Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Buttons and Clichés

Over the weekend, I finished the first draft of a short story called "Like Riding a Bicycle". The story focuses on a long-married couple. They originally had a D/s relationship but over the years, their sexual interactions have become more vanilla, due to pressures of life and work, lack of privacy, and so on. The story involves a chance interaction that rekindles their old fantasies and pulls them back into BDSM and power exchange.

Now, personally, I thought this story was very hot. It incorporates both physical and psychological elements that I always find arousing. On the physical side, it offers blindfolds, butt plugs, and flogging, leading up to penetration and mutual orgasm. As far as psychological turn-ons are concerned, there's the Dom calling the sub a kinky slut because submitting makes her wet - his forcing her to admit her deviant desires - the sub's articulation of her total devotion - the Dom's intuitive understanding of how to give his sub what she needs - rough sex followed by tender caresses. By the time I'd written the last sentence, I won't lie - I was horny as hell!

As I mentally reviewed the tale, though, I was assailed by doubts. So many of my BDSM stories include similar elements. Was I succumbing to clichés? Writing the same story again and again? At the same time, well-defined sub-genres (like BDSM) have conventions, commonly recurring themes and actions that exist because that's what readers enjoy and expect. The elements that I've described "push my buttons" and I assume that they have the same effect on my readers.

So how do I succeed in pushing my readers' buttons so that they find my stories sexy, without descending into sameness? I really don't know the answer to this question. I do know that the few times I've penned a different sort of BDSM, the reactions haven't necessarily been favorable. My holiday paranormal tale Tomorrow's Gifts features some M/M BDSM interactions between one of the protagonists and a gorgeous but self-centered Dom who is a basically a stranger (actually, he's sort of a ghost...). I received a number of negative comments from readers about this aspect of the story - and that was after I toned down the gay gang bang (which the protagonist eagerly desires) at the request of my editor!

Maybe I'm more sensitive to the issue of repetition and clichés than readers are. I'd be interested to know whether, when you read multiple books by the same writer (assuming that it's a writer you like), you notice repeated plot elements or other details. If you do notice, does it bother you? Or do the elements feel familiar and thus comfortable? When you read erotica or erotic romance, how important is novelty -- as opposed to having story that turns you on?

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