Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pushing Limits

Welcome to TMC, the Time Machine Challenge! Oh, no, wait. Never mind.
Welcome to Thursday Morning Coffee!
Whew. That’s better. Scared myself for a second. Thought I was heading into Sci-Fi territory and was going to have to stretch the limits of my imagination. But no, that’s later this month. THIS is just our weekly coffee chat. Er, monologue.

I am, however, going to talk about limits. About “The Line.'”

Just where the heck is that line, anyway?

One of the hardest things about being a parent how kids are always pushing limits. How far can I go? How long can I avoid doing what I’ve been told? How many minutes past my bedtime can I manage to stay in the living room? Seems like I’m either a waitress or like a drill sergeant, and I don’t like either of  those roles.

 Reining in, holding firm, saying no, and no, and no isn’t fun, and I find myself wondering how I gave birth to a child that pushes every boundary that I try to set.

And then I think about my habit of genre-bending in writing. It’s an Ah-Ha! moment.

I don’t like limits, either. And I’m always pushing against them.

My vampires are, in some respects, vile and nasty creatures. They do bad stuff, like eat people. They have little conscience, and less morality. And they’re the good guys, the ones I make you root for.

Oh, DeVante has his code, yes, but it’s more practical than moral. “Daniel’s too young, Roderick, too young!” DeVante would say. Too young at eighteen, nineteen. It wasn’t really Daniel’s age that DeVante found reprehensible, by the way. It was the fact that vampires made of human teenagers didn’t tend to survive, which made the effort of training, changing, and supervising them a huge waste of energy.

Let me also tell you this, dear reader. In the original draft, Daniel was sixteen. Roderick was twenty-five – and older than that including vampire time.

I was pushing limits right from the start, but I was forced by the industry to age my young character if I ever wanted his story published. Because characters in fiction must be eighteen years old to have consensual sexual relations of an erotic nature.

There’s a line. And it’s a pretty firm line.

But. I can be sneaky. I’ll give a gold star and a free read to the first person to guess which of my characters had erotic sex before age eighteen.  Hint: It’s not Lily.

This is just the beginning. I’ve run up against several genre limits, and sometimes my typing fingers get slapped by editors and reviewers.

Examples? Why yes, read on:

There is no rape in romance. Whoops, take that scene out.

There must be clear consent in BDSM erotic fiction. And more SSC (Safe, Sane and Consensual) than RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink. RACK isn’t safe enough for fiction. Well, slap my fingers and call me naughty.

Don’t get me wrong – SSC guidelines make a lot of sense for real life. I would not argue that, even though I know people who deviate from it.

When it comes to fiction, I have trouble coloring inside the lines.

Hmm… some others:

Romance requires a happy ending. (How is the three-way relationship in Above the Dungeon ever going to work? Two of the three can hardly stand one another).

Specific to gay romance, adult men (or vampires) do not have sex with underage boys.

In erotic fiction, it’s okay for one character to cum in another’s mouth, but not okay to pee. Oh and sometimes they can’t cum, but must come. Let’s not forget that. There are grosser taboos in erotica, but I’m not going to get into them.

Oh yeah, and here are some great examples of how NOT to write erotica. (No matter what the blog title says, don’t forget the word NOT)

Some of the lines seem to be set in industry standard stone, others vary by publisher. A writer tends to figure it out in the editing process. And since I’ve learned not be in love with every word that I write, I cut what I have to cut and move on.

I would say 99% of the time setting a scene behind a proscribed line is possible, and I’d rather toe the line and have my work read than ignore the line and leave it sleeping on my hard drive. Those are choices that I make, often with a nudge from an editor. I’m not angry about the lines either, I just notice that in first drafts I tend to ignore them, knowing that I’ll figure it out later.

If I don’t push the boundaries of literature, who will?

And yet - Sometimes it’s easier to self-edit from the get – if I know I’m writing erotic fiction,  I create characters that are at least eighteen. It saves me a lot of trouble and heartache down the road.
DeVante, if he noticed, would approve.

Happy Thursday, darlings!


  1. Very interesting post! I don't mind if authors cross the line, it's fiction. Even though I do appreciate a warning so I know what to expect ;)

  2. Hi Lucia - thanks for the comment! Yes, content warnings are often appropriate. I was going to put one at the beginning of this post, but then thought Blogger's adult content warning might suffice.

    The blurb for DeVante's Coven mentions a BDSM relationship, do you think that's enough, or should there be a separate warning for gay erotica?