Pushing The Envelope

I've thought about it and that statement does leave some open ends.

So what the heck does it mean, anyway? Every time I read the guidelines for erotic fiction, I see the words, pushing the envelope and I have related that to explicit sex scenes. However, I feel it means much more than the ability to write edgy graphic sex.

Pushing the envelope is not entirely about what you can pull off or get away with sexually. I've read erotic stories that have good sex but the plot is nil or not there, the characters flat. I didn't like it. I love deep characterization, no matter what level of sex the story contains.  

I study a lot about developing characters and I read this somewhere--  pushing the envelope is also about taking your characters to another level of conflict, about challenging their self-awareness. It should be about forcing them into taking a stand or making a choice or defending their decisions. It’s about showing them a pleasure that changes their lives forever. Maybe that’s the real test of boundaries, the real show of edginess, keeping it all about your characters no matter what."

When you think about it, that's the way it should be for all good writing. So what are your thoughts and ideas on this subject? Does anyone have more to add?



Kat said...

I have never enjoyed reading books where sex is the only thing there. Without a story to engage you, the book fast becomes boring. In fact, I have been reading romance novels for so many years now that I actually skip past the sex scenes no matter how well written they are just to get back to the story. Of course, I don't skip the sex scenes when writing. LOL

J.A. Saare said...

I think you know how I feel about this, but I'll share. ;-)

To me, you have erotica and you have porn.

Erotica = story + emotion + sizzling sex.

Porn = weak plot + sizzling sex + explicit/lewd acts that are kinda icky.

Each has their place, but if I want to read porn, I'll just ask the hubs to rent some on the way home (kidding!).

I think as erotica has become popular, people are trying to shock the reader into remembering them. Usually this is best done by writing the most unforgettable scene imaginable.

While I'm all for blistering sex, sometimes it can be a tad much. I'm a sucker for romance.

Suzanne Jones said...

Character and story is so important, but J.A. Sarre above has said exactly what I think (and put it much better than I ever could).


Suzanne Jones said...

I'm so sorry, have spelt J.A. Saare wrong on previous comment. Some days I shouldn't be allowed out.


J.A. Saare said...

Hey Suzanne,

Just call me Jaime. ;-) Nice to meet ya!

Shelley Munro said...

Sometimes books are really hot and there's not much in the way of love scenes at all. This tells me it's not the sex but the connection between the characters that draws me in. Not that I don't enjoy a hot and steamy scene.

For me, pushing the envelope is writing a book "my" way even if the rest of the world is doing it differently. It's writing something different and fresh that makes readers see romance in a different way.

Emma Lai said...

Love the post, Kaye. It really makes you think. To me pushing the envelope also means pushing my comfort zone regardless of where the rest of the industry is.

Debs said...

I agree that you need solid characters and a well throught out plot as well as sex to make a book worth reading.

I think I need to remember to push the envelope with my writing. Like this.

Linda Banche said...

I think you've hit on the key point of the entire "lots of sex/little sex" debate. Erotic romance, as I understand it, is romance, which means the characters make a commitment to each other, and it changes their lives. If they don't make that comitment, the story is, depending on the degree, erotica or porn. There's also something called romantica, and I'm not sure what that is.

That said, I don't care for books where half the pages are detailed descriptions of sex. I want the story, and I feel cheated if there's too little story. I don't write much sex. I want romance.

Christina Phillips said...

I love your take on what pushing the envelope means, Kaye. Explicit sex scenes, no matter how beautifully written, leave me cold without the underlying emotional intensity that comes from caring about those individual characters I'm reading about. I agree it means much more than the ability to write edgy, graphic sex.

Kaye Manro said...

Wow! What great comments everyone! You've got to know how much I appreciate hearing what you think.

Kat, I think that means the story is well written!

Jaime, I love the way you express what you are thinking and you told exactly what I wanted you to tell.

Suzanne, you also have great opinions too.

Shelley, I always love hearing what you have to say! This is a good subject for your comments too.

Emma, good to hear your voice on this as well.

Debs, solid characters is the key I think too.

Linda, Romantica is erotic with lots of romance-- always romance. I enjoyed your view as well because you don't write erotica!

Christina, points we all need to remember for sure!

Thanks to all for adding so much to this post.

Cari Quinn said...

Sorry I'm so late, Kaye, but this was a great post. I'm thinking a lot about these issues lately and what it means for my own writing.