals, and I swirled my hips against him.
     As if my hip bump was a cue, something unlocked in him. Strong arms wrapped me, pulling me into an inferno of lust. He wasn’t playing anymore. He kissed me in a flurry of lips and teeth and tongue, driving me mad with desire. I pressed into his hard body. He embraced me so tightly, we melded.
     Against my belly, a hard length grew enticingly.
     I was two seconds from suggesting we put the exam table to good use when the door clicked open.
The important thing is for the author to know exactly what body part she's picturing, then express it in such a way as to  make it clear without breaking the reader from the story.

So I was pretty chuffed when I found out comic book and video game designers are just as exacting with their art. Check out these amazing drawings from Capcom for warriors.

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Landon "Rebel" Lovless has a ragged scar on one round, powerful biceps. My darling husband pointed out that's confusing, as it sounds like two muscles. That's the correct term, though, it's a single muscle with two heads. I left it in. Was the right or wrong call? Let me know in the comments below!

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