Tuesday, 19 June 2007

erotica v porn

This is a response to Daisy Dexter Dobbs Blog entry on the difference between erotica and porn, which is a fascinating read.

I have to say that I agree with Daisy’s assessment of porn – almost. She said :

These stories offer sex without the necessity of a plot, a romance or a committed relationship. Pornography is basically blatant, in-your-face sex that's unapologetically meant to titillate, without bothering to provide a quality reading experience.

It’s the first part of the first sentence that I’d disagree with. Porn does have a plot. Even if that plot is as basic as “I caught my wife cheating and I liked it so much I joined in” or “My wife was feeling old so I organised a gangbang to make her feel young again”.

For me, the difference between porn and erotica doesn’t lie in plot (although, most erotica will have stronger plots than porn for reasons I’ll show you in a sec). It lies in character.

It’s characters that make fiction worth reading or not. You could have the world’s best ever plot, twisting and turning and full of surprises, but if the characters are two-dimensional stereotypes, you’ll not have fiction worth a damn. Would Harry Potter still sell millions if JK Rowling hadn’t created a core group of thoroughly fascinating characters who have developed and changed throughout the series? Would Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels have quite the same impact if the likes of Granny Weatherwax and Commander Vimes were boring, meaningless characters that we as readers didn’t care about? The answer to both questions is no, they wouldn’t. Readers want to engage with character that they feel they know and care about.

In porn, characters don’t matter. You could happily interchange “Sally” from “My cheating Wife” with “Sophie” from “My wife’s fiftieth birthday gangbang” and you’d have essentially the same stories. It’s just like ‘visual’ porn. Take a look at any of the myriad of porn websites and you’ll see the same ‘plot’ (eg girl gets tricked into performing for the camera) played out with a different girl each time.

But with erotica (and erotic romance) the characters don’t just matter – they are essential to the direction and tone of the story. This is what I mean about erotica having stronger plots. The plot is so often determined by the actions of the characters, that if the characters are different, they will make different choices which result in a different outcome and direction of plot.

Take, for example, the characters from two of my recent stories, “Charlotte’s Secret” and “Lost & Found”.

There are three principal characters in Charlotte’s secret and even though we only see the story through the eyes of two of them, at the end we discover that all three have been keeping secrets and that all three have been doing what they think is best for themselves and the ones they love (ie, their children). But it’s Charlotte herself I want to discuss. Almost two years prior to when the story ‘starts’ Charlotte made a decision that meant put all the characters in the position where the story could take place. She chose to keep a secret and allow the man she loved to marry her sister in ignorance of the secret. It’s argued that had Charlotte not kept the secret, but told David what was happening – he would never have married Susie.

Now, in “Lost & Found”, the principal female character, Beth, would have made that other choice. She would have poured her heart out to David—fought for her man. This is because she is a totally different person—fiery, passionate and determined. Whereas Charlotte is more sedate, more thoughtful of other people’s feelings and more willing to sacrifice herself to ‘keep the peace’. Had “Charlotte’s Secret” been “Beth’s Secret” there would have been no story because Beth would never have kept the secret in the first place.

Characters in porn are merely “faceless” cocks and pussies. Porn appeals to our base urges. It has it’s place, and that place is a tool for sexual gratification. Characters in erotica are “real people”, with real emotions, facing real problems and solving them in realistic ways (most of the time). And it’s because these characters have depth and history that they react in different ways to different situations and the resultant plots are stronger and feature more conflict and resolution. And that, at the end of the day, is what good fiction, erotic or otherwise, is all about.

Marcnobbs.com

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