WRITING IN AND OUT OF COMFORT ZONES
AMBER LOVE 07-NOV-2016 To get sneak peeks at announcements and exclusives, become a monthly backer at Patreon.com/amberunmasked. Backers got to read this post first.
I WAS A PERVERTED MIDDLE GRADER
Back before I ever had any idea about sex, I wrote an erotic story. See, the girls in my class were in a bit of hysteria about the sexiness of a book that they had read. I think it was a Judy Blume novel. I don’t know. I was a terrible reader and never finished the paperback of The Witch of Blackbird Pond that I was oddly proud to own. This was a time when holding hands and kissing were the biggest deal. Intercourse? Oh my god, that wasn’t something we’d think about for years in terms of ever “doing it” for real.
At that age, we were having our periods and hormones were wild. All of us clearly had vivid sexual fantasies even if we weren’t sure what the actions meant or what they would feel like (or what repercussions there could be). Young thoughts of sex were confusing and dizzying, but nothing would stop it.
Because I liked to write even back then, I thought I could write something the other girls would like as much as Judy Blume. I think I penned twelve pages about a young couple madly in love. They had movie theater sex and the girl gave the boy a blow job. It was steamy for a kid. If I were a teacher and found that, I would’ve sent that kid to the office immediately and called parents. The notebook sheets had that fray from being spiral bound. We didn’t have computers. There was no way to anonymously or even quietly email this trashy story. Nope. It was stapled notebook paper and it got passed around from girl to girl in my sixth or seventh grade class.
I was popular for a New York minute.
GENRE COMFORT ZONES
Today I’m middle-aged and trying to write about protagonists I can relate to. I’ve never been able to write a good sex scene since middle school. What the hell does that say about me as a writer? Worse, what does that say about me as a someone who has had really great sex? (I’ve also had really bad sex but unless it’s a comedy, no one wants to read that).
Somewhere in the middle of FULL BODY MANSLAUGHTER, I tried again. I couldn’t be proud of the work unless I at least gave it a shot. This is a mystery novel not erotica, but I needed to make it palpable that my heroine was getting turned on to the point where she no longer wanted to say no.
“She held his right hand and pressed her body against his, swaying slowly to the rhythms. It didn’t matter whether they were in step with the music or not. She rested her cheek against his chest and closed her eyes. She felt his other hand at the small of her back pulling her closer. His hand ran along the waistline of her pants. Her skin got goosebumps underneath all the fabric. His fingers explored the space above her back pocket waiting for any sign whether they should stop. She didn’t pull away. Her own hand drifted to the back to his hip telling him she wanted to touch him just as badly. He directed his hand further and cupped her ass delicately so as to not scare or offend her.” – Full Body Manslaughter
It’s a couple of pages that begins with dancing and ends with an invitation to go back to a hotel room. The details about the actual activities aren’t filled in much. I described the hot and heavy making out that happened because of the sexual tension from two people attracted to each other while dancing.
I bailed on the scene in a way typical of cozy mysteries. Even though mine are “medium-boiled” and I don’t mind a certain amount of hip bumping and surreal romantic thoughts, I’m not writing erotica. And I think about the success of Fifty Shades, the smutty trilogy that began as vampire fan fiction.
I can write smut. I can churn out something with no care for plots and whether characters are likable or vapid. I could toss that shit up on Amazon for $.99 and see if I finally make more than a few bucks. It’s hot and sexy! That’s popular! Surely, I can do as well as that guy writing dinosaur bestiality porn.
Probably not. Let’s be real. All of us have an inner voice. The pros constantly say not to write to the market trends. Don’t write a vampire romance because you think you’ll cash in.
Write what you want to read, they say.
And that’s just it. As much as I like a hot steamy scene every now and again, I don’t want two hundred pages of it. There needs to be more than sexual fantasy to a plot. Even Danielle Steele makes driven characters with well researched stories who have obstacles other than finding the right time to get laid. That doesn’t mean her stories lack romance and sex.
Yeah, I’ll never be Danielle Steele, but we can all dream.
It’s mysteries that spoke to me more and that’s my comfort zone. It’s a vast genre ranging from near-horror suspense and thrillers to police procedurals to the sweet middle-aged heroines in cozies with puns for titles.
Write what you want to read and what I want to read are unexpected people solving crimes. Regular, ordinary people who have lives that have shitty moments and happy moments. People you feel like you’d run into in line for a bagel.
The “market” is filled with cozies. They’re successful. Agatha Christie is credited with creating the subgenre. The authors however are typically not household names. There’s no James Patterson, Michael Connelly, or Stephen King equivalent since Christie.
Writing (or doing anything) in your comfort zone is not the same thing as avoiding risks. I took risks in creating diverse characters and worried I fucked them up; I took risks in self publishing and giving up on trying to get an agent for the series; I took risks in starting a Patreon to find fans and support; I took a big risk in the third Farrah book (yet to be edited) by introducing a new character that adds to the Farrah/June duo to create a trio. I hope the risks are evident in the themes of each book.
- Cardiac Arrest – Greed can drive people to murder.
- Full Body Manslaughter – Righteous, good people can succumb to temptation; aka, bad choices can get you killed.
- Miscarriage of Justice – People who lie to you will never change.