Sunday, December 6, 2009

I Wish I Had Written That...

By Lisabet Sarai

I read a lot, by most people's standards. Since I am a reviewer for several sites, at least half of my reading material is erotica or erotic romance. However, it's fairly rare that I experience that mixture of admiration and envy that derives from encountering a work that I wish that I could claim for my own.

The last time this occurred was earlier this year, when I read Anneke Jacob's BDSM novel As She's Told. This book deals with a power exchange relationship that is more extreme and complete than most you will find in the erotica canon. Maia's deepest desire, for as long as she can remember, has been to be someone's slave--to be caged, controlled and protected. Anders has nearly given up trying to find a woman that he can make totally his own, someone who will give him absolute power over her, body and mind. When Maia and Anders meet, the intensity of their mutual connection is breathtaking. That was the point when I started to become jealous -- in between my exclamations of delight.

You can read my review here.

Ms. Jacob accomplishes what I've tried to do in every one of the numerous BDSM stories I've penned--to bring to life the electric thrill that comes with recognizing and acknowledging complementary desires, especially desires the world considers to be perverse. She expresses, with elegance and verity, the irresistible attraction, the sense of belonging, the fear and the eagerness that spill over into sexual realm, so that every touch is incandescent, leaving marks on the soul. I've already deleted the ebook that I used for my review, or I would include some quotations. It was clear to me, however, that Ms. Jacob had experienced this epiphany personally, as have I. She, however, had much better success in conveying the world-stopping intensity of this experience than I've ever achieved.

The early chapters of As She's Told are near perfect. However, as I read further, I became a bit frustrated by the novel, because nothing really happens. Anders takes Maia deeper and deeper into submission, turning her into an animal, a thing for his pleasure. The tale focuses on ever more extreme tests of Maia's devotion, increasingly shocking demonstrations of her utter servitude. There is no climax, no conflict really, nothing to propel the story but kink. In some ways, I feel that Ms. Jacob squandered the stunningly realistic depiction of Maia's and Anders' early connection by turning the story into a sadomasochistic fantasy.

My master and I have often discussed how a long-term, real-world D/s relationship would develop. (We have a long-distance connection that hasn't involved any physical BDSM in a decade, but I still mentally award him that title.) Surely it wouldn't be possible to continue pushing limits, engaging in more and more extreme experiments, more excruciating and challenging tests for the submissive. There are physical constraints. Yet a continued repetition of the same old kinks would get boring, wouldn't it?

If I were to write a sequel to As She's Told, I'd want to explore this question. Maybe Anders would try something that would physically damage his slave in some serious way. (I kept expecting this to happen in the original novel.) He'd come to realize how deeply he loved Maia and recognize that his arrogant superiority needed to be tempered by real world concerns. (This is the theme of my own story, "Higher Power", which you can find in my BDSM collection Rough Caress.)

Maybe Maia would discover that there was in fact some limit, some boundary, that she could not or would not cross. Perhaps Anders would get bored and find another slave, setting Maia free. How would she survive after having every detail of her life dictated by her master for more than a year? Or perhaps some natural or man-made disaster might separate them and the sequel could focus on their struggles to reunite, struggles that might require paradoxical assertiveness from Maia, patience and resignation from Anders.

There are many possibilities. Of course, I'll never write this sequel. For a long time, though, I've toyed with the idea of writing a successor to Raw Silk. I've penned a couple of chapters, but after all this time (I wrote this novel over a decade ago), my sense of the characters has become less vivid. If I did continue, the focus of the book would be on infidelity and forgiveness. Gregory is the same sort of absolutist as Anders, but Kate is not nearly as pliant as Maia. Although Gregory awakened her submissive tendencies, she would never allow him to make her into a thing. And she has an erotic imagination, fostered by her experiences in Thailand, that might not be completely satisfied even by a creative Dom like Gregory.

In any case, I've gotten over my envy of Ms. Jacob, though I still admire her accomplishment. And I'd love to see her write a sequel addressing the questions that her book raises for someone who is deeply interested in real-world D/s relationships.

15 comments:

  1. It must be a kind of turn-on to be reading erotica all day like that. it would be for me I think.

    Secretia

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  2. Hi Lisabet!

    It shows again one of the challenges of this or any popular fiction genre, in that what turns you on, or scares you or thrills you is a very personal thing. I wonder if Ms. Jacobs book would affect me the way it affected you. Like any book loving parent, I've shoved my favorite books and rock n roll bands at my kid but most have never connected. What I get from what you're saying here, which I think is a very important point, is that no matter how perfectly a premise pushes a reader's personal buttons, there has to be a good story. If the author can create a character vividly enough for the reader to care about what happens to her - SOMETHING has to happen to her. It can;t just go on and on. This is a problem readers like me often have with literary fiction, is this sense of "And THEN what happened?" when the story dribbles off at the end and doesn't seem to go anywhere. I'm from the Stephen King school of writing - as I suspect you are - which says story comes first. I like your stuff because you're a story teller. Before anything else, we owe the reader a ripping good story.

