How Good Writing is Like BDSM

Mr. Smith and I were discussing how to keep a reader hooked this morning over coffee, and I likened good writing to BDSM.

For anyone who doesn’t know, BDSM is an acronym for a specific type of erotic play that may involve any of the following: bondage, dominance, submission and masochism

A good writer, I said, knows how to keep the tension up, even in the lull. The writer’s task is to take control of the reader—keep them on the edge of breaking.

A good writer owns the reader from the first sentence. The reader cracks the book, and the writer cracks the whip. Every good writer should seek domination over their readers.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much the reader/writer relationship is similar to what I understand about BDSM. Submissives say there is freedom in someone else calling the shots.

“For a few hours of play I can lose control in a safe environment. I can be at someone’s mercy and not take charge, and there’s nothing more liberating than that,” says one unnamed sub in an interview with Sarah Brown.

Substitute “reading” for the word “play” in that quote, and it’s what every writer wants to hear about our work. We seek to transport readers to a place where they can experience any horror safely.

I say horror, but I’m not limiting the BDSM reader/writer relationship to my own favorite genre. Every writer must exercise strict control of the reader no matter what genre. Romance writers create a world where no one worries about STDs and pregnancy. Passion is paramount and justifies all logic. Science fiction and fantasy… don’t get me started.

I’m not advocating every writer I know to run out and purchase a latex gimp suit. I’m not even saying how any of us should write. I’m simply making a connection, albeit a colorful one, about the craft of scribbling for fun and profit.

The stereotypical writer is often seen as a socially awkward individual, but get us between the (paper) sheets and find out who’s boss. I may have to get a riding crop for my writing room as a reminder.

(Note: I’m no expert on BDSM, so no private messages about morality or invites, please and thank you.)

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher and author. Her first collection of poetry, In Favor of Pain, was nominated for an 2017 Elgin Award. Her latest novella, Bitter Suites, is a 2018 Bram Stoker Awards® Finalist. Currently, she publishes Space and Time magazine, a 53 year old publication dedicated to fantasy, horror and science fiction. For more information visit SpaceandTimeMagazine.com or AngelaYSmith.com.
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