Ins and Outs of M/M Romance: Writing BDSM by James Buchanan

James Buchanan is a multi-published author of primarily homoerotic romance & fiction. He writes original erotic GLBT fiction, or what he says is gay porn with plot. James’ stories are homosexual fiction (some call it slash from the Male/Male designation) of the romantic flavour and he has also written pansexual and/or bisexual stories.

James is one of my favourite authors and also “go to” expert whenever I have a question about BDSM in M/M romances because he is regarded as an expert in this field. He hasn’t steered me wrong  so far. I asked James to write another post about BDSM because the last one linked here was so well received it’s on the site as one of our most popular posts. Obviously many of you want to read what he has to say. So here’s his newest post on a topic some M/M authors write about, but really shouldn’t.

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Not everyone can, or should, write BDSM.

What?

What?

You all say.  Isn’t this a blog about how to write M/M BDSM?

And my answer is, “Yes, but…”

I will admit to a subtle bias when I write these HOW TO type posts. My dear Papi points it out every time I do such a post and I have to go in and scrub my sentences so I don’t offend people.

For Jessewave, I’m putting the black leather gloves on, shoving my feet into my boots and tapping the riding crop on my thigh. It is time for some tough love, baby.

While I don’t want to be cruel, some BDSM stories should never be written. Especially some of those featuring gay characters.

Submissive men are tough-ass bastards. Even if they out Diva Ru Paul, they are hard-core in the bedroom. And just because a guy flames brighter than Haley’s Comet doesn’t mean he’s submissive. The desire to inflict/receive pain, humiliation and discipline has little to do with whether the character identifies as hyper-masculine or drop dead drag queen.  There are subs and Doms on both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between.

Kink is dirty, nasty, outright “piggy” if you will. This is why BDSM is often called “The Rough Trade.”

Deal with it. Embrace it or get the hell out.

If you don’t like the idea of Kink/BDSM, if you would never, ever let someone smack your ass or tie you up — Don’t fucking write about it. You will get it wrong. It will suck. You will create dangerous and ridiculous scenarios that will cause anyone who has half a clue about Kink to toss the book across the room. Close that document and walk away from the keyboard.

This doesn’t mean you have to be a practitioner, but if you can’t even imagine why it would be hot, then how the hell do you expect me to think your story is hot?

Next, get out of the dungeon and into the characters’ heads. It ain’t about the toys. At. All.

The why, not the what, matters most.

You can write an entire BDSM discipline scene with no toys whatsoever.  Hardcore BDSM is not about what you do. It is who you are. You can put a little slap and tickle into a story where the characters are exploring without making it part of the emotional make up of the character. But if you’re writing guys who have a collection of whips and handcuffs – then it is part of their basic characterization.

Think about it. Explore your own psyche when you’re writing BDSM. If it hurts and you still like it…that’s a good thing. You’ve keyed into your inner sub.

Also, Dominants are not psychic assholes who immediately know what’s best. As a Dom, I am always confident. I am always respectful. I understand and acknowledge that I have limits. I respect the hell out of my submissive and I am humbled by his trust in me.

Whoa, what a concept…humility in a Dom.

Two Doms who totally get this are Dart http://dartsdomain.typepad.com/ and Tony Buff http://tonybuff.com/ They swagger, they’re smug, they reek confidence…neither of them are assholes. But as you read through their blogs you get how much they care about those who serve them.

If some schumck in leather swaggered up to my guy and whispered, “I’m in charge and you don’t get to say no…” I’d laugh so hard, I’d be crying. My submissive would be right there with me. And because my sub is a real person and knows half of any scene is on him, he’d look at the guy and tell him to bugger off. That hyper-confidant attitude is so pretentious. Pretentious Dominants are idiots who neither deserve nor get respect.

Equally, the collar, the mark of the submissive, does not mean open season. Even an unattached submissive is entitled to respect and basic human courtesy. They are strong willed. They understand that shit gets fucked up. They have doubts and insecurities, but they are not broken people. BDSM, after all, is not a mental health cure.  For insights into what the strong submissive male looks like, I’d suggest maymay’s blog: http://malesubmissionart.com/

Practitioners do not stop being people. Let your characters be people. Doms have bad days. Subs sometimes aren’t in the mood. If they have a relationship outside the Kink dynamic they have to work at it. A good session of bondage does not cure the frustration of living with a guy who can’t pay his rent on time, leaves wet bath towels on the floor or forgets a birthday.

If you come at BDSM/Kink from the basic precept that you are writing human beings FIRST, you’ll be okay. After that it’s a matter of research on what the toys are and how to use them. Listen to people in the scene – this is the internet age, we all have blogs.  The guy going through “Puppy Training” http://puppywadd.blogspot.com or Chris Yosef http://chrisyosef.blogspot.com balancing his submission and his spiritual quest.

