Behind The Scenes In Anytown

The author dissects life in a small town, giving the reader a "scorchingly honest" view of hidden moral corruption and sexual permissiveness. Grace Metalious' Peyton Place was the first major novel of this type.

In the first four BigSN plot types, you must also attempt to carry off a roman a clef [French for "novel with a key"], a story in which the characters all seem to be allusions to real people—preferably quite famous people—and to real events the reader may have read of in newspapers and magazines; this establishes a celebrity guessing game among readers and reviewers that strengthens the illusion that you are telling of genuine events and, not incidentally, increases the book's sales. ("Was Evelyn, in the novel, really Judy Garland?"

"Was Blanche really Marilyn Monroe—or Jane Mansfield?"

"Was Lew really Rock Hudson, or might he be Henry Fonda?") In actuality, the BigSN bears only passing resemblance to the real lives of the personalities mentioned, but the reader likes to feel that he is getting the whole, ugly story, firsthand. (You research these stories the same way as you do stories in other categories: by reading books on the neighborhood, profession, or industry, and keeping current with social behavior and celebrities through magazines and newspapers.)

In the fifth type of story, Anytown USA, you must not provide a roman a clef, because the reader wants to do that himself, placing the novel in his own town. You thoughtfully provide sparsely characterized professional types—a town doctor cheating on his wife, a policeman cheating on his wife and taking bribes on the side, a school teacher who's really a nymphomaniac who can't keep her hands off the principal or her students—whom the reader can think of in terms of people he knows.

The only taboos in BigSN, then, are too-explicit language that would irritate the sensibilities of Middle America, and "bad" sexual conduct that goes unpunished. The BigSN reader wants to see the sinners reformed or delivered unto retribution, preferably the former. The cheating husband or wife should either finally "see the light" and quit his or her adulterous activities, meet a violent end because he or she cannot see the light, or get a divorce so that everyone can be happier in the end. (Warning: Do not employ divorce as a solution to the BigSN problems unless you have no other reasonable course. Many of the women who read the Big Sexy Novel are terrified of divorce and, rather than seeing it as an answer to the problem, might find it a frightening and depressing non-conclusion. This might change, too, in coming years, as more and more women realize their value, as people, outside of the institution of marriage.)

In the Rough Sexy Novel, however, you must be sure to use explicit language and rich detail in the sex scenes. The only taboo is a reverse of the BigSN requirement: No character shall be punished for his sexual conduct, and neither shall he be reformed. The entire point of the RoughSN, or the "porn" book, is that sex is healthy, exciting, and extremely desirable in almost any quantity or quality. No "perversion" can be criticized in the Rough Sexy Novel, unless it is one in which one of the sexual partners is hurt. Sadism and masochism, then, are usually unpopular topics for Rough Sexy Novels, while homosexuality, lesbianism, group sex, troilism, and most other bedroom activities are not only permissible but encouraged.

In the Big Sexy Novel, the character motivation must be believable; the bedroom action plentiful; the hero and/or heroine sympathetic (she or he should have problems which all of us can identify with: married but in love with another man/woman; problems with children and jobs); the background at least exotic if not colorfully developed; but there need not be a terribly strong plot, in the sense of telling an exciting, tension-filled story. The "plot" of a BigSN is constructed from the peek-behind-the-scenes of whichever one of the five backgrounds you're using, and from the string of sex scenes and the sexual interrelationships of the characters. A carefully developed, exciting plot would require too high a ratio of story to sex; every chapter of the BigSN must have at least one sexual encounter, which leaves only a small portion of the book for other purposes.

The BigSN will have one major problem that must be solved by the end of the story, though that problem will not be one that requires great physical resources on the hero's part and will be solved after the hero has climbed over only a minimum of obstacles to his success (or failure). For example: the publisher-hero might be losing financial control of his magazine empire and be fighting desperately to hold onto it; the doctor-hero might have a big and important operation to perform on someone of note, on the woman he loves, or on a small and defenseless child; the lawyer-hero might be arguing a nationally publicized case upon which his whole reputation is staked. But the main plot of the BigSN will come from the dozens of affairs, between the many characters, and the reader's curiosity about how each will turn out. ("Will Samantha get her just rewards and lose Bill to Tina?" "Can Joan and Don find happiness together when she is so frigid?" "Will Arthur's homosexuality prove incurable, or will Beth's love help him to straighten himself out?")

Understandably, with all these interlocking affairs progressing simultaneously, you almost always require the modified omniscient viewpoint to tell the story—that from which you can settle into the head of each of the characters when you need to and can develop several plot threads at once. (See Chapter Nine for a discussion of viewpoints in category fiction.) If you insist on using the third person limited or the first person viewpoint, you must stretch the story action over a considerably longer period of time than when employing the modified omniscient voice: if you have twenty characters and use the latter voice, you can write about a hundred different sexual encounters in a week or ten days of story time; but you cannot expect a reader to believe that your hero and heroine have the stamina to indulge that often in the same amount of time. Besides, the more characters you introduce, the more kinds of kinky behavior you can write about—and variety is the spice of the Big Sexy Novel.

A BigSN hero should be a sexual dynamo, thinking about making love when he isn't, a handsome and virile dream-boat. The BigSN heroine should be exceedingly desirable, possessed of a handsome lust of her own—but she should always be somewhat hesitant at the start of every sex sequence. Even if she has bedded five different men on fifteen different occasions since the start of the book, she must be a bit trembly and unsure with the sixth man on the sixteenth occasion. She will stall, wonder if they really ought to, and only give in to the hero's gentle but persistent urging. Once she has decided to participate,


however, she must be his equal as a lover, enthusiastic and versatile.

