Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Why I’m addicted to feedback from readers

To me, a story without a reader is incomplete. I want my stories to be read. I want to *know* they are being read. I want to understand the impact of the stories on the reader. That is why I keep my stories on a website that allows comments and part of why I’m a member of the Erotic Readers and Writers Association forum.

Writing is a solitary occupation (not a lonely one - there are too many voices in my head for writing and loneliness to share a room -it's one of the reasons why I write - to keep those voices alive). It takes me weeks to get through a story unless it's one of those "channelled" stories that come from nowhere once in a while.

To keep at it, i need to fall in love with the story. I also need to be able to take the story apart and reassemble it: language, characterization, tense, point of view, plot, pace, tone, timeline etc etc. Both of these activities get me so close to the story that I am incapable of knowing how it will come across to a new reader.

Being in love with the story means I sometimes assume that more is on the page than I've actually put there (backstory that's still in my head, emotions behind the words that haven't made it to the surface, missing details of time and space that will trip the reader up). It also means I read my story with a generous heart and a knowledge of what it aspired to that I cannot expect the reader to share.

Taking the story apart sometimes means I can no longer see the whole. I can't judge the pace or the tension or the level of emotion. I believe that a story read for a second time is no longer the same story. The reader cannot "unknow" the story. Each subsequent reading changes the knowing. So taking the story apart over weeks denies me the experience that a new reader has.

Comments from readers put me in touch with the reader's experience.

No. Stop. That sounds way too academic for what I really mean.

Let me give you a very male analogy here: after the laughter of foreplay, after the fierce heat of the first deep penetration, after the slipping and sliding and groaning and biting, after the thighs tensed and the back arched and the rush of sperm stripped his mind of function for a second or two, at just the point where she is thinking of love or sleep or whether he can do it again, or how he can be done already, he has only one question that he wants to whisper in her ear: "Did you come? Did you come good?"

Stripped of the academic gloss which argues that interactive media enables a creative discourse between writer, written, read and reader, this is the egotistical question the writer-lizard wrapped around my hind-brain want to know the answer to - Did you come good?

I grew up in that "Joy of Sex" generation who poured over drawings that seemed to suggest that a man needed a beard to have good sex but which left me wondering if men washed their beards after oral sex or wore their woman's scent like a cologne - hey, I was sixteen with nothing but hormones, imagination, fear and excitement to guide me- so perhaps my second question is inevitable: "How do I make you come better?"

When I ask this question of readers I want the equivalent to "well that felt nice but if you moved your tongue up a little and used a little more pressure I'd be bouncing against your face".

When I ask this question of another writer I want the equivalent to "if you want to stay hard a little longer, put a finger, yours or hers at the base of the penis just here and press like that."

So what I want from comments ranges from: "this is how your story made me feel" through "this part of your story had my toes curling but around about here I started to compose my shopping list" through "You use language and imagery like whore with a long tongue and lots of practice but your characterization has the authenticity of a blow-up doll with a slow leak."

What comments mean to me is that someone read my stuff and took the time to tell me about what it meant to them. The generosity of that never ceases to amaze me. They help me take a fresh look at what I've written and they help me to improve my craft. Most of all, they keep me writing.

So, if you’re in a mood for commenting or even if you’re just wondering whether my writing would make you come good, pop over to Mike Kimera’s Erotic Fiction, browse the story categories and read something that brings you pleasure.

6 comments:

janeway said...

I've been thinking about this post quite a bit.

It prompted me to review how I read, and now I wonder whether what you are hoping for in comments from readers is perhaps not wholly realistic.

I write also, and spent much of my professional life reviewing and editing, so I am, I think, a bit more sensitive to the bones of the story than the average reader.

But when I'm reading for pleasure, I don't pay conscious attention to anything but whether the story IS a pleasure to read. Unless the writing is really awful or there are egregious errors, my internal feedback is "Did I like it?", not why I did or didn't.

To produce the kinds of comments you're looking for (I think), I'd have to go back and re-read the story with a more editorial approach.

For your stories specifically, I know there are some that I enjoy(ed) more than others, simply because some involve story lines that I don't find arousing. Nonetheless, I think they're all well written and a pleasure to read.

Long answer to a short question! :-)

Mike Kimera said...

Hi Janeway,

I'm grateful to get whatever kind of comment someone wants to offer.

Some people read stories in a critical way by habit. I know when I see a movie, even one that blows me away, part of me is always thinking about how it was done, what made the script work, what was the impact of the lighting or the editing and so on. If people with this mindset want to comment on what they see in my stories then I'd love to hear what they say but i'm not trying to turn this into a chore for people

I'm a member of the Erotic Readers and Writers Association http://www.erotica-readers.com/ and forum they run is an excellent source of crits for a story.I often edit my stories after I get feedback there.

But the feedback I'm most proud of is of quite a different sort: "Soft Options" is a story about a married couple where the man has become impotent. I wrote it because I disliked the idea that all erotica had to be instant erection and because I had some experience of impotence and what it can do to a relationship. I was surprised and moved when I got emails from people saying that the story described their experience and that reading it had made them feel less alone.

"Other Bonds Than Leather" is a story about the first step in a D/s relationship. What pleases me about the feedback here is that people write to tell me that the story captures a lot of how it was for them.

Of course I also value the more technical comments I get on these stories.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to comment here and to visit and comment on my story site. It's much appreciated

Cecilia said...

I have enjoyed your writing for a few years now. You seem to dare to take me places that some other writers only hint at and you do it with a skill that allows me to feel I am not waisting my time.

Thank you for that! I also enjoy your points of view on writing and am glad you are willing to share them.

If you don't mind my asking, knowing what you know now, where would be your first choice to attempt to publish an erotic short story?

Mike Kimera said...

Hi Celia,

thanks for your comments - taking people places is a lot of what I'm hoping to do when I write.

As for publishing an erotic story - my first choice would be www.cleansheets.com but they have limited slots

My first story was published by Lady Jessika at www.adultstorycorner.com.

My advice is to submit the work to sites you would like to read and see what happens.

If you are interested in writing erotica then you might find www.erotica-readers.com to be a useful place to visit. They run a great list for writers

Hapax Legomenon said...

My story site receives a lot of hits and yet very little feedback. But the feedback I receive is always great and hilarious. Very little from females though. (By the way, I assume you have already seen my praise for your fiction ).

From a practical point of view, it's reassuring to hear occasionally from readers. Not only for egotistical reasons, but just to make sure that what I wrote about made sense to readers. Just as literary tastes diverge, people's arousal buttons differ; so while I'm bound to enjoy a Mike Kimera story regardless of whether it arouses me, obviously arousal is a primary goal here. I often wonder: what would a gay person think of my fiction? Or someone from a different generation or culture? I'd like to think that erotic impulses have some universal qualities (just as an appreciation of Chekhov, for example). But the fact is that people under 30 are stimulated by different kinds of things and that reading-for-arousal seems less like perversity than meditation.

I am less confident about my ability to arouse another person than my ability to shake up their perspective. Personally I don't think it's possible for an unknown reader to write that the story was a turn on; at best a reader can say that he/she enjoys the style or the dramatic situation.

But a reader's comments should not overshadow the story itself. It would be nice to see what other readers have said about a story; on the other hand, I want the comments to be visible only if I choose it. Unfortunately, the wordpress software makes it easy to publish and read related comments; but it does not allow you to hide these comments until after you have finished. The hive mind is not particularly gentle regarding affairs of the heart.

hapax legomenon
hapaxlegomenon at
fastmailbox.net

Hapax Legomenon said...

Oops. I gave the wrong link.

Here is the link to my comments on Kimera's fiction .