AKA Dealing With Reader Disappointment
My writing tends to confuse some people. I do this thing where I write plot, develop characters, create some fantasy elements and suspense and such, and then put a lot of sex in it. Gay sex, at that. For some reason, people get really surprised about the sex, even with my very clear disclaimers. Some actually get pissed off.
I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not going to stop writing sex. I’m not going to stop loving sex. I certainly don’t feel bad for writing sex in an otherwise interesting story. Most of my story plots focus on getting characters to have sex. Flat out. It’s erotica. Still, it doesn’t mean it has to be boring.
I love plot. I love a good story. I usually don’t find much of either in traditional romance novels. Honestly, I don’t really even understand the romance genre. You say fantasy, you get a fair idea of the range of what you’re going to get. Science fiction—you don’t even have to ask. There’s going to be something alien and something techy, no question. Thriller, Mystery, Action Adventure; we’re pretty sure what to expect. Romance. Well… old school Harlequin Romance… Girl meets boy/man and gets swept off feet… Maybe historical, maybe she’s really an assassin, maybe she falls for someone that turns out to be an alien or werewolf.
Romance is a really vague category. Why? Because it’s about a very common aspect of human lives thrown in with a plot. And that plot, although essential to keeping your reader engaged in the story, really exists for only one thing—no matter how much your writer might pretty it up with poetry and fancy imagery—to get your characters to have sex. Oh, they can scream love all they like, but if the characters don’t make out at least once, can you call it a romance novel?
So I grew up with those old school romance novels. Probably read more in middle school than any other time in my life, then realized they were all the same and just stopped reading. Plot wasn’t fanciful enough and there wasn’t enough sex. Deal breakers for me because that’s what I like to read. And, you know, where’s the guy on guy? But apparently even though romance is so vague, people still have an expectation. And even though they’re not reading those other stories that are completely sexless and just full of plot, they really get confused when they find anything but vanilla sex in a romance style book.
When I started writing, I took out the parts that used to bore me when I read old romance novel. All that plot filler that really didn’t do much. It didn’t develop characters, didn’t get the story going—didn’t really seem to be there for anything except as a roadblock to keep the characters apart. This pretty much created my Erotic Run On Format where all that plot is condensed down between scenes of the characters having sex. I love this format. I love to read it, love to write it, and it really gives you a satisfying story while not skimping on the heat or forcing you to read 300pages (imo.)
Sometimes I want more plot. I’ll have a story I want to write, and yeah, a lot of it is about getting those characters to have sex, maybe fall in love too but I also just want to share this really cool story. I like stories. I like being entertained. If my guy has the television on and he’s watching something that’s mindless and boring, I’ll go in the other room rather than waste my time on it. I won’t settle. I want plot and intrigue.
When I write my erotica, I’m also writing an interesting story (at least to me, hopefully to the reader too) where characters grow, things happen, struggles ensue. And no, it’s not to the level of some bitching mystery thriller because I still have an obsession with sex (I love sex,) but it’s also not useless filler. Even if I have a character doing something mundane, I strive to make sure it’s of interest, otherwise why the hell is it in the story?
Plot is important in a story, and I daresay, just as much in an erotic story. It’s easy to write another porn set up—pizza delivery, anyone? Readers aren’t going to respond to that the same way they do an entertaining story. I don’t write romance, flowers, sappy shit, but I do write love and affection usually in contrast to gruff and surly. Quirky characters, weird, sometimes mundane, usually emotionally rift plots, and smut. It’s my thing. I want to read it and I like to write it. It’s better than just a sex scene—But that doesn’t mean it’s not allowed to have sex just because there’s plot.
Seriously, people have a lot of opinions and expectations about the world and when you’re a writer writing books that people indulge in to escape their reality, you’re going to hear about how you didn’t reach their expectation. I’m writing my fantasies and sharing them, knowing there are people out there that will enjoy them. But some people won’t. Some people might read my story and really wish one of the characters was way more butch, or just a woman, or had decided to not fuck that other guy because that fits with their inner view of the world and their fantasies.
Some people can’t even get past the expectation of a perfectly written book, too busy pointing out editing mistakes to see any worth in the writing itself. Some know exactly what they’re getting into, read the whole thing, and still feel the need to complain about it because they wanted to read something else. I’ve had someone that I’m pretty sure was near tears because a character slept with another character and my reader viewed it as cheating and just, how could I! Talk about emotional reaction.
Just know, when you inadvertently fail to reach a reader’s expectation, it’s not your fault no matter how flaming angry they get. They didn’t commission you to write out their perfect fantasy. No one forced their head down and eyes open to read through your book. Most of the time, they don’t even know why they’re really upset, they just think you suck. Hopefully, they’ll learn to write their fantasies too so they can reach some satisfaction in their lives because that’s usually the problem. They expected the story to go different and they wanted to read that one, experience that one so that they could feel happy. I really hope they find that happy place.