Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Monday, July 11, 2016

Keeping it real

By Daddy X (ERWA Editor)

What does fiction do for us? Take us to the outer reaches of the universe? To new worlds? Inside technology? To a contrived history of the pyramids? Do we, as writers, first experience our travels in the real world, then relate the trip to our readers? Or do we create the journey from whole cloth? What stimulates a reader’s mental and emotional synapses to trigger a particular realization the writer has in mind? How to get readers to process information the way we intend? Do we acknowledge sophisticated readers by subtle tricks, isolating ourselves from their own interpretations? Or do we hold their hands, explaining everything as we go along, leaving nothing to the reader’s imagination. How do we make it all happen? How to keep it real?

Life experiences hint at ways a character may behave in a given circumstance or what reactions may result from certain stimuli. Creating an acceptably realistic scenario is a melding of what we know as fact with what simply could be. It’s a matter of blending the universally accepted knowable with conjecture. Sounds easy, as long as we’re simply writing what we know, what we’ve lived.

While I certainly do make up shit, I can’t say that I’ve ever been tempted to write anything too far out.  By that I mean crossing erotica with Sci-fi, paranormal, vampires, zombies (ick). I do have a couple thousand words set on another planet, but there it sits, in the ‘what next?’ pile.

Fact is I’m not really conversant in the very fantastical, except for those places I’ve traveled within myself and consequently still within my world. Doors opened and thresholds were crossed under the influence of psychedelics. Real life, whether interpreted within our conscious minds or not, is all so interesting (and fantastic) that there’s enough internal space to explore before I’d get to setting up other, unfamiliar, complicated societies.

 It’s hard enough to grasp the one we’re living in, for crissakes.

Clearly, a lot of readers do love these fantasy genres, and the artists who create them can be quite affecting. The great storyteller Stephen King is one who states the impossible and makes us believe it. The writers of the ‘Star Trek’ series, endowed with the innate ability not only to create new worlds, technologies, societal patterns, etc. also remembered to take us along for the ride. As if a phaser was something everybody had in a drawer somewhere. We felt we understood how warp drive worked.  

Feeling one’s way around a created fantasy world is at once a noble, frivolous, and difficult task.

Noble, in that alternative orderings of the human condition potentially reside in the random cards of earthly imagination.

Frivolous, for those who lead a more simple existence—even folk tales and creation myths, no matter how complex, tend to stay fixed within a culture.

Difficult—in that it all has to jibe for the reader.

We mustn’t forget the need for the human mind to create fantasy. Even in the most removed tribes, the otherworldly has a way of creeping into practical existence even though a moody, introspective state couldn’t be sustained for long. Not at least without the cooperation of others of like mind. It seems as though there’s a need in our species that requires flights of fancy. Escapism? Metaphor? A need to explore the creative process? This is the genesis of magical thought. To create an unsubstantiated story to explain who we are, why we are, and where we come from. Births of religions would fall somewhere within this realm.

The very complexity of our own way of life seldom makes sense, so why, one may ask, does ‘real’ matter so much in fiction? Good question, but fiction has to make sense relative to itself. Life doesn’t have to follow any rules. A reader’s observation may suggest that a particular outcome of a series of events would be impossible given the information provided.

At times it appears we accept such incongruities in our real lives much easier than we endure errors in our fiction. Reality is a state of flux. In the real world, we can’t always predict the effect of an action, whereas in the world of fiction we must. We can surprise, but the surprise must be congruent with what has come before.

My guess is it’s my own laziness, covering for some perceived inadequacy that keeps me from the difficult stuff of research, which would be necessary to any endeavors in writing the fantastic. Same as a historical piece for that matter, so it’s not just a simple fear of the unknown that keeps me from that noble task. 

My lamest excuse would be that at this stage of life, there isn’t time for researching something outside my experience. After all, I’m still a long way from exhausting what I’ve learned thus far. Going forward, it follows that research into esoteric and non-substantive issues could be a waste of time.

Time better spent writing.   


  1. If you were to ever pen a memoir, I'd be in line to grab a copy. The few hints and glimpses you've given of the life you've lead are so interesting. Of course the names would have to be changed to protect the innocent(?)!

    I, also, write mostly true-to-life stories. But my favorite genre to read is sci-fi and fantasy. My brain doesn't give me stories like that, unfortunately. But then I've always spent a lot of time thinking about sex...they say to write what you know, right?

    1. There were very few 'innocents' in our crowd. At least they didn't stay that way for long. Nyahahahahaa....

      I have trouble getting my head around sci-fi and paranormal. I've done a few fantasy and historical pieces, but they were rather tongue-in-cheek parodies of those genres.

  2. Some great questions, Daddy.

    I've written one scifi novel. It was hellishly difficult, even though I set it in the near future, in a USA that wasn't all that difficult to imagine as the outcome of current trends. All through the process I kept asking myself, "Is this creative enough? And is this believable enough?" So I definitely know what you're talking about.

    Paranormal is easier for me, partly because I've never tried to create an entire new universe, but instead, inserted a few magical elements into the current universe.

    But it may be that the key is to provide a touch of the familiar and the real, even in a historical or fantastical setting. I've become a bit obsessed by the Game of Thrones series (the books), largely because the characters. They're somehow totally believable, even though the books are set on a fictional content during something like the Middle Ages.

  3. Some good questions, Daddy. Melding the fantastical with the real isn't always the easiest thing to do because of the attention to detail required. If you don't anchor impossible situations with highly real emotional reactions, then the reader has to start suspending their disbelief using a crane - this tends to be counter-productive if you're reading for escapism.

    I think there's a lot to be said for presenting the impossible as fact. I love your examples of this with Stephen King and Star Trek. Both sets of writers blend other-worldly settings or events with entirely recognisable characters, irritations and domestic settings to make a new reality. But it does FEEL like a reality.

    I've written fanfic based on Grimm, and the most challenging thing there was to mould the canon world (in which most of the characters are some form of shifter who take the forms of the creatures in the tales of the brothers Grimm) into the recognisable world of detective stories. That was fiddly.

    But what's even harder is doing enough research to set your story (believably) on another continent. Getting the culture, setting and language right is actually more of a challenge than making stuff up! I think there's a strong relationship between keeping it real, and writing what you know.

    One of my favourite writers for 'bending' reality is Clive Barker.

    Good article - lots of good questions raised.

  4. Great article and certainly to the point. If a writer can stretch the readers imagination to the point just before it snaps, is the goal. The reader must be able to believe that the story line could actually happen.

    1. really nice way of putting it. It's a hard thing to judge. It's even harder trying to move fast enough to get those ear-mufflers on when the SNAP occurs. Damn loud, those snaps...

  5. So many of the big questions we writers ask ourselves--I enjoyed this very much!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.