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.