I’m writing at less than my usual snail’s pace – but at least I’m writing. Unlike previous books, however, it’s entirely possible that I’m going to throw out a lot of what I’ve done, because I don’t much like it.
Owned and Owner had virtually no conversation except between fellow owners discussing their slaves and their kink. One of the reasons Garid kept Etrin silent was that I couldn’t think of a natural way for the two of them to talk together.
By the time I wrote As She’s Told, I thought I’d figured out how to do dialogue: character-revealing content, lots of sentence fragments for the sake of realism, and judicious dollops of humour and self-deprecating irony. It seemed to work. A certain number of readers (all male) complained about an excess of character development, which they had to skip to get to the dirty bits, but that goes with the smut writer’s territory. (At least they liked the dirty bits. As an aside, AST just got its first review entitled “Sick.” God, I wish non-perverts wouldn’t read my books.)
Anyway, this time, I figured writing dialogue would be a snap. The problem is, I’m writing dialogue that comes before the couple ever approaches anything to do with sex, much less bdsm. They have to talk about normal things like their lives and interests. And they have to do this without boring my erotica readers to death.
What do our characters talk about, when they’re not talking about sex? I don’t know about other authors, but mine have a (possibly fatal) tendency to talk about social justice and the environment. Could anything be less sexy? “Oh my god,” I hear you say, ”we read erotica to get away from that kind of thing! How could you inflict it on us in your fiction?” I know, I hear you. Problem is, that’s what I’m passionate about. I don’t care about movies or contemporary music or fashion. Political machinations and Machiavellian intrigue (think Kushiel’s Dart) leave me both cold and irritable. My plots, such as they are, are very low-key. What on earth are my characters going to talk about over coffee?
Perhaps they need to be remarkably shy and tongue-tied.
It’s not that my own conversation consists only of social justice and the environment. I can gossip with the best of them. But gossip requires some world-building, which feels like such an overwhelming task that I’d rather read someone else’s book instead of writing one of my own. I’ve been reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series; now there’s a level of incident and drama that simply cannot be surpassed, except possibly in a Tintin comic. One such incident and its repercussions would be enough for most novelists. But there’s sure plenty for the characters to talk about!
Perhaps I need a shipwreck or two to liven things up. Do you think it would help?