And oh, my God, don’t be so freaking serious about it all. Laugh. Have fun. Be safely creative. Seriously, even in Mr. Leather contests they get silly:

If you can laugh at that you may just be able to write good BDSM.

James Buchanan’s Contact Information

www.jamesbuchanan.com
email:eroticjames@gmail.com


Author

I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball

johnnypenn
I find that a lot of writers who write their version of bdsm don’t actually practice it. It’s just something they’re interested in but are too afraid to try it out in their personal lives. Which makes sense because I wouldn’t want to be tied up by someone I didn’t have absolute trust in. I find that sometimes, in BDSM that I read – the trust aspect isn’t there – I think that writing a scene between the characters must include trust otherwise how is the scene viable to reality? Also – BDSM scenes can show character. It isn’t about… Read more »
Dilo

Fantastic post! I think this captured the important points:

“. . .You will get it wrong. It will suck. You will create dangerous and ridiculous scenarios that will cause anyone who has half a clue about Kink to toss the book across the room.”

Some people get the toys right, but the mindset wrong. Some get the attitude right, but mangle the techniques. Recently, after I gave “technical” advice to someone, she concluded that she shouldn’t try writing BDSM. Good for her!

edenwinters

I adore a good BDSM story, especially one that centers on the personal dynamics between the characters, but would never attempt to write it. I applaud those, like yourself, who can.

So you keep writing ’em, I’ll keep reading ’em. Excellent post.

Josephine Myles
Great post, James. I haven’t delved into the world of BDSM literature yet (bar a few short stories), but I’ll make sure I read some of yours when I do. I think any writers who are thinking more about the kink and toys than the characters would probably be best laying off the writing full stop. If you can’t treat your own characters like real people with a full range of needs and wants, then how can you expect readers to engage with them? If I ever decide I want to write BDSM (hey, stranger things have happened), then I’ll… Read more »
James Buchanan

Josephine, BDSM/Kink is fun to write about. The headspace is fun and it’s a cool dynamic. Like everything else to make it good/believable requires some work.

Mark Alders
You are so right, James. If you can’t stand the idea of being smacked or tied up, don’t write about it. BDSM does NOTHING for me. Someone smacked me they’d get a vegemite sandwich upside the head! My idea of kink is trying to untie the headphone cord on my iPod! Seriously. Look, I have a weird and wacky, sometimes dark and twisted, sense of humour (just ask Jenre) but I would never, ever write about snacking or tying up or D/s or whipping. Why? Because I know nothing about it. I don’t practice it. And I’m not in the… Read more »
James Buchanan

Hopefully, Mark, the Vegemite didn’t get in the handlebar mustache…course that could be a kink all on it’s own there.

Mark Alders

LOL!

Trust me, getting a vegemite sandwich like that from a bear like me isn’t good 🙂

…Then again, food and sex is something different entirely! Two of my favourite things, really. Maybe a vegemite sandwich from me could be a good thing! Or at least the start of something interesting…

LOL

*hugs*

Mark

Jenre
Mark: vegemite *shudder*. I’ll be sure to keep my spanking hand away from you then :). James: Very interesting post. I have to admit I’m totally ignorant about the BDSM lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean I sometimes have my sceptical hat on when I read some things in BDSM books. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve wished to be a fly on the wall at a BDSM club just to see whether half the stuff I read in m/m romance actually happens in RL. I suspect not. There are, however, some authors who I know I can… Read more »
James Buchanan

Jenre, from what I’m lead to understand…a BDSM dungeon is not half as interesting as they’re made out to be…

Which is why I wont likely ever set a positive scene in one. I have no interest in that part of the lifestyle, to a certain extent the idea of it creeps me out — and that would definitely show if I wrote it. Fetish Fairs, flea markets, small get togethers yes…play space no.

Tam

I am sooooo bringing that Vegemite to SF so I can do yet another blog post about it. Kris in extasy, you grossing out, Tracy vomiting. It’s going to be a blast. LOL

James Buchanan

Tam that whole Vegemite thing is a little kinky you know.

Tam

Huh. It did sound kinky. LOL But hey, it’s San Francisco. 😉

Jenre

cruel, cruel, lady!

Jeff Erno
“BDSM is not about what you do. It is who you are.” Wow! This statement says it all. It seems to me (in my humble opinion) that those who do not understand BDSM do not fully comprehend this truth. The problem with fiction is that we often want to create characters who are appealing to ourselves or our readers, rather than portraying a realistic dynamic. If you can wrap your mind around the concept that a D/s relationship is not as much about “the exchange of power” as it is about two I/individuals completing one another by fulfilling each other’s… Read more »
James Buchanan

hey Jeff, glad you stopped by.

