Writing Right with Dmitri: What Kind of Porn Are You Writing?

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Writing Right with Dmitri: What Kind of Porn Are You Writing?

Editor at work.

Does that question shock you? 'Oh, no,' you insist. 'I would never write pornography.' Well, let's talk about it, shall we?

All writing falls into one of three categories:

  1. Report writing. This includes anything from news to military dispatches to archival material. The only purpose of this kind of writing is to store data for future use, or make it available to others.
  2. Educational writing. This kind of writing aims to enlighten, to teach, to get the reader from here to there. It could be a course in 'how to', or a Guide Entry, or a novel that changes the reader's mind in some way. If it does more than merely inform, it's educational.
  3. Porn. Writing intended to titillate.

'Now, wait just a gosh-darned minute,' you protest. 'Porn is about sex. Sex, sex, sex. Not just titillation.'

That's your definition. My definition of porn is 'Writing intended to titillate – to fulfill the reader's inner need to drool over the details of a scenario in order to satisfy a fantasy desire.' By my definition, the following genres are pure porn:

  • Those gosh-awful 'nature documentaries' on TV that concentrate on the alleged 'struggle for survival' to the exclusion of all other forms of animal behaviour. Elektra rightly calls this stuff 'predator porn'. Watching lions eat zebras…chameleons gulp butterflies…sharks swallow just about everything…
  • Movies, novels, and even factual books about corporate takeovers, high-level business deals of all kinds, or even government manipulation. Anything that dwells heavily on the attraction of power and money.
  • Gourmet cooking shows featuring agonised contestants trying to please insane chefs. Or people gorging themselves on outré forms of 'food'.
  • Any 'reality' show.
  • Fantasy novels in which the main characters engage in 'quests' for fun and profit, and ALWAYS achieve their hearts' desires.

You catch my meaning? Take 'reality' shows. Why are they scripted the way they are? Because the audience wants predictability. They want to gasp on schedule. They want to drool over the defeat/embarrassment/disappointment of some total stranger. If you watched the first-ever 'reality' series – and I did – you could predict every single one that came after. (And I did.) This is as true of the desert-island macho shows as something as seemingly benign as 'Say Yes to the Dress'. (Yes, there is actually a TV show in which you watch people buy wedding dresses. See my comments from six years ago, and my proposal, which still stands.

If you are writing in this way…if you are delivering the predictable punch at the predictable moment to push the reader's buttons…well, then you're writing Porn. Now, I didn't say you shouldn't do it. I didn't say it was illegal, immoral, or fattening. I'm just saying that you should ask yourself why.

Are you:

  • Getting paid for this? Then by all means, give the client what they want. They're cutting the cheques.
  • Fulfilling the deep-seated need for a special audience for your own personal profit or satisfaction? Then…might you begin to question your motives here?
  • Writing this sort of thing because you're in a rut? Might be time to shake up the brain cells.

Admittedly, a lot of porn gets written because it pays. And most of it isn't illegal.

But if you've got a choice…? Try not clicking on the 'quick fix' button. Try being educational. What can be learned on the road from page 1 to page 101?

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Dmitri Gheorgheni

20.07.15 Front Page

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