Wednesday, 23 May 2018
The Erotic Writer's Thesaurus
Okay, okay - despite all my protestations, this is me doing a book review.
The Erotic Writer's Thesaurus, a true labour of love* by Terrance Aldon Shaw, deserves to be the exception to my rule. 513 pages in PDF, 10,000 entries, countless cross-references (okay, I didn't count) and several pages of notes on such tangential topics as lists of gun-types, the strange modern dislike of the word "moist," and the difference between "demur" and "demure," as well as a beautiful little opening essay on the usage of the word "ass" - this is such a useful resource for anyone writing about sex or romance that it feels like a huge relief to have it at my electronic fingertips at last.
What it is not is just a list of filthy words, although GOD YES we all do occasionally need a synonym for "cock" at some point in our sex scenes. A sprawling range of um, relationship-related terms, covering everything from Mascara to Yawn is presented for our educational delight (and now that I have this book, hopefully I will never have to bash out such a clunky descriptor as "relationship-related" again!). It also functions as a dictionary, so you can look up the meaning of, say, "Irrumation" should you so desire, and includes nearly 2000 usage examples. Just browsing it is inspirational.
Some caveats: it is an idiosyncratic work in which the author's voice and opinions comes across strongly in the expanded notes and topics, take it as you like. Reader opinions may differ on, say, whether a particular word is derogatory, or biologically accurate. I'd always avoid describing an adult woman as a "girl," say, except within dialogue, but of course many people do that and intend no slight. Language is a living, mutable, constantly evolving thing and one of the skills an author must have is choosing the right words to convey not just meaning, but also nuance and character.
TAS is also American, and although there are many inclusions from different sources (Hindi, African-American, Portuguese, Yiddish, Elizabethan, etc - all helpfully flagged as such) and he's done his research, I noted in my uncorrected review copy some question-marks when it came to British slang (which have been fixed in the latest PDF). That's probably inevitable in a single-author work, and to be honest it's probably all but impossible to write accurately in another culture's idiom. This book will hopefully help you flange it, though. (See!)
The Erotic Writer's Thesaurus is the dog's bollocks 👍👍👍 and I will absolutely be buying it in paperback. It will become a well-thumbed treasure.
* Love (n): adoration; affection; ardor; attachment; beyond admiration; caring; craving; devotion; Eros...