Thursday, August 12, 2010

Celebrating the Bad

by Ashley Lister

I’ve always been of the opinion that there are two types of writer who inspire others: the good and the bad. As has been mentioned this week on the Grip, there are the successful and talented authors, such as Portia da Costa, Erica Jong and Stephanie Copeland and many, many others. These writers inspire us because we read their work and think, “I wonder if I could write something as good as that?

I can’t say anything about this calibre of writer that hasn’t already been said this week on the Grip. The good are inspirational. Thank you good writers.

But they’re not the only kind of inspirational.

Personally, I want to celebrate the bad writers. I want to celebrate those authors who inspire us because we read their work and think, “That was f***ing awful! I can write better than that. My dog’s written better than that when it stood on the PC keyboard trying to reach a biscuit I’d left near the monitor.

Erotica is one of the hardest genres to write. To be effective a writer needs to build up an anticipation of sexual arousal whilst developing the narrative’s character and plot. The writer needs to use a vocabulary that does not send the reader rushing to the dictionary every other sentence, yet needs to offer all the familiar challenges that come with reading engaging fiction. The writer has to maintain a delicate balance of tension, credibility, fantasy and so many other things...

I mention this because I appreciate it’s easy to go wrong with one or more of these strands. But sometimes an author can take things in such a bad direction it becomes laughably bad.
As a reviewer I’ve been exposed to some of the best erotic fiction that’s ever reached the shelves. I can appreciate the art form when it’s stylishly executed. Without wishing to embarrass any of my fellow Grippers, I could cite stories from all of them (and the majority of our guest bloggers) that show how well written erotica can work.

But we praise the good often enough on here. Let’s take a moment to say thank you to the adverbially challenged wannabes who bring our genre into disrepute. To start with, let’s celebrate those writers who think the word ‘tits’ is an erotic and evocative descriptor.

He looked at her tits. She had nice tits. He put his hand on her tits. “You have nice tits, baby,” he said. “Yeah,” she agreed. “I have nice tits. Why don’t you put your hand on my tits some more.”

OK. I’ve not seen it done to that extent in any published fiction. But I’ve seen stuff that’s been equally clumsy.

I’ve also seen writing that’s been produced by men who think women are a different species from human: an alien stereotype.

“That was great sex,” she told him. “And now I want to go shopping.”
“Of course you do,” he agreed. She was a woman. She loved shopping.
“Yes. I’m a woman and I love shopping. I think I’ll buy shoes.”

There is an art to writing erotica.

More importantly, appreciating well-written erotica will always be a subjective experience. What I find arousing could leave you cold. Similarly: what you think is hot, could be the stuff I think unpublishable.

So I want to toast those abysmal writers who make us pour out good words in response to their bad ones. If appreciation is subjective, I could be inspiring a disgruntled reader right now. Someone could be reading this blog, picking up a pen, and thinking: “I know I can do better than that!

And I don’t doubt that they’re right.

19 comments:

  1. At the risk of sounding like I'm just trying to promote my blog... That is what my husband and I do -- we provide a public service on bad romance writing. http://romance.unclewaltersrants.com

    Specifically, I should direct you to this post:

    http://romance.unclewaltersrants.com/2010/04/because-we-all-need-an-orgy-once-in-a-while.html

    I swear I'm not just trying to self-promote! lol It's just that you've said what we don't say -- and maybe we should.

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  2. I can't tell you how hard I laughed reading some of those quotes - and the pithy responses you'd put underneath.

    That really did make my morning.

    I've been tactful (or cowardly - whichever word you think is most fitting) in not naming names.

    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Ash

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  3. Oh dear,

    I'm still out of breath. First your post, Ash, and then the orgy of awful writing at "The Wife"'s blog...

    As for me, I try not to read bad erotica. Sometimes it's difficult to avoid, but I don't want to get polluted!

    Great twist on the topic!

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  4. Lisabet,

    I'm still savouring the lines from the 'The Wife's' blog. I could use material like that as a teaching resource.

    Best,

    Ash

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  5. Ash - Once again, you rock. As I mentioned in my comments to Lisabet, it was bad erotica that made me write. In this case, it was nipples like raspberries, nipples like strawberries. I swore if she got to huckleberries, I was going to hunt down her editor and fire her on behalf of all erotica readers.

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  6. The Wife - I'm wiping tears from my eyes. Oh dear lord.

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  7. Kathleen,

    It was because you'd talked about bad erotica that I got the idea to take this slant on this week's topic. Thank you for that.

    Best,

    Ash (who's looking for huckleberries).

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  8. And I think we need to have THE WIFE visit as a future guest blogger.

    Ash

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  9. Oh heaving bosums longing to be free.

    I confess, without mentioning specifics, that I kind of did get a push a few years ago when I read something seriously awful and thought "I can write better than this. Hell - I AM writing better than this. And this guy got published!"

    Someday we need to have a theme on the pleasures of crap. Not all crap is crap. Some crap is worth appreciating and good for the soul.

    Me, I like crap. But only good crap.

    Garce

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  10. Oh heaving bosums longing to be free.

    I confess, without mentioning specifics, that I kind of did get a push a few years ago when I read something seriously awful and thought "I can write better than this. Hell - I AM writing better than this. And this guy got published!"

    Someday we need to have a theme on the pleasures of crap. Not all crap is crap. Some crap is worth appreciating and good for the soul.

    Me, I like crap. But only good crap.

    Garce

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  11. Garce,

    One of my favourite movies is Plan 9 from Outer Space. It's so bad it's genius. Try watching that with a couple of beers inside you and you will hurt yourself laughing.

    Best (and looking forward to crap-week)

    Ash

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  12. I'm so glad you all got some laughs out of the blog -- but don't give ME all the credit! Uncle Walter (my better half) is the mad genius behind it. The Disney Light Parade in the pants? So him. The "baby batter magma"? All him. :) I'm along for the ride most of the time. lol I hope you'll all stop by often. We put up a new quote every day. And we also have covers! http://covers.unclewaltersrants.com
    Who can resist something so bad?

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  13. The Wife,

    Could you or Uncle Walter please get in touch with me offlist? My email address is me@ashleylister.co.uk

    Thanks,

    Ash

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  14. Ashley,

    It will be done! I think we're friends on facebook under my real name, which is how I found your blog.

    Oh, and since you're allowing me to do a *little* self promotion, all of you who like our blog should join our fan page! The Uncle Walter's Adventures and Rotten Romance Fan Page will notify you directly of all new posts to Uncle Walter's blogs. He also covers history, old-time advertisements, and his own wacky life. We don't have many fans yet! We need more!

    There, sorry, had to get that out. I'll send you an email today.

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  15. Kathleen -- Wasn't it Val Kilmer who said "I'll be your huckleberry?" LOL In that case, I wouldn't mind huckleberry nipples. LOL Or huckleberry anything else. Yummy!

    Mine is I hate "muffins". Your breasts are not frickin muffins! A muffin is when you have a little bit extra of you that hangs over your waist line in pants. It is NOT your breasts! Sheesh. LOL

    Sorry, been holding that one back way too long.

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  16. Michelle - Huckleberries, when applied to Val Kilmer, are delicious. He can be mine any day. But seeing as they're big blueberries, I'd be really concerned if a character had nipples like huckleberries.

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  17. Kathleen - I quite agree! LOL I am attempting to teach my daughter the appreciation of Val Kilmer. That scene in Top Gun. Ohhh baby!

    I love ones where they call the nipples the size of silver dollars, and larger. Um ... yeah. Sure.

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  18. Michelle, I've always wondered whether they really mean nipple or if they mean areola. I suspect the latter, but they just don't know better.

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