Saturday, July 3, 2010

Balanced Perspective

I was talking to the voices in my head (my muse and her minions) about my particular writing/reading hangups just now. Turns out, what bothered me when I was younger still bothers me today, regardless of genre. I can't stand stories that don't have substance - whether it be flat characters, a non-existant plot (if it's plot driven) or an emphasis on everything but moving the story forward. While my irritation today is with erotic novels, this annoyed reaction applies to all types of books. Don't get me wrong, I know there are stories to be read for just a few hours entertainment. Not everything is literary fiction and I'm glad for that. But a story that falls flat on the page does nothing for me.

My grievance with erotic novels: Over the years, I have found that the majority of stories which put emphasis on more graphic, longer and frequent sex scenes have less focus on developed characters and a compelling story. I can name two novels off the top of my head where I actually grew bored because the sex scene was five pages or more; the story itself was lost between all the grunting and squirting. I couldn't review either book here because all the positive I thought about the story was overshadowed by my annoyance over those overbearing sex scenes. What irks me most about these two stories in particular was that both writers are popular and have written over twenty books a piece - presumably in the same style. Obviously, their fans don't have the same hangups I do.

I think it started when I was younger. I was on a rather high reading level for my age and I began reading romance novels when I was around six. I think the vast majority being published were pretty tame - at least, the ones that weren't sold in adult stores. I didn't have access to more graphic ones if they were in my library. My mother checked most of the books I got from the library - the ones with the scantily-clad women on the cover stayed in the library - but I managed to find a few that had more than hand holding. What can I say? I was a curious child. As I grew older, the stories I looked for and what I found inside them grew more bold. Still, there was always an emphasis on the romance. I got bored easily if that wasn't written well. Even when I discovered erotic novels that were not destined to end in happily ever after, I always had a love of books that had a great story to tell, even if a reader were to skip the sex and read everything else. And yes, there were moments that I skipped the sex because I was dying to find out what happened next.

Now I wonder when/if it became popular to sacrifice story for hot sex. I know it sounds prudish, but I constantly feel like if the story isn't "hot" enough, people won't buy it. But why? If the story is good, is there a need for six page sex scenes over one or two pages? I hope not. I really want my erotic work to stand out, to editors and readers, if only because there are some things I don't want to sacrifice in order to pull in an audience. A story that leaves me wanting more, even when the characters have their clothes on, is definitely at the top of that list.

No comments: