By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the New York Times Best Selling book Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. It’s an erotic romance set mostly in Seattle about a very wealthy man, Christian Grey and a naïve college grad Anastasia Steele. The story features their struggling romance and depicts explicit sex scenes with elements of BDSM. If you check out the reviews on Amazon, you’ll see they’re very skewed. Either readers love it or hate it. 1,662 last I checked. 816 were 5 stars, 402, 1 star.
Whatever their impression of the book, tons and tons of readers are reading and talking about the book.
So, what can authors learn from this to help improve their own writing career?
Dig into the book, read it but don’t tear it apart.One thing I’ve notice the first time any author hits it big, is how people instantly jump to pick that author and the book apart, trying to find fault. I’m saddened when this happens, especially when other authors do this. And I understand we all have different tastes and won’t like everything we read. I’m talking about authors who rip another author’s work apart. Bad Karma in my opinion.
Sure we would all like to be getting the kind of royalties EL James is getting, and I’m sure there are a number of erotic and BDSM authors thinking: “Why not my book?”
But instead of thinking that way, we should be thinking: WHY her book? What did she do RIGHT? And learn from it. We can’t forget that James opened up the erotic fiction market to a public who has never read an erotic book before. After this group of new readers finishes the 50 Shades trilogy, many will be searching out other authors. Hello? New blood, yeah! That’s a great thing for all of us!!!
True, the relationship in 50 Shades does not depict a ‘normal’ loving BDSM relationship. Christian is screwed up. He was sexually abused as a child. And Ana is overly naïve, but at least she (for the most part) stands up for herself and isn’t TSTL (too stupid to live). They both have a lot of emotional baggage but there is something compelling between them that I think is deeply emotional and brilliant. AND, THIS IS FICTION.
When I read a book I want to escape and be entertained. Fiction is fantasy and I’m there for the ride, I don’t care if every detail is or isn’t precisely accurate as long as it fits for the story.
Christian and Ana are atypical characters in an atypical BDSM relationship. They’re flawed, their relationship is flawed, but deep down they’re good and caring people, trying to find their way through the dark. And isn’t that what makes this story so compelling?
Tips for Writers. What I got from 50 Shades of Grey. Or any blockbuster author.
· Don’t write cookie cutter characters. Find something unique in each character. Normal, everyday people may be accurate but they’re boring.
· Don’t write to trends. Watch, in the coming year you’ll see a rush of BDSM books that will be out on the market. If you write that genre, fine, but come up with your own twist. If you don’t write BDSM erotic fiction, think twice before jumping onto the bandwagon. Are you true to your brand or trying to get rich quick? Is bondage something you really want to write or are you going to have to force it. Readers will know.
· Read the blockbuster books. Not to copy or parallel your story, but to get a feel for the spark that makes that particular book a hit. Was it the characters? The unique plot? The depth of emotion? The edgy rawness? Etc. How can you improve your writing to strengthen those areas?
· In an interview with EL James, she said she originally didn’t write the series to be published but to express what she felt deep inside. As a writer, dig deep and find those emotions and transpose them into words on the page.
· Be thrilled for EL James and her success. Supporting another author also supports us all.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.