March 26, 2014

Talking Shop: Porn Still Needs Plot!

I've read a good amount of romance and erotica, both professionally published and, shall we say, amateur. No matter how good the sex, nothing ruins a good, naughty read for me more than a half-assed plot.






I listened to a short erotic story recently on podcast. Basic premise: female cop pulls over good looking speeder, decides she fancies a fuck, tosses him in the back of her cruiser and they screw. Afterwards the good-looking speeder casually pops open the door on his side of the cruiser and strolls away.

Maybe it's because I've actually driven an old police cruiser, but the only thing I could focus on in that bawdy tale was that damn door. If you know anything about police cars--or, if you use even a modicum of common sense on the matter!--you'd know the back doors on police cars don't open from the inside.

Now, I know we don't read erotica for the heavily-vetted minute details of how car doors work, but consider this: that is the only detail I remember about that story. A bad detail. A detail that forever brands that author in my mind as an amateur, because she didn't bother to think about her story. Now, mind you, if the rest of the story had carried any merit, I could probably have ignored the stupid door, but the whole thing was a poorly structured excuse to write a raunchy sex scene.

Comparatively, a story like Midnight at Sheremetyevo, a story of about the same length, by Remittance Girl. A vampire chances upon a handsome young man at Sheremetyevo airport, finds herself attracted to him, there's a little cat-and-mouse, a little yes, a little no, and she finds herself entangled with him (I'd say ooh-la-la, but this story takes place in Russia).  In the end, the vampire must answer to a stern master as to why she's brought home a new puppy.

Sheremetyevo might have been about the same length and a similar premise, but it had so much more. I listened to this story almost three years ago but I still remember its details, the yearning and the struggle of the vampire, the endearing charm of her victim, the weighty consequence of their actions. Conflict, by the way, is a necessary component in storytelling. Furthermore, it's not conflict if there are no stakes, no consequences. Give and take. This is one of my biggest pet peeves about the Twilight books,but that's a rant for later, if ever.

What's my point? Sheremetyevo was just plain better. The cop story, whatever it was called, forgettable and laughable.  Writers of erotica, which would you prefer your work to be?

What's the difference? The author of the cop story wrote a sex scene, and slapped a background off as an afterthought so the sex scene didn't just dangle there in space. The result was clumsy and lazy, and even the sex failed to strike a chord. The author of Sheremetyevo (Remittance Girl), meanwhile, told a story defined by its eroticism, but with a setting and conflict organic to its bones. The contrast in effort and skill is blatantly obvious.

But what's the point?

When an author really puts effort into crafting a story, including checking the details and consulting realism of character, motivation, environmental forces and real conflict, readers notice.  Amateur pornography has it's place on sites like RedTube and YouPorn, but erotica is a different medium, and, while similar, it exists for different reasons and appeals to audiences in different ways.

As an avid proponent of the legitimization of erotica as a genre, I am of the opinion that erotica authors not fall into lazy writing habits just because they can squeak by under the excuse that "we write porn". Erotica might be graphic and sexual in nature but it is still literary, even poetic, when it is good.  It's more than "just" sex scenes....even those stories which are predominantly sex scenes! (I've seen delicious plotlines in 100-word flash fiction dominated by an orgasm).

So don't assume good erotica is defined solely by the presence of a sex act, and rush the action and cobble together a half-assed excuse to get to the "good stuff" .  Storytelling requires more than that (at least, good storytelling does).

Sharpen your skills; improve your craft. The real measure of a writer, I think, is the effort she puts into her work.

1 comment:

What do you think?