I don’t know if this is a post about wonkiness, though it’s probably going to turn out to be. It’s just something I’ve been thinking of, lately, in regard to several different phenomenon – namely 50 Shades of Grey, the inexplicable popularity of my latest book, and other things that float into my thinking parts.
Does it matter what the writing is like, if the content is what people want to read about?
I mean, you only have to look at summat like the Da Vinci Code, to realise that yeah, it’s probably not the writing. The writing in that book is like a set of stereo instructions:
“Pouffy Haired Tom Hanks walked into the room. He saw Paul Bettany. He ran away from Paul Bettany. Put the CD into that circular part.”
And yet people still read it in droves. Sometimes an idea, a theme, a trope, is worth far, far more than elegant prose. In fact, I think that’s the case all the time. After all, no one could really argue that 50 Shades of Grey is the most incredibly written book. It’s at times clumsy, with far too many of the “rules” broken.
Bella Ana exclaims a lot, and there are a number of mangled sentences, amongst other problems.
But here, it’s the story that’s important. It’s the compelling story – of the kind people really, really wanted to read – that’s caught the public’s attention. In erotic romance/erotica, people really, really want to read about a submissive virgin being intiated into the world of BDSM by a sexy svengali.
They just do. And I know this, because I’ve recently benefited from this rule. This different writing rule, that can probably be expressed in an algebraic formula like: V + SA – (fuck that writing’s weird) = HOORAY, in which V is a virgin and SA is a svengali alpha, and I actually manage some small bit of success.
Because my writing is kind of weird. In an amongst all the attention Sheltered has been getting, there are many, many comments about my extreme use of internal monologue, and my stream of conscious-y writing, and how annoying some people find that…
And yet they loved the story anyway.
Which is the key, isn’t it? Write about stuff people want to read about, and the fact that you’re weird at your core may well be overlooked. Which is probably the opposite message of this site, when I really think about it, but what else can you really take away from these lessons?
My most popular book has a repressed virgin heroine and an in control punk alpha hero. There’s only one thing I can garner from this.
Or is there? Because the thing is: the hero, Van, isn’t an asshole. In fact, he’s so far from being an asshole he’s almost all the way back around into being an asshole again. He’s the anti-asshole. He’s kind. He’s thoughtful. He doesn’t want to force - he wants to wait.
He looks like a badass, but he really isn’t. He’s a softie.
And people like that.
So what does this tell me? That people don’t want different? That they don’t want wonky? I’m not sure it really does say that, at all. Because clearly, Sheltered is reaching a section of readers who are tired of the Alphole. They don’t want a jerk hero, who masterminds everything and forces everything and is basically a bully.
They want a good guy – just like in real life. Of course, people say that women want a bad boy. That they’re after a jerk, secretly, and don’t want “nice” guys. But then as many sites have pointed out, a “nice” guy isn’t usually a nice guy at all. It’s just the same jerk masquerading as nice, so that he can whine about his failures with women.
“Oh why won’t women sleep with me? I’m so nice!”
And I don’t think readers or women want that guy, either. They want true heroes, real men. Men who can be tough, but are also thoughtful and kind. Who might be a bit possessive, and possibly hugely horny for the heroine…but don’t have to always do something about it.
I’m glad I wrote Van. He’s my paean to truly good men everywhere, and I’m so thankful and thrilled that readers like him. It means I get to write more like him, and not worry that no one will read my books. And that’s what I want to do:
I want to write about good men, who deserved to be liked. And I hope more people out there do, too.
My absolutely and totally wonky book, Power Play, was released last Thursday. And this one isn’t just a slight skew away from the traditional, either. It’s full on wonktastic: femdom, submissive hero who’s all big and goofy and sly and joyful, dominant heroine who doesn’t know what she wants, emotionally, workplace setting, kinky shenanigans…
If you still want to try it, you can find out things about it, an excerpt, and a buy link at my blog, here: