Purple Prose

Ever heard about this? Purple prose. I couldn’t say whether it came from trashy romance books specifically, but they’re very much connected to it now. The idea of purple prose in romance comes from the sex scenes.

Speaking from experience, it’s the kind of prose you find yourself reading when the author has to intentionally obfuscate the fact that sex is happening. Harlequin, Mills and Boon, and the progenitors of the paperback romance genre are what I usually associate with it now. I’ve read many books that would likely be called trashy romances, and they all have that feel of purple prose when the main characters’ relationship evolves into getting naked.

It’s a strange experience to read about two characters doing things, and suddenly the whole scene descends into barely concealed phallic metaphors and odd references to euphoria in order to describe two people having an orgasm. I think this is why erotica has taken off so fantastically well; erotica is basically romance, but with the purple prose replaced with normal prose.

I’m still rather fond of the whole style of purple prose in romance. It’s a strange cultural artifact, a wink-and-nod to the fact that women have always wanted media that catered to their sexual desires, even when it wasn’t socially acceptable to be explicit about it.


Romantic Tropes

Seems like it’s important, I guess, to keep writing this. To write every day, even if I don’t feel like it.

I’ve been reading up on romance tropes. Not because I don’t think I can write romance – I can, and how – but because I want to generate ideas, and I don’t want to use tropes that are overtly sexist.

Take the Shut Up Kiss, for example. Woman is talking about something important, and the man decides to silence her with a kiss. It’s so traditional, so common, but also kind of horrible in a “she-didn’t-consent” way. It’s vaguely insulting as well, like he didn’t want to listen to her and thought the best way of demonstrating that fact was to force himself on her.

Lots of romance is messed up. Erotica, at least, doesn’t usually pretend to be anything but what it is.

I still wonder, which one do I want to write? Truth be told, I don’t know. Erotica is going to get boring, if I have to write the same sex scenes over and over again.


This is still a thing

I’m always confused by the tropes I see in popular erotica. Apparently the whole ‘billionaire meets middle class woman, sweeps her off her feet’ thing is still (a) a thing and (b) still so goddamn silly that it makes me want to facepalm my way back into the Stone Age.

I had a conversation with my esteemed friend about this exact thing. “It’s so tacky,” I said. “I thought that it would end once Fifty Shades burnt itself out, along with bad BDSM porn.”

“Honestly, Shay,” she replied, “It’s very simple. It’s all about escapism.”

“Well yes, I understand that. But escapism should have some element of realism in it, and these books are clearly so far beyond the horizon of silly that they might as well be in Narnia.”

She laughed at me. “But that’s why they’re so popular! Women read these because they’re completely unrealistic. A good escapist fantasy does have elements of realism in it, but when you’ve already got a job and a husband and too many children, you don’t want any reminder of what is real. Bad escapism is better than good escapism that holds elements of a life that dissatisfies you.”

I had to give that to her. It does make a lot of sense, when you think about it. Go to Amazon.com, search for ‘billionaire’ in Kindle Books, and you’ll get thousands of hits, many of which are best sellers published this year. It’s rather depressing when you think about it.

I mean, I understand, really I do, why they’re so popular. But I can’t write those books, and not only because I just don’t know anything about the billionaire lifestyle. I want to write about normal people doing fun things in real relationships, not aloof assholes being brought down to earth (or something) by generic girl next door, with added sex. And this means I will probably never write a bestseller.

I guess all I can do is hope that comedy porn becomes popular. That or start publishing some really kinky shit and hoping I get sales off the shock factor.

Authors! If you have an opinion on this, talk to me in the comments. I want to know if you’ve tried this and what’s worked for you.


A Novel in the works

Ideas, I have them.

And I have to restart somewhere, my friends. Going slightly mad takes its toll on a body. Coming out of it is going to be a longer process than I expected.

So here is the beginning, and I will see where this idea takes me: I will turn Kathy’s World into a novel. It will be romance novel filled with sex, because that’s just how I roll, but it will be a novel nonetheless – longer than anything I’ve ever written for this hidden life I like to live.

And I am going to write it on my phone. On the bus. On my daily commute.

Why? Because I can. Because I take the moments when I can write anywhere they are available to me. Even this post is being written in a bathroom, before I go back to my day job. I will write this whole thing on a device no bigger than my hand.

If I can write a book on this little thing, I can write anywhere and on anything. And that means I am still a writer, in my heart. That’s the test, my friends. Can I be a writer with only the most basic tools?

We shall have to see.


Romance is normal

I spoke to my esteemed friend today on the topic of boyfriends. She is, unfortunately, unlucky in love, and she was bemoaning said luck while I offered as much sympathy as I could muster in the form of a cappuccino and muffin.

“Romance is never like this, Shay,” she said. “All the white knights in the world live in trashy novels, you know that.”

I had to agree, if only because my knowledge of knights is rather limited. But it got me thinking, and I came to the conclusion that I really don’t agree.

Well, I mean I don’t agree in a certain sense. I agree that the white knights of romance legend are probably not that common. But the implication of my esteemed friend’s words troubled me: that romance is not… normal, I suppose.

Is it the real life? Or is it just fantasy? I’m not sure, to be honest. Much of romance plot and narrative is unrealistic, let’s be honest here. Normal women do not catch the eye of billionaires who then whisk them away to a life of luxury. And they are not virgins who find their first time to be mind blowing, and BDSM scenes like that are not considered safe, and… You get the idea.

But the heart of romance isn’t really the setup or the mechanics. It’s not the sex either. All of those things are there to hold the stuff the author really wants to talk about. We want to say something about love and relationships, or the human condition, or how crazy people can be, or how much of each other two people can let into their combined lives. We want to comment on things that are ultimately very normal.

Kathy’s World is about finding inner strength and adventure. Devil Masque is about identity, and how it defines us. Dominion is about control, and how to wield it. Boy Crazy is about self-revelation.

I’m not good enough to say I get it right all the time, but the sex is just another part of the story. It’s what you write about because normal human life involves sex. It’d be weird not to have it. But I’m pretty confident in saying that we fail as writers when we make the sex, or a trope, or any other plot device the whole heart of the story, and forget that it still has to feel real in order to be a good story.

There’s porn without plot. It’s never as satisfying as porn WITH plot. That’s the kind of thing that makes it seem normal, and relatable, and let’s readers make a deeper connection with a story.