Thursday, February 15, 2007

Food for writing thought.

I experienced something the other day that I never expected to experience. Last month I met a man online who raised a few red flags in my mind. Something wasn’t right with him and I couldn’t figure it out. I don’t mean he was demented or anything like that, but something just didn’t jive.

I met him via one of the writing forums I haunt. This is a writing forum dedicated to erotica romance writers so the subject matter is adult in all ways, shapes and forms. At first he seemed overly concerned about making sure his writing was erotica and not pornography. It felt like he was trying to convince himself more than anything else.

Yes, there is a difference between erotica and pornography. If you disagree then you show me a “stroke story” that’s 30-90K words long. Until you show me that, let’s just go with this, ok?

Then he’d censor himself. I don’t mean subject matter. He was more than willing to tackle some of the larger taboos in erotica, but he wouldn’t cuss. He seemed to have a hang-up with certain words. I know, I know our characters will do things that we may never do and there are plenty of erotica writers who can get down and dirty with the best of them, but never utter a curse word in their personal lives. So, I did my best to separate the author from the fiction and went with it.

After that, he started posting excerpts. His non-erotic stuff has been accepted by a few publications, but he was trying to break into the erotic genres and came to the forum for help and guidance. (One of the better aspects of this particular forum.)

That’s when I saw the problem. His words didn’t flow. The situations seemed forced after long dawdling by the characters. This worked screamed of someone who was uncomfortable writing an erotic scene.

After talking to him off-board about a few personal things that I’m holding in confidence, I realized what this guy was trying to do. He was trying to right a wrong in his past via fiction and he had some kind of sexual hang-up to boot.

Writing is therapeutic. I’ve yet to find an author who disagrees with that, but writing is not this kind of therapy.

I’m a writer not a psychologist. I realized quickly that this situation was out of my league. Later he confessed (in a public way, so I’m not breaking confidences here) that he’d developed a religious problem with writing erotica. Bingo. There’s why his sex scenes didn’t flow nearly as well as his non-intimate scenes.

So, what’s a writer to do? I think he gave up and that might be the correct decision on his part. He didn’t give up on writing just with writing erotica.

What about all of you who might be facing similar troubles and don’t want to give up? I write very graphic erotica. Most of the writers I know write graphic erotica. We’re comfortable with this and have no qualms religious, social or otherwise doing so. But, if you are not comfortable writing sex scenes then don’t do it. It will show in your writing and your work will suffer.

So, what can you do? You don’t have to be graphic. There’s no law stating that romance novels have to be graphic. There are “inspirational romance” novels that sometimes have a Christian or otherwise religious theme. Christians do fall in love and there’s nothing wrong with writing a romance story about it. There are readers who don’t like the graphic nature of my type of erotica, but still want a good romance story. Write for them. Embrace your readership. There is nothing wrong with or less than when it comes to different genres.

What if “inspirational romance” isn’t your thing, but you still aren’t quite comfortable writing a sex scene? Publishers have different ratings or heat levels for their books. Mine tend to be at the top of the scale by default. I write m/m and that comes with certain activities that push it to the top. Publishers, writers and readers don’t think this is fair and more and more publishers are tweaking their ratings to accommodate the genre. Some romances have “light” sex scenes (for those of you who come from fanfiction these would be called limes) instead of “graphic” sex scenes (for those of you who come from fanfiction these would be called lemons). The point is to write a good story and give the story what it needs and for some stories that’s fade to black or light sex scenes.

Write what you’re comfortable writing and always strive to better yourself. Yes, you should push your boundaries for growth, but if you’re completely out of your element, it will show in your writing.

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