Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday Story - erotica likes/dislikes

I read an interesting blog post through the week, which had my mind working. You can read the post here - it's on the Book Riot blog, by Casey Stepaniuk, called "Why Don't I Like Erotica?"

I was tempted to comment on the post...and maybe I will...but at the moment I've not. Mostly because my thoughts aren't succinct!

I share some of her views that erotica can be boring. Sometimes I read erotic stories, often the latest, greatest thing, and I find it boring too. Sometimes, it's just a story. I'm not drawn in or engaged. I read a bit, maybe I discard, maybe I persevere, but it doesn't engage my mind, let alone anything else. I guess I touched on this in the recent Catnip or Poison post.

After reading that post, I've been trying to work out why I have this reaction to stories, particularly erotica.

I think it's because in a non-erotic story, for me to love it, I need to have:
  • great writing
  • characters that I can relate to
  • a story that is plausible and sensible and that works for me
  • good character arcs so I see changes happening

When you add in the erotic component, I also need:
  • sex scenes that are believable for those characters
  • sex scenes that affect me on a mental (and physical/biochemical) level
  • sex scenes that reach inside me and wrestle for my attention/emotion/recognition.

I think erotica needs an extra complexity that other stories don't require because when a reader reads an erotic story, they want (or I do anyway) the tension, the buzz, the build up, and the release that comes with sex. This may not be needed in every scene, but it needs to be there in some form for the reader to connect to the story. And maybe that's why I love writing's deeply challenging.

However, this requirement also adds a deeper layer of subjectivity to an already highly subjective art form. There are so many variables that have to be 'right' for a reader, that finding the correct book/reader becomes more difficult.

It also, for me, adds a much more difficult aspect of writing to 'deal with'. On one level, when a reader writes and tells me how much they loved a story and how much it affected them, it's a truly uplifting experience. It hits right into the heart. It makes all the swearing and sweating and cursing as I wrestled with the story and characters, worthwhile. But there's this part of me that sort of cringes, that gets decidedly uncomfortable with the comment (probably over-thinking on my part!). It goes back to an incident when my first story was published...

When my first short story came out in an anthology, Dad took the book to show his mates at his retirees do. I was so chuffed. Then he told me how he had it wrapped in a paper bag and passed it under the table...and my chuffed got a bit deflated. Some weeks later, he told me how one of his mates forgot my pen name but loved my story and thought it was best in the anthology. Again, a totally chuffed feeling, until the brown paper bag got mentioned again, and I realised I was titillating 70+-year old men...and my chuffed got battered again.

So, it's a strange thing, erotica. It needs to be 'more' to be 'liked' by readers - it needs to connect on a very deep level with the reader. But as a writer, I can't really afford to write thinking about how readers read my scenes. I don't write wondering if people will be reading it one-handed, and I'm not even sure I want to know if readers do that...but isn't that my aim when I write erotica?

When I read erotica, it takes a phenomenal book for me to lose myself in it...and when I do, it's an incredibly powerful read that penetrates my mind and body and takes me on a sensory ride that's a complete and utter thrill. And why shouldn't I tell the author what a marvelous job they've done? Because it's a bloody feat to connect with a reader's mind...and it's even more amazing to do that with an incredible personal experience, like sex.

Which still leaves me confused about reactions...but not confused about the level of difficulty required for an erotic story to be 'liked'.

As I reader, I don't have a favourite erotic writer. There are some authors who I like to read because their writing style appeals, but some of their books bore me, when another of their books has grabbed me by throat and taken me to the highest heights. Some erotic books I've picked up have had writing that grates, but the emotion/sex has grabbed me and I've ignored the writing/style (although, for me, there are fewer of these).

It's such an interesting topic to think about an explore...and possibly I need to think more as a reader, separate to as a writer.

The original blog post I read has taken me on a waffly old journey of thoughts and self-discovery, where I probably haven't solved anything, but I feel better for expressing my mixed up thoughts.

Does the original blog post, or my thoughts, resonate with you?

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