As much as I would love to point to someone like Erika James and scream, “That’s the one! Get her!” it just wouldn’t be fair. Erotica and romance stories have been around since the invention of fire, and is only going to evolve as the future approaches. Their resurgence into the limelight tells us that our society is starving for this type of fiction, or at least starving for the escape and ideas it provides. Far be it for me to suggest that we are a society that submits to our baser instincts, but let’s face it – sex sells.
Browse the top sellers at any online bookstore today and you will find, tucked under the few literary giants still writing, cover after cover of nothing but shirtless male chests and suggestive names. Little attempt is made to mask the debauchery and smut that awaits within; It’s a gender-inverted version of the sleazy books of the 70’s. Instead of men lusting over poorly-written drivel wrapped in a picture of scantily-clad females, we have women lusting over poorly-written drivel wrapped in a picture of a faceless male torso. This genre has always had it’s fans, I can understand it’s place in the world.
But why must it consume everything?
There is some fantastic fiction being written today that is falling by the wayside because it’s buried under 50 pages of bare abs. There is no check box that excludes this genre from your searches because it has become a primary component to inject into other genres – regardless of suitability. Horror novel of a possessed woman and the religious struggle to release the demon inside her? The answer: Love conquers all, followed by some steamy bondage of course! Apocalyptic warfare on the shores of an alien planet that will decide the fate of the universe? Not without a Romeo and Juliet back story you won’t.
If anything, this tells us that fans of this genre are the people who are primarily buying books, at least for now. It also tells us that publishers are very likely the ones driving to inject this content everywhere – regardless of suitability. The ‘slush pile’ that publishers keep has been mined for every lurid tidbit of fleshy goodness that they can respectably print, and now they want more. Fuel to drive that gravy train into the moist, dark tunnel of profitability. It’s advertising that works on multiple levels; Not only does it peddle flesh to the buyer, it peddles flesh to the seller. Want to make money? Here’s how!
When you, as a writer, push another persons agenda into your story against your will, it detracts, or even outright completely destroys, the story you wanted to write.
Can you imagine classic literature being subjected to this very thing. Would the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn be more interesting if Tom Sawyer was Tawney Sawyer? Using her feminine charms to seduce boys into doing her will. What if Moby Dick was suddenly Morra Dickinson – a love, lost to a sea that Ahab now searches in hopes of finding? How much better would Sherlock Holmes be if Watson were a lusty blonde that he would have sex with at every crime scene? I guarantee, if that last idea doesn’t already exists, someone has just rushed off to write it as I speak – I really shouldn’t fuel the fire.
If you have a love story, if it drives the plot or characters of your novel, then it needs to be there. If the story is no better for it, then it doesn’t. If you have a great idea for a novel, stick to it. Forcing a love story or gender-switching a character simply for the check box on a list will only hurt you in the long run. Trends are just that, and they will disappear to be replaced by the next. Loving your story should be your first priority, no compromises. Erotica and romance will always have its place, there are many that do it well because that’s what they wanted to do – it’s what they love to do. Readers aren’t stupid, they can smell falsitude a mile away.
Loving your story should be your first priority, no compromises.
Self-publishing may sound like a dirty term to some of you, but if it gives you the opportunity to write the story you want – then use it. Trends fade, tastes change, and when they do, people will want something different. I believe that creativity is a limited resource; One that can be replenished, but one that inescapably draws shallower as the years march on. Do not waste your talent whoring yourself out in order to make a buck. The ‘years later’ you believe you still have to write that great novel will arrive with a very shallow pool in which to draw from.