Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Story that has to be Written



I believe at some point every writer finds herself in the throes of the story that has to be written. I think erotica writers might find themselves there even more often than other writers because we’re often intrigued with the taboo, with the transgressive, with the unthinkable ‘what ifs’ that are a part of the dark unconscious. 

I think it’s a part of the calling of the storyteller -- that need to delve a little deeper, that need to see what’s really going on beneath the surface of the fairy tale, the myth, the urban legend. We seldom find sweetness and light hidden deep in the human psyche. Every demon, every monster, every nightmare, every dark fantasy that we won’t even allow ourselves to look at in the light of day is hidden there. I can’t even think about what’s behind that closed door separating acceptable story fodder from the darkness and not shiver.  

I had an experience once, while writing a story of that dark nature, or rather rewriting it, that reminds me of just how powerful that dark place can be. I was alone in the house, my husband was away on business. It was late -- long after midnight, and I was in the zone. There had been wine, there had been coffee, lots of coffee, and there had been fabulous uninterrupted writing. I had just rewritten a stimulating chapter that I was very pleased with, and I was all poised to begin the next, when I realized what that next chapter was. It was easily one of the darkest passages I’d ever written, straight from the depths of my less than pristine, less than sane unconscious. It frightened me when I wrote it. There was no way I could face it alone in the middle of the night and sleep afterwards. I downed tools and picked up the romance novel I was reading, a novel full of – you guessed it, sweetness and light. Truth is I needed some hearts and flowers just to lull myself to sleep, safely away from my monsters and the nightmares they bring. It was clean, it was safe, it was happy, and it allowed me to shut the door on the darkness until morning.

My point is that we, as writers, have the ability to bring those places deep in ourselves into the light. If we’re brave, we delve beneath the sweetness and the typical HEA and we meet ourselves in our darkest places. If we’re really brave, we write down what we find there, we shape it into a story because it’s a little easier to deal with that way, to experiment with, to study and to try and understand. And then, if we’re exceptionally fearless, we put it out there for the world to see. To the writer, it’s being naked in the worst sort of way. It’s vulnerability that any non-writer would never understand. But quite often to the reader, it’s a look into the mirror at the parts of herself she may never have been bold enough to examine before. 

I’ve been in both places. I’ve read stories through the haze of my own squeamishness, though my own anger and shame only to meet myself on the other side, and I’ve gutted it up with fear and trembling and told the tale that exposes self and mirrors it back to others. There’s no glam of the writing life in that, no swashbuckling, no billionaires, none of the Cinderella make-overs of a sunshine and cupcakes HEA. Instead, here be monsters, and they are not nice monsters. 

But if we can get beyond the need to make it all better, the need to wrap it all up in satin and tie it with a bow, if we can get to the blood and guts of what’s there at the center of the human experience, we might just find that our commonality has as much to do, even more to do, with the guilt and the shame and the hidden desires of the monsters beneath than it does with sweetness and light. We live in denial, and to a certain degree, I don’t believe we have much choice if we want to stay sane. But there are varying degrees of denial, and denying and defying that denial from time to time makes me feel a little more real, a little more human, and sharing it makes me feel a little less alone with my monsters.

2 comments:

  1. This is a moving post, KD. It reminds me of some of the "dark" erotica (no reference to the complexions of the characters) that sometimes gets posted in ERWA Storytime by writers who ask whether there is any market for this stuff. If there isn't, there should be! However, there could be a whole other discussion about what is the message and who is the intended audience. Stories about male violence against women are sometimes criticized as incitements and justifications for male readers to do this in the real world, and the same stories are sometimes defended as truth-telling about what women experience.

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  2. I so love your honesty and courage, KD. I've written stories like the ones you're talking about. They have been almost universally rejected by publishers. For instance, I have a FF tale about how one character's rape by a male in a truck stop bathroom eats away at her relationship with her partner. I think it's a really powerful vignette, but the publisher of Her Own Devices asked that I pull it from the collection.

    Most readers don't want to look behind the curtain and see the monsters. Even the monsters in most erotica wear satin.

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