What do limits, squicks, and slash fanfic have in common? It’s all in my guest post “Squicks, Breaking Points, and Boundaries” on D Alexx Miller’s blog!
In any realm of writing I suppose knowing your limits is valuable–not just where the well-plotted meets fringe, but when gray area challenges grey matter. In the world of erotic writing these lines emerge very quickly. Initially, you have to be at peace with setting loose upon the world plots that may make your neighbors look at you funny. You also have to know impeccably your limitations.
Most of us have read “impossible erotica” there’s no way the fireman’s foot was wrapped around her elbow and he could still do that with her AND stand on the fire hydrant;’ the “purple prosaics”–‘her fiery eyes lapped at his dark locks, sparking to life when they feasted on his raging member,’ or the “never-did-its” –‘I walked right into play club, asked to be given the secret password, and everyone dropped their pants for me straight-away.’
Those are all gaffs that make for bad reading, and they’re not what I’m talking about. What I’m curious to learn is how other erotica writers handle subject matter that pushes their comfort zones. You know–the stuff that you read and you either stop short, put it down, and walk away, or you finish it and your brain sizzles for days after, prodding your moral indeterminacy.
Sit with that for a minute, because if you’ve read my blog with any regularity, you’re someone who’s encountered that kind of provocation. Such may trigger personal memories or insecurities. It could just be something gross that was written so fucking well it was shamefully hot, or perhaps it suggests acts that you never knew existed and now can’t stop thinking about.
I ask because there was a very clear point in my 20-year writing career that I was challenged in this way, and it changed my writing future. I started writing erotica as fanfiction about 15 years ago. I talked about this in a recent interview with Xcite Books, saying that the asexual presentation of otherwise fabulously-built characters troubled me to the point that I decided to write their private lives for them. Those works were published only to forums open to fans of those universes (fanfic that is now long gone, so forget about finding it ;). I never intended to write original erotica; I certainly never thought to publish any.
Five or six years ago I was reading fanfic of various genres and stumbled upon some absolutely brilliant slash, because why would I read erotica if it wasn’t slash, right? I started reading this particular piece because the writer’s skills were superb. I kept reading it because despite that the subject matter was based in dark BDSM and intense fetishism with depth that had not occurred to me prior, I couldn’t put it down. The acts described weren’t newsflashes to me–I’m not vanilla. I knew people did them, craved them, begged for more. Prior to reading this piece I couldn’t “relate” to them. I couldn’t suspend my ego long enough to stop judging them, let alone trace a thread of pleasure in them. By the time I finished the series, not only was I convinced that the content was something I never wanted to do personally, I knew that anything, absolutely, unspeakably “anything” could be so well-written so as to be mind-blowing hot. I walked away from that experience never doubting again that things I think are wrong–whether I do them or never go there–or things I just think are gross, can be exquisitely erotic.
That’s some precarious shit to hold, a psychological intensity that could badly derail. The only reason that it didn’t is because this writer understood her craft and her characters so thoroughly, thus could present them with such raw personability that what they were doing was as beautifully compelling as they, even though they were doing so pretty whacked out things to each other.
My point is that erotica can be viscerally provocative, horrifically scathing, yet psychologically transcendent. When that logic opened to me and I allowed it to expand my mind and skill set, I ran straight into its heart, words a-blazing. I began writing and publishing original erotica and have loads more on the way, some of which squicks me still. The point is I can look upon it without judgement, without judging myself, and that’s what it’s really about. I allow it to teach me to be a better writer, and, I hope, a more open-minded person.
Beautiful writers, do you recognize when your boundaries are being pushed? How do you cope with writing beyond your sexual schema, either literal or imagined? Do you tackle subject matter that challenges you, or do you defer in some way? How do your sexual plot devices improve your work, your skills? I’m aching to know.
Blessings and soul-throttling release,