Daily prompt: Why do I have to have juice when I ordered fish and chips?


I am trying to work up the plot for a novel to keep me entertained through the misery of winter. The characters are all there waving at me. But the plot…

I can tell you what it won’t be, though: it won’t be juicy. I cannot adequately express how fed up I am with finding interminable pages of heavy breathing and bodice ripping, padding out what would otherwise be a good yarn.

I am not a prude, and even if I’d been that way inclined, any prudery I might have had would have been knocked out of me during several years in live theatre and the production and raising of four kids. Rip the odd bodice or two by all means if that’s what’s appropriate, but sticking it in for the sake of it – you think we’re stupid? You think we can’t tell?

What disappoints me most is finding that authors I previously liked have turned 400 pages into 800 pages with detailed descriptions of supersonic sexual gymnastics. If I’d wanted to read about throbbing members, thrusting nipples, electrically-charged shudders and orgasmic eruptions, I wouldn’t be browsing the library shelves marked Detective Fiction, would I. And if the plot itself could sustain 800 pages, they would have come naturally, and I wouldn’t be having to plough through 400 pages of extraneous raunch. (Not that I do, in fact. I skip them and get back to the story.)

There’s obviously a commercial reason for it. Isn’t there always? Working across two genres, perhaps. Cornering the long-haul-flight market. And realistically, who cares if cranky old bats like me find erotica boring and an 800-pages paperback too clumsy to read in bed? We won’t be part of the market much longer. We’ll be dead.


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19 Responses to Daily prompt: Why do I have to have juice when I ordered fish and chips?

  1. Dangerspouse says:

    Hear hear! I hate when a portion of a story’s content is so incongruous that it can only mean the author is making a money grab. What’s sad is, considering its ubiquity it apparently works.

    • And these days, what works is by definition acceptable. Makes me feel very old. Not that I’m given to quavering on about ‘the good old days’ which weren’t necessarily all that good, but the ‘anything goes’ attitude (particularly if it makes money) doesn’t fill me with optimism for the future. I guess every generation feels like that. Doesn’t console me, though.

  2. Have you ever had this happen? You are reading a book, say, one of those 800-pagers, you are in bed, on your back, head propped by a few pillows, holding the novel with your left hand, and turning pages with the right, and suddenly, your wrist gives out and – BOOM – one massive tome, smack-dab on the nose!

    • Not that exactly, but I’m all too familiar with the dangers of nodding off and getting that smack in the head! Safer to lie on your side, I find – but it takes two hands to even hold those monsters open. I guess these days we’re all supposed to have Kindle or the like. I have definitely outlived my comfort zone – but I’m bloody-minded and not intending to roll over and die to suit modern publishing!

  3. Noah Weiss says:

    I never thought about the fact of some books having a lot of extraneous material. And I don’t think it need jut be sexual stuff, but other extraneous annoyances can unnecessarily prolong the book’s length.

  4. AprilEsutton says:

    Can’t believe, I am saying this, but you might want to check the formula for the publishers of the books you like to read. Those bodice rippers follow a very strict formula. It might help with the plot to know what the industry is looking for.

    • I know the bodice-rippers themselves do – Mills & Boon for example – but they’re not what I’m reading – and certainly not what I want to write. (I’d be hysterical before I got halfway.) What really annoys me is when something like the humble detective story becomes “50 Shades of Whodunnit”.

  5. Embeecee says:

    Actually, in my opinion anyway, those authors that rely on a lot of gratuitous sex to sell their book have lost the thread OR are having wicked writer’s block OR have an agent/publisher that insists on X amount of sexual content. Like you I find them boring because even if we ARE ‘old’ and past it and not the target market, we’ve probably been there and done that in most scenarios the writers may describe. For me personally? My adventures are a lot steamier and were a lot more interesting. I feel rather badly for the author who has to throw in coitus as something to flesh out their novel. It tells me that the book was weak and lack luster without the sex. Or that the author is probably burnt out. I’ve stopped reading some authors just for that reason..and the formulaic feel to the whole thing. And sadly science fiction mysteries/thrillers have begun to make sexual congress on every other page a requisite too. Sad.

    • Yes, I’ve stopped reading some authors as well for the same reason – particularly those who used to write good mysteries/thrillers and now rely on interminable sex to make the word count. Bor-ing! And why has the word count doubled? All too often these days i’m sick of the book before I get to end. A lot of authors these days are also employing ghost writers and the result is often disappointing. I blame the publishers though, not the authors. Flogging an exhausted horse springs to mind. Let the poor things retire before they destroy their own reputations.

  6. Same with film. I’ve had sex. Numerous times. I know what it is. When a film gets to those parts, I skip. If it turns out to be little but gratuitous conjugal relations, I bag it. I tend to appreciate the pre-1990s (?) more of panning across floor-strewn garments, the implication of “You know what this is, right? Cool, let’s move on to the story you probably DON’T know.”

    • Exactly! Precisely! It was said a long time ago (don’t remember by whom – someone in theatre, I think) that suggestion and implication were far more effective than graphic expression. Tears held back, a suggestion of flesh rather than the full Monty, a clothes-strewn floor etc. Maybe we’ve lost the art of subtlety – or we’re having it bludgeoned out of us. Subtlety now seems to be the province of ‘Art’ films. Doesn’t say much for society.

      • I can’t say much for “society” as a whole at the moment, though I still have high regard for many of the individuals within it.

      • Susannah says:

        Subtlety is far more titillating than having the details shoved in your face in every chapter, and there’s really only so much an author can say about what is essentially the same bottom line. I get bored with the endless repetition, using essentially the same vocabulary, when I’m reading what might otherwise have been a good novel.

        Note to Authors: Been there, done that, ladies and gents. Moving on….

      • Even the same phrases, sometimes, popping up every 50 pages or so. And forgive me for being cynical (or was I just deprived?) but I do sincerely doubt that the earth can move so shatteringly and so consistently so often. Don’t they ever have off days? Or is it that even in 800 pages normality hasn’t set in yet?

  7. bkpyett says:

    Total agreement! I’m glad you’re settling in for another novel, Helen. I do look forward to reading it.

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