The Trouble With Spanking Romance
Spanking Romance is more difficult to write than vanilla romance for one reason: readers want to read about a deserving heroine being disciplined by her lover. Sounds hot, right? Of course. Writing a spanking romance means that it is your responsibility to concoct a scenario in which there is some reason for the heroine to be spanked. And that is where the difficulty comes in, because you have to write a character who is naughty enough to be spanked, but not so flawed that people think spanking is too good for her. And you have to write a top who is dominant enough to make the juices flow, but not so dominant that he’d be slapped with a restraining order in real life. It’s a fine line – and it has a whole lot of even finer hairline cracks running off of it.
If the heroine is too naughty as a result of ineptitude, she becomes more an object of pity and concern than a relatable figure. Anastasia in Fifty Shades of Grey begins her journey by being unable to brush her own hair or walk through a doorway without tripping. I stopped reading at that point, because it was obvious that Christian’s attraction to her had to be based on the fact that she had the motor skills of a two hour old foal. Obviously this didn’t dissuade many tens or hundreds of thousands of other readers, but it was an issue for me, ’cause when you’re a reader, you get to be picky. When you’re an author, you know that the reader has the right to be picky, and you also know that there’s no way on earth to satisfy everyone. (In fact, satisfying one reader may very well cause other readers to hate your face, but that’s another post.)
If a heroine’s naughtiness is based on a character flaw like being selfish or spoiled, that will work, but you better find a whole lot of redemption somewhere along the line. The Brat, the Bodyguard and the Bounty Hunter is one book I wrote where I used the poor spoiled little rich girl archetype, which made for some scenes of much deserved and very sound bare bottom spanking. The heroine Fiona might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that doesn’t matter because she probably owns the field your tea was grown in anyway.
If the heroine actually isn’t all that badly behaved, you run the risk of having the spanker hero perceived as a domineering monster. A lot of people actually quite like domineering monsters, but an equal number of people are horrified by them, so you can end up caught between two stools if your top is perceived as more of an asshole than a dominant. This applies to female tops too.
Sometimes it is interesting to see how a dominant is perceived by readers. It can be quite different than the way the author intended. Ayla, the ancient forest witch from ‘Over Witch’s Knee‘ kidnaps the heroine Atrocious and seduces her immediately. Her motivations for this are dubious at best, but she’s just so charming that people seem to forgive her, even when it turns out that she has a tendency to sell her pets (and by pets, I mean the waifs and strays she seduces) to traveling warrior women.
It’s also possible to throw caution to the wind and simply have your heroine be a hilariously messed up wreck. Zora Matthews from the Military Discipline series fits that role perfectly. Yes, she’s a mathematical savant, but she’s also a drunk, disobedient to a fault and basically the hero’s worst nightmare. The relationship between Brett Savage and Zora is somewhat akin to the relationship between a firefighter and a burning coal seam. But hey, it works for them.
And finally, there’s the ‘that’s just how things are done here’ line of attack, which I took in Mail Order Brat. Yes, Annika is feisty and naughty, a tough little survivor who does what needs to be done, but even if she weren’t, most everyone in Sweetville gets spanked anyway. Even the women who don’t spend Sunday Church sessions making paper planes to throw at the pastor.
It ain’t easy being naughty, that’s what I’m saying – and it even ain’t easier, wait, ain’t even… hmm… let’s just say it’s no easier on the top side. Just as well it’s fun!