    Garce

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  3. When I read reviews like the one you wrote, I wonder why it's so hard for me to even fathom anything outside the normal sexual box. I never considered myself a prude, but I've come to realize that I really am. No matter how hard I try, I can't focus on sex in my writing for very long, let alone develop it into something that would make anyone admire my ability. *lol* Maybe if I could go back twenty or so years, I might develop a different outlook, but at my age,I find it virtually impossible to picture myself in any "kinky" situation without collapsing into a fit of giggles. Kudos to those of you who write on the spicier and more risque side. Great post, Lisabet!

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  4. Great blog, Lisabet. I usually feel this way (wishing I had written that) after I'd watched a good movie. I just recently saw The Lake House with Sandra Bullock. OMG! I loved that twist at the end and since I love to write twists in my stories, I was very envious because I have never thought of a twist like that. lol So you are not a lone, my good friend. We all tend to think this way from time to time.

    ~Phyllis~

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  5. I'm honestly amazed that anyone, especially you, Lisabet, would ever feel jealous of another writer, or have that twinge of, "I wish I'd written that!" But then that must be part of the universal condition of being a writer!

    Wonderful post!

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  6. Hi, Secretia,

    I definitely don't read erotica all day long. That's for the evening. During the day, I have to work like everyone else!

    Thanks for commenting.

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  7. Hello, Garce,

    I think that what this experience shows is that vivid characterization and a strong premise are not enough to carry a book. I'm actually more character-driven then plot-driven. I often get to the point where I ask, "and then what?" However, more often than not, my characters tell me.

    Thanks for your thoughtful reactions--as usual.

    Best,
    Lisabet

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  8. Hello, Ginger,

    I'm so glad that you dropped by.

    You know, I was just thinking this morning, "Boy, I'm really tired of writing sex scenes..."

    I did have perhaps a more lively youth than many women. I seriously don't know whether my sexual imagination influenced my actions or the other way around.

    Anyway, we have to write what comes naturally to each of us. Your characters live and breathe and are probably more believable than mine!

    Hugs,
    Lisabet

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  9. Hello, Phyllis,

    Great to see you at the Grip!

    I loved The Lake House, too. A true romance.

    I've never considered writing a screenplay, though, so movies don't quite evoke that feeling of mixed envy and admiration that a book can.

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  10. Hello, Helen,

    So you never feel this way? I'll interested in reading your post on Friday!

    I should say that that this doesn't happen to me often. Not because I'm such a great writer, but because I know that I have my own voice and can appreciate the distinct voices of others.

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  11. Lisabet,

    Wonderful post, and I can understand what you're saying about 'As She's Told.'

    Anneke has written a superb book there with intensely realistic characters.

    Best,

    Ash

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  12. In the spirit of offering another viewpoint, I'm glad I didn't write any of these! Enjoy!
    Ash

    Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit
    their collections of actual similes and metaphors found in
    high school essays. These excerpts are published each year
    to the amusement of teachers across the country. Here are
    last year's winners:

    1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its
    two sides gently compressed by a thigh Master.

    2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking
    alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

    3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from
    experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a
    solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in
    it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools
    about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one
    of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

    4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E.Coli, and he
    was room-temperature Canadian beef.

    5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound
    a dog makes just before it throws up.

    6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

    7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

    8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had
    disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a
    rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free
    ATM machine.

    9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly
    the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

    10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a
    Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

    11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene
    had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on
    vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m.
    instead of 7:30.

    12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a
    sneeze.

    13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like
    maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

    14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers
    raced across the grassy field toward each other like two
    freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m.
    traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a
    speed of 35 mph.

    15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with
    picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

    16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two
    hummingbirds who had also never met.

    17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and
    she was the East River.

    18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a
    steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had
    rusted shut.

    19. Shots rang out, as shots are known to do.

    20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But
    unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

    21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get
    from not eating for a while.

    22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame
    duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe
    from stepping on a land mine or something.

    23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended
    one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

    24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids
    around with power tools.

    25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he
    heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up

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  13. Ashlyn, I fell over laughing at your list! I'm glad I didn't write those either. ^_^

    Lisabet I saw your post on EAA and came over to check it out. My "wish I'd written that" was for the book Teot's War by Heather Gladney. Her gripping story was set in a devastated, feudal land, and would have made an exceptional story of male/male love, had the characters ever acted on their obvious feelings for one another. The sequel, Bloodstorm, once again joined them in a quest which ended with them as marooned refugees leading a ragged army. I have waited 18 years for the final book, and am still hoping.

    However, the writing itself is so masterful that I reread the books frequently, purely for the pleasure of the words. Every time I do, I find nuances I missed before, and Gladney's seemingly effortless use of language to evoke emotions makes me feel downright envious. This book left me longing for more than another just another book. *wink*

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  14. I have always fallen prey to my imagination, I always find a way to wonder what happened next. Very few authors wrap their stories up to my complete satisfaction. Maybe another interesting topic would be a book that completely satisfied us...or whether that possibility even exists.

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  15. nice post. thanks.

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