Okay, I admit it. After slogging through (and I do mean slogging as in crawling through quicksand pulling a Volkswagen) the first book of the Fifty Shades series, I am totally bewildered. Why the hell are any of these books on the best sellers’ list?
I don’t usually criticize books. I’ve accepted that not everyone’s taste is the same, and while I love asparagus, I know that other people hate it. The same with sushi. But I always like to examine a wildly successful book for purely selfish reasons. I want my books to be on everyone’s lists, so it’s good to figure out what it is about a certain book (or series) that makes it break out of the pack and leap to the top. Let’s face it. Writing is like living in a vacuum. While wrapped in the creativity process, you’re breathing purified air. How the real world will view your work is always subjective. And it never hurts to give yourself a leg up whenever you can.
I succumbed to the Twilight craze. I’ll even admit that I loved the series. I joined the Amanda Hocking express, and really enjoy her books. I can overlook the simplistic writing, the poor grammar and the bad editing. With both of these authors, they have a skill at telling a story and populate it with wonderful characters. They know how to weave a world that is not familiar to me so that I can suspend belief and enjoy spending time with the vampires, werewolves, trolls and zombies.
Not so with Fifty Shades of Grey. There were so many things wrong with both the plot and the writing style that it was painful to read. And don’t even get me started on the characters. The heroine was a spineless, whiny female who was supposed to be intelligent, witty and beautiful. I know this only because it was repeated so often. She never actually displayed any of these characteristics. Supposedly, she had just graduated from college with a degree in British literature. Why then was the majority of her dialogue made up of such pithy phrases such as “Holy cow”, “Holy shit”, “Holy hell”, “Jeez”, “Oh my” and the ever intellectual “Holy fuck”? That stimulating dialogue is interspersed with constant blushing, extensive eye rolling and lip biting to create a character with the maturity of a twelve year old.
Then there was the “hero”. He was gorgeous, hot and a billionaire. Oh, and the most abusive (both mental and physical) man on earth. The man had so much emotional baggage from his early childhood and later by his teenage relationship with a female predator that he can’t have a normal romance.
That’s it…the entire plot…what the author is passing off as conflict.
Okay, so the writing is horrible, the characters are shallow and uninteresting and the plot is ridiculously weak. What is causing the flood of sales?
Sex. The simple answer is that readers apparently are sucked in (yes, pun intended) by the unending sex. I stopped counting at 15 orgasms. It became like an Olympic event. How many sex acts can be crammed into one chapter? How many orgasms can one woman have? How many pages can be devoted to details of their S&M contract? How can she walk after the marathons of all manner of sexual positions and activities? Oh, and there was the promise of more debauchery to come, i.e. butt plugs and fisting.
They call it “mommy porn”, and I understand the appeal of that. I’ve been writing hot, hot romances for many years. My book Cody’s Last Stand http://www.nightwriter93.com/Cody_s_Last_Stand.html is so steamy I have to read it with the air conditioner on. But E. L. James somehow manages the impossible…she actually makes sex boring. Another orgasm…ho hum…time to repaint the ceiling.
But why is it a best seller? Erotica as a fictional option has been around for hundreds of years. The few samples I’ve read were far better written than Fifty Shades. If all readers are wanting is some hot sex, read Sandra Brown or Barbara Delinsky and…yes, myself. And you’ll have the added benefit of great characters and interesting plots!
And so, I admit I’m completely confused. Kinky sex and multiple orgasms strung together by banal dialogue and silly characters should not make a book a best seller. Readers speak with their pocketbooks, and the message being sent is that bad writing is okay. I, for one, do not agree.