Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My Smut Runneth Over

I read a lot of smut. Smut meaning erotica. Literary erotica, not erotic romance. (If you want to know my definition of the difference - erotic romance is written in the genre style of romance novels. Literary erotica is written in the genre style of contemporary literature.)

Since I review erotica for Erotica Revealed and the Erotica Readers and Writers Association websites, I read at least two erotic novels or anthologies a month. Then there are the books I read to keep up with friend's work, the reading I do to keep up with my publisher's other writers, the books that get great reviews, stuff that
catches my eye, and the flotsam andjetsam of other sites, trends, and whatnot. And that's just the erotica.

I read other stuff too. I just read Orlando by Virgina Woolf, The Tipping
Point, and a writer's craft guidebook that made me wonder if the writer
ever wrote anything except books to tell writers how to write books.
(I've decided those are useless, but I get sucked in from time to time.
Once again, I've found Poppy ZBrite's words to hold true: "You don't learn how to write novels. You learn how to write THIS novel.")

With all this smut, you'd think I'd get tired of reading it. Honestly, yes, reading some of it is like a forced death march over the Russian steppes in February. I know that many women get off from submission fantasies, but reading them is a special slice of hell for me - usually because they are all the frickin ' same. (I swear there's a checklist circulating to these writers. Master calls with stupid command. CHECK. She wriggles uncomfortably at her desk before obeying him and taking off her panties/putting on the special panties/inserting the buttplug/inserting the vibrator. CHECK. A small moan escapes her lips. CHECK. ad nauseum) That's just one of the cliches I'm subjected to time and again. The strangers who meet in the bar, but it turns out they're married. Don't get me started on the food stories. The "I bought sexylingerie and now I'm suddenly a different person" story... The writers who offer up that sort of stuff are usually beginners, so they lack the craft to make it
rise above the cliche. Even worse, they don't read in the genre they're writing (grrr), so they don't even know that the clever little story they thought up has been done to death.

But then there are those other writers who can take the most mundane story and infuse it with such brilliant writing that oh! Such a joy to read. I'll savor every word. Or there are the writers who can come at something from such an oblique angle that even though I think I know where it's going, I can never be sure. And then there are the ones who never forget it's about sex. With flawless aim, they hit right into the heart of the matter and aw fuck, who cares what the story is about? It's hot! Who could ever be bored with that?

2 comments:

Amanda said...

for writers that version of the sub is cliche; for subs with fantasies though and probably doms too, it's sexy and evocative. i find it difficult as a writer to give readers what the want but find the stuff challenging too. i tend to write fiesty subs. as a reader of D/s fiction, i like that myself but i also enjoy when the sub actually surrenders and loses control. it's beautiful, but is there a story at that point. difficult to balance. (my word verification is pacula, who must be some female version of dracula;)

Kathleen Bradean said...

Ah, the difference between truly character driven storytelling and plot driven. The checklist people are plot driven, even though they won't admit it.