By Mara Malins
“In a perfect world, you could fuck people without giving them a piece of your heart. And every glittering kiss and every touch of flesh is another shard of heart you’ll never see again.”
― Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders.
I don’t know about you but when I see a call for submissions I can tell within the first few lines whether it’ll work for me or not. I either have that bam! moment or I don’t. If I do, then I have to scribble the idea down immediately before it melts away. The need to write is intense. I get irritable and distracted, not able to focus on anything but that one idea jumping around in my head like a scratched CD.
If I don’t have that bam! moment then I know that even if I attempt to write something, ignoring that heavy reluctance in my stomach, then without a doubt it’ll be a stinker.
For INKarnate, the bam! moment came immediately. I knew straight away what I wanted from my story because I’d just read—literally ten seconds before P&K’s blog post!—a Neil Gaiman quote that fitted the guidelines so perfectly. It was almost deliciously prophetic. The first line in particular resonated with me; “In a perfect world, you could fuck people without giving them a piece of your heart…”
All too often we’re told that one off encounters—one-night stands, booty calls and the like—can be emotionless and purely practical. Just two people getting their rocks off together, taking what they need in that one hot moment. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Sexual freedom is the very best symptom of a liberal society.
And in a perfect world it would be exactly that; emotionless and practical.
But Neil Gaiman’s world isn’t perfect. And neither would mine be in INKarnate.
I’m not talking love and forever—though that’s where my story ultimately leads—but I wanted to explore the idea that even when two people seem to share a mutual dislike, even when they agree it would be nothing more than sex between them, even then it can’t just be physical. Emotions inevitably play a part because the world isn’t perfect. It isn’t clean cut. We’re not robots.
I’ve read some absolute gems in erotica, stories that have hooked me in from the very first paragraph. I’ve also read some stinkers. The stinkers are, for me, invariably the type of stories where two people meet up, have the wildest, kinkiest sex known to men… and that’s it. It’s dull. Uninteresting.
In INKarnate, Emily takes from Matt. She takes his power, his experience, his raw sexuality to explore her own sexual needs. She takes from him even when she’s not too sure she even likes him. This should be a classic case of an emotionless tryst… and yet she gives her trust, her innocence, her desire to experience more to him. There’s an emotional swap that binds them together in that moment, a swap that continues into the ‘ever after’, and—I hope—that’s what makes my story interesting and readable. At least, that’s what I was going for.
That was my bam! moment for INKarnate. I wrote with that quote—and Cori’s submission guidelines—in my mind the entire time. Funnily enough, I don’t think I was entirely successful in getting what I wanted across in this one. I think the idea of the physical versus the emotional is much stronger in the second story of the series, INKapable, but… you win some, you lose some. Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you don’t. C’est la vie.
I’d be really interested in hearing what other people’s bam! moments are when writing, and how you explored them. Hit me up at @maramalins (twitter) or at my website (maramalins.com) and let me know!
Mara Malins writes romantic fiction using words that your grandmother doesn’t know. An avid gamer, she battles spreadsheets by day and fiction by night. She lives in Manchester, England with her menagerie of three cats, two turtles, a social media loving partner, and a disobedient garden. If you want to know when her next fiction is released, or see thousands of pictures of her cats sleeping in a variety of different poses, find her on Twitter or Goodreads.