Monday, November 23, 2009

Taboo or Not Taboo. That is the...Aw You Get it!

by Naima Simone

A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a fellow reader about Nalini Singh’s first book in her new paranormal series, Angel’s Blood. We are both Nalini Singh fans but she admitted she couldn’t read Angel’s Blood. As a Christian she didn’t agree with Nalini Singh's use of archangels as protagonists. It offended her.


That started me thinking.

Are there certain things, as writers, that are taboo? Are there particular subjects, topics and beings that are off limits?

I’ll be honest. I’m a Christian, too, but I wasn’t offended by the archangels. They were terrifying, beautiful and powerful creatures that set the stage for a unique and awesome book. But I’ll also confess that years back I had to shut off the movie, City of Angels, with Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan half way through. I don’t know if the notion of an angel giving up his immortality for a human woman troubled me or if it was Nicholas Cage’s acting…no offense to any Nick Cage fans. But he needs to stick to one-liners and blowing stuff up, not drama.

Alas, that’s another blog…

What is taboo, though, and who decides whether it’s forbidden or not? A few years ago BDSM in romance novels was taboo, but today, some people wouldn’t consider it a full love scene without a little slap and tickle. I remember the first time I came across anal sex in a love scene. I had picked up Cheyenne McCray’s Forbidden Magic. Imagine me sitting under the hair dryer at the salon reading about demon sex then suddenly…What the…? He put his what WHERE?? I was floored! Today? Not so much.

It’s a slippery slope when we begin to limit ourselves. Yes, we have to consider who we’re writing for and if it’s sellable. On the other hand, if we allow that to rule our creativity, those exceptional and wild ideas aren’t given the opportunity to be birthed. Then we lose out on Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters, Lora Leigh’s Breeds…C.S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.

This is my opinion and only mine. Do I believe there are some lines that don’t need to be crossed? Yes. There’s nothing romantic about a grown man and a child. There’s nothing sensual about a woman and an animal—and I’m not talking about the kind that morphs from man to wolf during the full moon! Here’s my rule of thumb as a writer. I don’t write for just me because I’m not an island. When I write, I think of “the other”. The person who will read the book and walk away uplifted, believing love and good will always conquer evil. The person who will read a love scene and feel the sharing, sacrifice and desire one partner has for the other. If the reader closes the book or file experiencing this, then whether it’s an archangel, vampire, or huge talking lion we should have the freedom to write without limitation.

Do you believe there are taboo subjects and lines that shouldn’t be crossed as a writer?


Debra Glass said...

Criminal behaviors aside, I think today's readers are looking to have their boundaries pushed. That's the beauty of 21st century romance novels - there's something for everyone out there!

- And Naima - it must have been Nick Cage's acting. (I'm tired of his Elvis on weed impersonation, too.) Gabriel Yared's score kept me watching City of Angels.

Wynter Daniels said...

Good post! As a writer, something that I find taboo personally will never make it into one of my books, but the line is definitely blurry for the romance books out there.
But particularly with paranormal romance, the reader must suspend disbelief and enter that world the author created. I don't really get why anyone would be offended at concepts like imperfect angels. After all, it's fiction, not an attempt to rewrite fact.
Glad to have you here, Naima!

Naima Simone said...

Hi, Debra!
I, too, believe readers are looking to have their boundaries pushed whether they know it or not. I wouldn't have thought of a world with vampires, hunters and Greek gods that still existed until Sherrilyn Kenyon introduced it. For me Greek gods were relegated to mythology but she breathed new life into it. Even with contemporary, there are certain subjects that people believe shouldn't be touched. I don't agree with that. Let's not only touch it but reveal and discuss it.

Thanks for stopping by, Debra.

P.S.-Thank you for backing me up on the Nicholas Cage thing! LOL!

Savannah Stuart said...

Love your post! If something bothers me, like your friend, I just won't read or watch whatever it happens to be b/c those are just MY perceptions. I'm not big into menages so I don't spend time reading them. But, I don't think it should be considered taboo or not allowed to be written. I love it when authors push boundaries and good call on Sherrilyn Kenyon. That woman is brilliant and I can't imagine my bookshelves without all the Dark Hunters :)

Naima Simone said...

Exactly, Wynter!
Oh and hi!! LOL!
It's fiction! The intent isn't to denegrate or mock or even convert someone! It's to supply a few hours relief from the real world and invite you to a place of magic, love, war and victory. If someone had decided vampires were a no-no because they were soul-less beings, we would've missed out on a huge genre!! Heaven forbid!! I luvs me an Alpha, shape-shifting, accent-having, sexy, long-haired vampire. *sigh* Did I cover all the bases?? LOL!

Naima Simone said...

Hi, Savannah!
I completely agree-especially about the bookshelves and Sherrilyn Kenyon!! LOL!

My mother said it best. Books are like cable-there's a channel for everyone. If you don't like it, you have about 109 other stations to choose from! LOL! It's a choice, and my preference will not be the same as someone else's, but I don't believe that means a particular book or genre shouldn't be written.

Christine said...

Right now I have a category romance entry in the Golden Heart about a Shock Jock who reviews vibrators and advocates celibacy for her female listeners... sigh... I'm sure one of my judges will be sitting under a dryer getting her blue hair permed and her sensibilities will be quite floored when she reads the hot tub scene with a waterproof toy and her very helpful live helper (and guardian). I don't know why I wrote this book, I just had to do it. It's their story. *shoulder shrug*

I draw the line at criminal behavior--and if I am not comfortable reading it, I won't write it either. But I have very wide boundaries (and like Naima, I am a Christian with an open mind).


Naima Simone said...

Hi, Christine!
LOL! Okay, let me just say I will be the first in line to buy your book!! LOL! The hot tub scene sounds WHOO-HOO!!! That could help out someone's love life if they allowed it! That's a boundary pusher and I say good for you! Now..hey...if you wanted me to critique this scene for you...hee-hee-hee!!

Adele Dubois said...

Naima--My tastes in reading have changed over the years. I'm sure the stories I write as time passes will change, too. Story elements I might not have considered writing before might appear in later books. Who knows? The possibilities keep the process exciting.


Naima Simone said...

Hi, Adele!
I didn't consider that. But you are absolutely right. Our experiences as we grow and mature and change also influence our writing. Not only does it keep the process exciting, but fresh!

Thanks for stopping by, Adele!
Happy Thanksgiving!!