If you can wrap your mind around the concept that a D/s relationship is not as much about “the exchange of power” as it is about two I/individuals completing one another by fulfilling each other’s basic needs, then you’re at least to the halfway point of “getting it”.

I’d say it’s pretty much both. That exchange of power is what the characters need to complete themselves.

Ingrid

Sound advice James. I guess everyone can write about werewolves but not about bdsm. And certainly not because it is the current hype in m/m writing. I do not understand how one could write about it when not liking the idea.
Personally I prefer the headspace over the toy books.

James Buchanan

Ingrid, I’m not sure everyone can write about werewolves, or vampires or stockbrokers either.

Like anything else it’s getting into the head of a character and making their actions/motivations believable in context. Most writers don’t put enough thought into characters period, much less sub-specialties (or species). The farther you get into specialized careers or lifestyles the more that lack shows.

Granted with werewolves you can make most of it up…but you still kinda have to imagine being one to write one.

Angie

One can only hope that some of the writers who need to read this are actually reading it. If you don’t get it, then you’re writing stereotypes and charicatures. But the people who don’t get it don’t seem to get that they’re not getting it. :/

Angie

James Buchanan

that does seem to be the big problem, Angie.

Angelia Sparrow

Good column. Totally out of my realm of experience, but an interesting look at the way kink probably should be done.
(I had the “no safeword and you don’t tell me no” mindfucker of a top. I was 20, didn’t know better and thought it was hot.)

James Buchanan

ew, bad experience.

AJ Llewellyn
Many authors who write BDSM know nothing about it. This is the sad truth. I was on a chat recently with an author who claims to be heavily involved with the BDSM community and I asked her about the “puppy” concept and how it works in conjunction with a Sir/boy relationship. She had no idea what a puppy was. She actually said she’d never heard of this. She thought I was referring to an actual dog. I think Tony Buff’s tweets and his site, are a great resource for authors. Also his boy Chris Yosef (a wonderful writer BTW) has… Read more »
James Buchanan

(hhhMMMM and don’t know why this posted ABOVE AJ’s comment — so edited and put below)

AJ, I think Buff and all his boys (Chris Yoseph, Element, Derk, Timmy…etc) are all on twitter. And they have some good tweets. Another I follow for the fun of it is http://twitter.com/BDSMBadAdvice things like this reply: .”@LaristheLynx To attract His attention, you should be scheming, passive-aggressive and prone to drama. Doms love that in a sub.” BWHAHAHAHAH

AJ Llewellyn

James, Derek is longer Buff’s boy that’s why I didn’t mention him, plus he rarely tweets and his blog posts on the rare occasion he posts are really really extreme (he adores blood play). However they remain close, loving family members from what I’ve read of their blog posts and of course, their personal appearances. See, I told you I read their tweets – it’s like Gays of our Lives reading their posts.

James Buchanan

Yeah their split was far more amicable than most are…both professionally and on a maturity scale.

But, it’s going to take a while b/f I stop thinking of him as one of Tony’s

Wave

James
You have to hit “Reply” under the comment or it will go where it pleases, just like a woman.

James Buchanan

I blame it on only having had one cup of coffee this morning. My technical ineptitude is inversely proportionate to my intake of caffeine.

Wave

James

My technical ineptitude is inversely proportionate to my intake of caffeine.

I have to borrow that phrase sometime and use it on a client. LOL

Jason

oh James, I love you! You understand. 🙂

~big smooches~
Jase

James Buchanan

Oh, Jase, I like smooches.

Sarah Frantz

Yeah yeah. 🙂

Sarah Frantz

There’s a reason I love you, James. 🙂

Thank you for this. And yes: If you don’t get it, don’t write it. And it’s all about the psychology of it. That’s why Anah Crow’s UNEVEN is so amazing. She went into it with idea of writing a book that’s about the headspace, not the toys. And your HARD FALL, of course–same thing. There’s no toys, just headspace. Perfect.

James Buchanan

Sarah, I thought you loved me because I give you big pieces of wood to blister people’s butts with….

James Buchanan

Tam…what if the Dom was a psychic and still got it wrong…Oh Dear God somebody get me a stick to beat down that plot bunny.

I’m glad you found it informative Miranda

Miranda

This is a wonderful post.

Thank you for the various links and your clear explanation of the lifestyle.

Some people refuse to see past the stereotypes, but some people just don’t know any better.

I shall bookmark this link in my What They Said sidebar for future reference.

SVZ

Tam
Dominants are not psychic assholes who immediately know what’s best. I hate hate hate this character in a book. The one who is 100% sure a person they walked up to in a club is submissive and they KNOW it (just by looking at them), no matter what the person says and they brook no argument in proving it. Of course in a romance it always proves true, but the attitude just drives me around the bend and I can’t enjoy a story with that character. I know romance is fantasy but there’s fantasy and delusion. 🙂 Just once I’d… Read more »
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