What do my fellow writers think of Adult Content?
This is a serious question, undertaken after serious reflection and following a discussion on my own site (here's a link http://gavinwilliams.digitalnovelists.com/node/544).
Web Fiction has a small (but growing) audience. My own writing seems well-respected, but the audiences appears not just small, but teeny-tiny. I've given some thought to what makes Web Fiction audiences grow.
To some extent, the most popular sites also do more advertising. It's very difficult for me to do that. But even after a round of advertising, the audience doesn't grow very much. What makes readers stay, and then make a story's popularity take off? Good content -- well, I don't get many complaints, and often rave reviews. So that's not it. More advertising? That's on a contingency basis, doing it when I can. Networking? I'm a regular contributor to Web Fiction Guide, and comment on other blogs and Novelr, etc. So what else is there for options?
The two stories that come to mind when someone says "popular web fiction" would be Tales of MU, by Alexandra Erin (www.talesofmu.com) or my host, MeiLin Miranda and the Intimate History stories. If anyone is as popular or more popular, let me know.
Both of them are fantasy based stories (magic, etc.). One of them is about college and the other about politics (if you want the most general summary ever). They're both about young people with active sex lives with partners in both genders. The two stories don't have a lot in common, except perhaps the niches of fantasy, gender, and sexuality.
However, the heterosexual and homosexual sex in the Intimate Histories doesn't come across as a character development issue, as it seems largely accepted in the story's culture. In Tales of MU it's more important, as there's more discussion about gender roles, equality, acceptance, intolerance, etc.
My point is, both of these stories are well-written fantasy, but there are other well-written fantasies out there. Are they popular because they have sexual content?
Intimate History doesn't really have a "key demographic" niche to aim at -- while the protagonist is young (so therefore some young people like it) the content is also historical, political and erotic.
ToMU, however, has some major niches -- beyond gender and race, it also addresses Dungeons and Dragons and gamer fans, as well as the Harry Potter crew now growing up. It's also more specifically college, which has its own culture too.
So, First Question: What makes popular Web Fiction popular?
Is it finding the right niche(s)? Because there's lots of well-written content. Is it sexuality? Because a lot of the best written stuff on WFG doesn't have sex, but isn't as popular either. What are your opinions?
Do I want to include sexual content just to be popular? No, I don't. That in fact would be a reason NOT to do it. Popularity for its own sake is a little shallow and not a goal I've ever pursued. I just bring it up as part of the debate: is adult content worth having, and what will its impact be?
So what would be a good reason to have adult content? Are there good reasons? Is it just pandering to the lowest common denominator? Here are some of my thoughts, and I'm hoping for opinions from all of you:
1. Writing should reflect life. I don't particularly like swear words or violence, but I include vulgar language where it's appropriate for certain characters and their personalities. And violence occurs so often in my writing that I'm not sure how opposed to it I really am, on a subconscious level. Both are used as suits the plot and the characters, however, so the story has realistic action. Well, sex is a part of life, and writers should be able to capably write about anything in life.
2. Fans might want it. I don't mean that in the "pandering" sense either; I'm not talking about including sexual content to gather new readers. I'm saying, what if actual current readers would like to see how well an author writes such content, for characters they care about?
3. It's good to do what scares you. My stories often wrestle with morality, spirituality, relationships, violence and culture, and are ways that I grapple with tough issues. Should I avoid this one just because it's labelled "mature" by our culture? That doesn't seem the most mature way of handling it. Does anyone else think about doing this because they haven't done it before, or is that just my own weird quirk?
There are a host of reasons not to do it -- I don't want to pander. I don't know if I can even write it well. I don't know if I want to at all. Personal beliefs religious, privacy, legal, audience's age, or otherwise.. Not wanting to risk harming the quality of the story. Etc. etc. etc.
I'm not really getting anywhere talking to myself on this topic. So what are your opinions? I might totally ignore the results, but I want to hear people's thoughts.
What makes Web Fiction popular? Is it adult content? What does that say about what we're doing? What are the reasons for/against adult content? And anything else the rest of you can come up with...