Friday, August 26, 2011

Get out of that comfort zone!

Some of you may already know that I'm on Twitter...a LOT. More than I should be, really. But I've found it such a fun way to branch out and meet new people, and I'm fascinated by the way it works, through organic growth that I've come to visualize as an infinite series of overlapping venn diagram bubbles. You follow somebody who somebody else tweeted, then follow somebody else because that person followed them, and it all just keeps bubbling around. 

Kristen Lamb wrote a great post recently about the dangers of getting too wrapped up in social media that only involves other people exactly like you (in this instance, of course, it was about writers who are following hundreds of fellow writers and other people who are already fans) instead of the people you'd like to target (all potential readers). This is easy to do, of course. We want to share our experiences with like minds, and we want the hive mind of Twitter to answer the questions we have - so who better to follow than people likely to know those answers? It's the same reason we all read and comment on one another's blogs - our "sames" are much more obvious than our differences, and that's the human comfort zone. 

This tendency is only natural, so natural in fact that psychologists (and political pundits) already have a term for it, "confirmation bias": people tend to seek out information (and people) to confirm what they already believe. The danger, of course, is that this only makes one more firmly entrenched in that belief...even in the face of otherwise seemingly undeniable factual evidence. And it means we have difficulty reaching out to others who might offer other opinions, even if they may also offer clear benefits like a willingness to purchase books. Other opinions are scary! People who aren't confirmed romance novel fans are scary! 

But what (you're probably asking) does confirmation bias have to do with writers who write kinky romance? And Twitter? Quite a bit, I'd say, because part of Ms. Lamb's point is we need to branch out and explore other opinions, even if it's difficult. Twitter is a perfect way to do this, and I think erotic romance writers might have an easier time of it than most because there are a lot of circles overlapping ours on that infinite venn diagram. There are tons of Twitter users who are involved in kink but not in writing or publishing, I've noticed. There are also tons of readers who may or may not be romance fans, who may never have read a kinky book, but might become a fan if they got to know a kinky book writer. There are media folks with interests that mesh with ours, medical or other professionals, just a wide variety of people, any one of whom might be a new reader. 

This week, try challenging yourself to follow at least one person a day you see mentioned in a tweet - who isn't a writer, editor, or reviewer. You may get friends and family of writers, you may get random persons out in the universe...but you may also get new readers, people who may have never read a romance novel of any sort before but might read yours. I've found one easy way to stretch like this is simply to look at the other folks mentioned in my mentions and @replies...and look for the men. Since so many romance writers of any flavor are women, this is a down-and-dirty way to narrow your search to non-romance-writers. The vast majority of the time it isn't somebody like Sascha Illyvich, it's some dude who has only recently discovered that erotica isn't just for the ladies. Target: acquired! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Most books from the 1-800-DOM-help series at least partially feature the BDSM club Unfettered, the mysterious club that appears and disappears as needed to help our heroes and heroines find their kinky happily ever afters. I thought back to the BDSM stories I've read and the predominate number include a club or public party of one type or another as a device to move the story forward between protagonists.

So much of the on-line advice I've read to those just beginning to explore the kinky lifestyle is to get out there in public, meet others at like minded gatherings, and make real life friends and acquaintances. And if you have no partner in the lifestyle, and hope to acquire an actual physical relationship with one, this is good advice. But it discounts a lot of people out there who for one reason or another choose not to "go public." I'm not talking about outing oneself as kinky, but simply attending events (social or play) with others in the lifestyle. Some of these folks choose to keep their relationships on-line, at social networking sites like FetLife. Some conduct one-on-one on-line D/s relationships. Some interact in Second Life, finding virtual partners in what I understand to be a very active BDSM community there. And some already have partners at home, keeping their relationships, play and any choices about D/s dynamics private and learning what they need from books and their own experimentation.

All are legitimate choices, even if the private options do not lend themselves to the best plots for stories. But perhaps this means more challenge for a writer--to include the most engaging elements of a BDSM story, one or more of the characters discovering or redefining this element in their life for the first time, all in the privacy of their home and without outside "advisers" in the lifestyle. Hmmh? Sounds like I have some brainstorming to do.

The beauty of BDSM, alternative lifestyles and sexuality is that folks are finding what is right for them. No one has a market on the "way." All paths, as long as they are consensual choices between adults, can lead to joy and fulfillment.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

PROTOCOL -- Noticeable in BDSM erotic romance?

"Protocol," in its meaning within the BDSM world, is the formal, structured responses that a sub learns in order to know what is appropriate for them to do in any given circumstance. (see Words of Power chapter for credit for this definition in Raven Kaldera's excellent book, "Dark Moon Rising: Pagan BDSM and the Ordeal Path.")

High protocol comes off as more formal. Low protocol is less so. I remember reading about various waiting poses a sub or slave might take upon a Dom(mes) command, with each pose going by a formal name and even number. So if I called out a number two, the sub might be on the ground with their arms in a certain position. This is one example of protocol. Or the protocol may be how the sub addresses his Dom(me) or how they offer to help with something. "Mistress, how may this slave serve you?" The responses may relate to something blatantly sexual or may be completely reserved and asexual.

Kaldera reminds us that protocols vary by couple, subgroup, and locality. There's no single protocol for subs and Doms, only ones that work best for the individuals using them. Apparently there's been a lot of wars fought over the "best" protocol. The kinky community is not above its own pettiness, as much as I'd like to report differently.

So my question is this. After reading the definition above, I've realized I have used protocol in my stories. But do readers outside of the lifestyle recognize it for what it is or even think about it? I'm hoping no, because that means I'm writing deep enough for that distinction to be meaningless and for the stories to grab the readers and sweep them away. I never portray my submissive characters having any anxiety about learning correct protocol. And they shouldn't. A good Dom(me) trains thoroughly and correctly, taking on the responsibility for finding a way to make the important lessons stick.

Discuss amongst yourselves. If you write BDSM do you explicitly notice your own use of protocol between your characters? If you read it, has protocol popped out of stories at you before?

Safe, sane and consensual,