The vocabulary of the BigSN should always be simple. The fewer multi-syllabic words you use, the better. This does not mean that the BigSN reader has a more limited vocabulary than other genre readers; however, most BigSN fans want a book that can be read at the beach, over several evenings, between household chores—in short, a book that is interesting but not so demanding that it must be read carefully and in as few sittings as possible. You must learn to deliver simple entertainment slightly cloaked in "meaning," in a style as easily read as anything in The New York Daily News.

In the Rough Sexy Novel, the plot is also minimal. The main story problem may be similar to that in the BigSN, or it may be strictly sexual in nature. For example, your heroine may be a nymphomaniac trying to come to terms with her sexual nature, or a frigid wife learning to be a good lover, or a young boy or girl coming of age and fighting to achieve an adult sexual harmony with their peers. Just as with the BigSN, you should read a great deal of the field to fully understand how a RoughSN plot is structured and to get the proper feel for sex scene description. Any dozen titles published by Olympia Press and its subsidiary houses will properly acquaint you with the styles and language requirements of this kind of erotic novel.

In the RoughSN, the heroine—unless her frigidity is the central story problem—should be every bit as virile and anxious for love-making as the hero. Indeed, she should be outright aggressive and should, at least half the time, initiate the sex scene herself. For the most part, women read the BigSN and they want the heroine to be the constant focus of male aggression, the recipient of unlimited sexual offerings. Likewise, the overwhelmingly male audience for the RoughSN wants the hero to be the focus of female aggression and the recipient of unlimited pleasure.

Finally, when you choose a title for your erotic novel, you must carefully consider your market. The reader who buys the Big Sexy Novel wants a "refined" title, something that will not embarrass her when she buys the book, and something which she can unhesitatingly leave out on the coffee table to impress guests or generate conversation. The Voyeur, The Exhibitionist, The Love Machine, Good Time Coming, The Rag Dolls, The Body Brokers, and The Ravishers are all good BigSN titles, because they promise erotica without blatantly heralding the book's content. None of these, however, would be appropriate titles for the RoughSN, which must come on much more forcefully, as these several examples attest: Share the Warm Flesh, Thirteen and Ready!, Swapper's Convention, Sextet, Thrust, and Hung.

Erotica is included in this book because—though it does not follow the category plot formula and is often lacking in the other four basic requirements of category writing—editors and publishers refer to it, handle it, and think of it in the same way they do any other genre. The form can be labeled, and monthly erotica lists can be established. This is more true of the RoughSN than the BigSN, but applicable to both.

The advantages of the form are obvious. A BigSN author, if his book should catch on and make the bestseller lists, will earn far more money from far higher sales than he could with a bestseller from any other category. Even if his book only skirts the bestseller lists or receives no particular special attention in hardcover, it will generate larger paperback advances and sales than will titles in other categories. If he's lucky, the BigSN author can establish himself with a few books, and gain fame (of a questionable sort) that few other genre writers ever enjoy. Because he makes more money per novel, he can spend less time at the typewriter than the average genre author—or, he can spend the usual time and, working within the strict requirements of the BigSN form, write better books than he could if he had to churn out ten a year. Somehow, though, the successful BigSN writer never seems to take advantage of this last



The disadvantages of the BigSN are also clear. You can rarely create anything meaningful within the genre, because of its sex requirements. James Jones, Joyce Elbert, Gwen Davis, and a handful of others have now and then come close to bits of art in their BigSN work, but those moments are outweighed, by far, by the unusual BigSN content. Also, while the writers working in other categories are delivering average 60,000-word scripts, the BigSN author must put together a story at least 100,000 words long and preferably 150,000-250,000 words. A 120,000-word novel is not simply twice as hard to write as the 60,000-word book, but geometrically more taxing, because the plot and the character interaction must be several times more complex in order to support these extra pages. Only the profound novel with genuine insights and something important to say can carry this many words; profundity is ruled out for the BigSN author, by the definition of his field. Because the size requirement is difficult to meet, many writers tend to overwrite the BigSN, to puff it up. Often, they lose their perspective after a few books and no longer consciously realize that they are puffing.

Since the advances and royalties in the Rough Sexy Novel field are lower than the average for category work, no one should set out to become a RoughSN writer for money. If you can write a porn novel quickly (a week is not a bad schedule, for the professional in this field), then you can keep your work-reward ration at a reasonable level and you can enjoy other benefits of the field. For one thing, since virtually all Rough Sexy Novels are published under pen names, you can learn to polish your writing while getting paid for the pleasure, and have no fear of damaging your creative reputation. Also, because the RoughSN puts absolutely no restrictions on the writer besides the requirement of regular sex scenes, one after the other, you can experiment with style, try stream-of-consciousness, present tense narrative and other stylistic tricks, to learn if you can make them work. If they fail, you still get your RoughSN money; if they succeed, you can adapt them to serious work, later.

The disadvantages of the RoughSN form are these: low advances; royalties are rarely reported correctly from exclusively RoughSN publishing houses, and often they are not reported at all; you are not building a useful reputation as a writer; you may write so many Rough Sexy Novels that you literally burn yourself out.

Finally, both BigSN and RoughSN authors are subject to boredom with their work. Subconsciously if not consciously aware that their work is strictly formulized and repetitive, having written thousands of sex scenes in what few ways they can be written, they lose interest in producing anything more. And this, for the writer, is the worst fate of all.

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