Who do you write for?
General introductory bit:
I’m Kim Dare and as Jan said in her introduction, I write BDSM – mostly M/M, with some M/F and the occasional bit of ménage thrown in for good luck. I also dabble in the paranormal – my obsession of the moment is shifters (wolves, lions and avians so far). When it comes right down to brass tacks – I’ll write a bit of anything as long as it has three components. Kink, love and a happy ending.
Kink, because the dynamic involved in vanilla relationships has always confused the hell out of me, and I firmly believe it’s best to write about a psychology you understand.
Love, because my characters tend to fall in love with each other and demand that they be part of a romance book, regardless of what I intend to write about when I sit down at my desk.
And a happy ending, because, if I want to cry, I’ll watch the news. I write, in large part, to give a happy ending to the kind of characters who don’t tend to receive enough of them in the real world – I’d never sleep at night if I let them down on that score.
Okay, on to the actual article, lol…
There’s a phrase that’s often thrown around when people talk about M/M romance, and that’s that it tends to “be written by women, for women”.
I have to confess it’s not a phrase I like, for a whole host of reasons – all of which probably say more about me than any of the people who really believe that to be the case! But there’s one reason in particular why it’s always confused me. I don’t write for readers – male, female or anything else.
I’m sorry if that sounds bad. I really love all my readers, especially those who get in touch *waves hello*. But I don’t write for readers. I write for characters.
That’s probably at least part of the reason why I didn’t think too much about the labels the books might be placed under after they were published. It turns out that quite a few of my stories tend to be referred to as containing light, gentle, mild, romantic or light-hearted BDSM. People say these stories have a touch, a flavour, or a hint of kink in them. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of that, but since the first book came out (almost eighteen months ago now) I’ve had a little while to ponder on it and here’s what I’ve come up with so far.
As I said at the start, I write first and foremost for my characters. And while I’ve never managed to write an entirely vanilla story, the characters always get to choose how much kink, and what sort of kinks, they are going to indulge in during the book. It means, in effect, that no one gets whipped in my books unless there’s a reason for it.
That doesn’t mean the whip never gets taken out of the toy box – it often does.
If one character is a masochist, the other a sadist, and they know what they’re doing, the fact that they’ll enjoy the whipping is good enough for me. Or, if the submissive in a relationship is new to it all, curious, and wants to find out if they’d enjoy it, that’s fine too.
If an experience sub isn’t particularly masochistic but has nevertheless given his master his free and informed consent to submit to a whipping whenever the dom is in the mood for it, then the fact the dom’s in the mood is sufficient.
Or maybe the submissive doesn’t like pain, but loves the fact that whipping him brings his master pleasure. Maybe that particular submissive takes his pleasure from knowing he has pleased his lover – much the same as the dominant might sit quietly through an entire Lord of the Rings marathon with his submissive, simply because he knows that will please his sub. Those are more than welcome to crack the whip with each other should the occasion arise during the course of the story.
And, yes, if the sub has broken the rules and can’t get past his guilt without paying a physical penance, the whip might mean a simple punishment. I’m okay with that too. These are all great reasons to bring the whip out. Are they reasons I’d put my hand up and say would work for me? No. But they’d work for those specific characters. The whipping scene could move their story forward, it could bring them closer together, tell them more about each other. I’d really enjoy writing all the above scenarios.
But I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never in my life started a new chapter and thought, I bet my readers would really enjoy reading about a whipping here. Who’s going to get it? The thought of treating my characters that way leaves me cold.
The same is true when it comes to the actual characters in the books.
When the reviews and comments came in for one book in particular – Turquoise and Leather – the main thing a lot of people seemed to like about it was that Eric, the submissive, had a strong character and he was never over shadowed by the dominant. There were other people didn’t like that so much – they weren’t even sure I was right to call Eric a submissive.
You see, Eric’s a bit of a brat. He talks too much, usually without thinking first. He’s not afraid to go for what he wants. He’s a little bit snarky, with a questionable sense of humour. He bounces through life, hyperactive and more than a little clueless about half the things he launches himself into.
He’ll never be the ‘ideal’ submissive that tends to be put forward in a lot of books. And that’s fine with me. He’s not that sub, and I’d much rather find a dominant who can love him for who he is rather than try to push him into a cookie cutter mould and refuse to let him say anything but “Yes, sir” from chapter two on.
I don’t care if he’d drive most dominants mad. I found a dominant who can accept him for who he is. In fact - he’s exactly what George needs in his life. They are both going to keep each other on their toes for years. Will Eric change as he gains more understanding about submission? Of course. George starts off knowing a lot about kink, but not a lot about Eric – he’s going to change over time too. But neither of them will ever fit a cookie cutter.
I go through a similar process with each book I write. As corny as it sounds, it feels as if a character turns up inside my head and tells me his life story so far. It’s then my job to find a dominant or a submissive who can make him happy, and live happily ever after with him. I might not be able to give many people happy endings in the real world, but I can do it in books, and I love that.
I hope that readers will love the characters and the way they find happiness with each other too, but I’ve come to the conclusion that if I can only please my characters or my readers, there is only one choice I can make. The characters have to come first.
*Deep breath* I guess this is the point where I should try to put a few labels on my own books. What do I think they are?
The answer’s simple really, and it has nothing to do with how kinky I think they are. I’ve never judged the depth of a person’s submission by how many lashes they are going to take or the strength of their love for their master by how formal the protocols they follow are. I’m not going to start now. Whether they are about life-style submission or characters who just like to pull out the toy box on the weekend, at heart I consider almost all the books I’ve written to be simple, feel good, books.
Deep down, I do hope that, if someone reads one of the books after a hard day at work, that they’ll smile at the end of it. And if a kinky reader happened to reach the end of the book feeling that maybe happy endings are possible for dominants and submissives as well as for the vanilla portions of the population, that would make me a very happy writer indeed.
I write for kinky characters – I help them fall in love and I give them the happy endings they might not find in entirely vanilla books. And I hope that reading about those happy endings makes readers a little bit happier too.
Yep, I think that sums it all up, quite well. That’s who I write for.