Thank You For Your Willing Suspension of Disbelief

I’d planned for my next book to be much darker and heavier kink — as in master-slave stuff, TPE, 24/7. But I can’t seem to find a way to put that into a “believable” (enough) “story” line. I’m uber-concerned about this only because I’ve had feedback saying that my stuff, to date, is unbelievable, unrealistic, that readers did not care about the characters, that it was all just too crazy to believe, etc.

Author Victoria Janssen says readers of erotica require less “realism” than readers of “romance“:

I think the reader of a short erotica story is more willing to make assumptions from little evidence. They know where the story is leading; it is leading to two characters having sex; so for that to happen, the relationship (romantic, purely physical, whatever) must exist, so it does exist, at least so long as the writer has given the reader a tiny, tiny hook on which to hang their belief.

I’ve not found that to be true. Not at all. I gave readers a tiny tiny hook to hang their belief on in both Owning Julia and in Marked for Submission, I thought, and I failed miserably for many. All I can figure is that perhaps some of the readers of my clearly-labeled BDSM EROTICA thought it was intended to be … ROMANCE. Not sure. For the record, again, what I write is NOT intended to be “romance.” I don’t claim to write romance. Not my thing at all. I write smut. I try to anyway. Hot, depraved, entertaining, get-off-to-it, not-a-cure-for-cancer erotica.


Sure, someday I’d love to try to write “literary” erotica. I may work toward that, somehow, or even try to form my own new genre. Literary erotica, for me, would be be my usual smut but as I wrote it I’d have my pinky finger sticking out and I’d be looking at you skeptically over the rim of my reading glasses. “Oh, do tell.”

I have no clue as to how to write “realistic” fiction. Or why fiction even has to BE “realistic” in the first place. Who made up that rule? Can’t we trash it? Even though people tend to say there are no rules in “erotica,” there really are. Lots of them, if you want to sell books at all.

I don’t understand how creativity and rules are supposed to work together.

Last week, I tried to start writing a new “darker, heavier” BDSM erotica story. Contemporary setting, sub female lead meets Dom guy at a party, instant mutual attraction, they go out to dinner the next night (you didn’t see THAT coming!) and he has her do some public and potentially humiliating play at the dinner table.

Aaaand that’s as far as it goes. I can’t find a way to make readers “care” about characters, much less any way to have the action be “realistic.”

I just don’t need realism at all when I read fiction. I go along. I LOVE suspending disbelief; it’s easy for me, I guess. That tiny tiny hook that Janssen wrote of? I don’t even need that.


One reason I love BG Harlen’s Break Her so much — it may be my all-time favorite piece of sick twisted dark non-con fiction (it’s not erotica, it’s definitely not romance, it’s psychological thriller with depraved sexual violence in it, you were warned) — is that it takes big chances.

It’s HEAVILY dialogue-driven. There are no boring descriptions. It’s all mental. In your face. Immediate. Relentless. You either get on board from page one and hang the fuck on, or you’re horrified by about page three and you run back to Romance Night at Sugar Kink Dungeon. Nothing wrong with that if that’s what does it for you.

I not only hung on, I make a point to re-read that book from time to time. It’s the kind of thing I wish I could write. That and Anneke Jacob’s stuff. I was skimming reviews of her books on GR and Amazon. Clearly-drawn sides, loved or despised, just like the reviews for Break Her. I would love to someday be able to write like Harlen and Jacob and embrace the readers who get it and dismiss those who don’t by wishing them safe travels and giving them a Sheri Savill BDSM Erotica trucker hat and a thank-you-for-playing Sheri Savill key chain.

2. Thank you. To anyone out there who likes anything I’ve written so far, thank you for getting it. For getting ME. Thank you for not analyzing, for not squeezing the life out. Thank you for your WILLING SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF. Thank you for giving me a chance.

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  1. Tara Finnegan says

    If it helps…
    One of the things I liked about Owning Julia was that I didn’t need to get on my high horse and think “that’s disgraceful” blah blah blah. Julia wanted it, she got it. It was a little extreme by my tastes but it was so fecking obvious that in her own way she had asked for it; meaning I could get off the feminist bandwagon and just go along for the ride.

    • says

      Tara, yep, thank you. I hoped it was obviously consensual and that the warnings made it pretty clear what to expect. I think people skip the warnings, maybe. Or they don’t remember them when they they sit down to write a review. I should invent some annoying pop-up thing that pops-up in the person’s e-reader every now and then: “Hi! I see you’re reading my smutfest called Marked for Submission. I’m sure you remember this, but in case you don’t, I did warn that it was not intended to be a how-to manual or realistic, and that it was pretty fucking out there. Press 1 if you still understand the warning and wish to continue reading …”

  2. says

    I am trying to think what makes me care about a character now. I have definitely read books where i didn’t care, they all could have blown up and I wouldn’t have cared. There are books where I thought the story line was dumb, but I loved the characters, so much so that I would create my own little stories in my head for them.

    You gave me something to ponder… I am going to try to pin this down.

    • says

      I guess I’m not a very thoughtful reader (probably why I don’t do reviews, too, I suck at them). When I read I just go along like a dumb fuck, reading reading reading, and I don’t “think” about things like whether I like or dislike characters, or whether I feel them, or find them phony, or whether I’m emotionally invested, etc. etc. I just read and at the end I have a sense of “it was pretty good” or “wow I loved it.” If I can’t get past the first few pages (which happens to me a LOT), I don’t think, “Wow, this was shitty book.” I think, “Wow, you have the attention span of a gnat.”

  3. Emily Tilton says

    I think you need to stop listening to those people. They think they understand realism, but they don’t. They don’t actually even mean that your scenes are unrealistic–they just mean that they don’t like what’s in your imagination. That’s their right, but I, for one, LOVE what’s in your imagination.

    • says

      Thanks for the kind words. Interesting point about them not liking what’s in my imagination (or my mind). It occurs to me that maybe because I don’t relate to many people “out there in general” anyway (IRL), that same thing happens with my writing, whether it’s erotica or a blog post or a parody or anything else. Maybe I’m an acquired taste. Yeah, that’s it. Ha. And I’m definitely picky about who I hang with IRL. Oh who the fuck knows what it is. Maybe it’s just all luck and who you know and this is a huge waste of time.