I’ve always been bothered by the concept of “normal” and not just because the concept of normalcy makes it difficult to tell a sufficiently sexy romance/erotica story. It’s just a fact of life. Nobody’s boxers are getting tight and nobody’s panties are getting wet by reading about something bland and ordinary.
The characters I write in my books rarely fall under the guise of “normal” and if they do, it doesn’t last or their concept of normal is overtly skewed. Grace Goodwin, the main character in my book, “The Final Communion,” may have been normal by the twisted standards of her surroundings, but from an outside perspective, she might as well be a monkey in a banana factory.
This concept of “normal” has been on my mind a lot lately and not just because I worry about the not-so-normal sentiment I may get by being over 30 and single. Since my pending novel, “Passion Relapse,” finally got picked up by a publisher, I’ve been contemplating ways to follow up the themes that made that book work.
No, I’m not talking about a shameless, Rocky Balboa-style sequel. I’m not looking to build a goddamn Twilight franchise out of one novel. I’m just assessing the elements that worked in “Passion Relapse” so I can refine those elements for bigger, better, and sexier stories. The more pants I can tighten and panties I can moisten, the better.
After revising, editing, and even rewriting certain parts of “Passion Relapse,” I think I’ve gotten a better feel for what makes the characters involved so appealing. Naturally, they are admittedly not normal. In fact, they’re so not normal that their non-normal behavior causes them serious pain and distress. It gets very heated and not just in a sexy sort of way.
This got me thinking and for an aspiring erotica/romance writer, that can lead to any number of crazy/sex/awesome ideas. In this case, I find myself imaging a situation where someone has such a skewed sense of “normal” that most people who survived high school with their sanity intact can’t wrap their heads around it.
I’m not talking about extreme religious cults, like I did with “The Final Communion” or exotic futuristic technology like I did with “Skin Deep.” In fact, there is a very real-world parallel to this idea here. Sadly, it involves the inherently unsexy topic of abusive relationships.
I’ll give everyone a moment to unclench their assholes. I promise, this conversation isn’t going to get that disturbing. There are plenty of real-world examples where abusive romances have become exceedingly disturbing, up to the point where they become annoyingly permanent fixtures in popular culture. Then again, they can also become classic Disney movies so there is room to tell a story.
In this case, the story I’m interesting in telling has to do with someone who sees an abusive relationship as normal. No, I don’t mean the kind of abuse that makes for fun BDSM roles, which can actually be healthy. I’m talking about the really bad kind of abusive relationships that makes nobody horny in any capacity.
It is a real issue. There are women (and even a few men) who end up in abusive relationships, but become so accustomed to them that they seem normal. It’s that twisted sense of normalcy that skews our perspective that creates situations where people stay in these relationships or struggle to leave them.
A couple years ago, Time did an article about women who stayed in abusive relationships. The reasons were varied, ranging from concern about children to this twisted sense of responsibility that they had to be the ones to help. There are all sorts of sad, tragic, and distressing stories here. How can anyone make a story like that sexy?
It’s a good thing I love a challenge. I especially love a challenge that gives me a chance to create a novel, unique form of romance that’ll stand out in a sea of vampires, princesses, and male strippers. This won’t be a story that involves aliens, unreal technology, or supernatural forces either. This will be as raw, real, and sexy as I can make it.
Are your assholes unclenched? Good because this is a story that, like “Passion Relapse,” will emphasize romance more than the sexy stuff. Make no mistake, the sexy stuff will be there. You will need dry panties at one point. However, I want to focus on the emotional undertones for this story.
How will I do this? Once again, it requires a thought experiment. I know I ask my readers to do a lot of those on this blog, but I promise it’s for a good reason. It may not always make you horny, but it will get you thinking for the right reasons.
Picture somebody, male or female, who comes from a family in which being somewhat abusive and controlling is considered normal. Their parents have an abusive relationship. Their siblings have abusive relationships. This is just how their family is. This is how they’ve been. Since we do tend to adopt our parents’ beliefs and attitudes, it’s not wholly unrealistic.
Now, picture that same person, be they male or female, encountering something (or someone) that shakes their world. It completely undermines their understanding of what it means to be in a relationship, to love someone, or even what constitutes abuse. It’s so profound and so jarring that it overwhelms someone into completely reassessing everything they thought they knew about themselves.
I’d love to reveal more, but this is a developing idea. This is a concept I’m still fleshing out. However, there is one theme I want to emphasize here. Someone who sees something so harmful as normal sometimes needs a really jarring event to shake them out of this mindset. Some won’t even question their idea of normal until it’s shoved in their face.
This can be (and often is) traumatic. This is why admitting your wrong is right up there with dental surgery and rectal trauma in terms of unpleasantness. Our brains aren’t wired to constantly change and rethink things. It’s wired to remain consistent so we can focus on surviving bear attacks long enough to reproduce.
So how does someone escape that twisted idea of normalcy? How do they avoid the same tragedies they’ve seen in family and loved ones? For this story, there will definitely be obstacles and some of those obstacles can make fists. It’s a real challenge, but one that can bring out the best and worst in some people.
Working on “Passion Relapse” has given me a renewed sense of energy in confronting that challenge. I feel like this is a story worth telling. It’s a story that may be more relevant now than ever with issues like spousal abuse and harassment being such hot-button issues. If I can confront that issue and make it into a sexy story, then I feel like I’ve done my job.