My protagonist is a dominatrix-slash-assassin. This is no big deal to me--in my head, Emerson has always been these things, and I am offended by neither dead body nor latex catsuit and whip. The people I'm friends with are likely not offended by these sorts of things, either--that's one of many reasons why we're friends. But once I get published (I can say this definitively because if traditional publishing doesn't happen for me, I will go the self-publishing route), the bulk of my readership will likely not be my friends. And that means that Emerson needs to be palatable to a wider audience.
I am in no way making Emerson as a character conform to what the masses are comfortable with. Emerson is what she is, and that can't change. But the way I write her has to be smart. I have to seduce the reader.
This is the age of Fifty Shades of Grey. Stories dealing with submissive women are all the rage, and here I am, writing about a dominatrix. Can you recall any commercially successful novels about a dominatrix? Nope, I can't, either.
That doesn't mean there can't be or there won't be. It just means that, as far as I can remember, it hasn't happened yet.
If people are willing to accept 50 Shades, which was unconventional at the time it became popular, then they may be willing to accept Emerson--unconventional in a "polar opposite" sort of way. But there will be some seduction involved. I'm asking the reader to accept a type of character they haven't seen much of before.
How I'm seducing the reader is through the way Emerson--and, specifically, what she does--is written. There are scenes in this book that don't depict sex, but do depict a man getting kicked in a most sensitive place, or whipped until he begs for it to stop. There is an art to writing scenes like this, so that the reader fully understands what's going on but isn't so taken aback by it that they're too shocked to continue reading. There are words you do and don't use in these types of scenes so that you avoid it sounding like a written account of hardcore pornography.
I'm seducing the reader by making them comfortable with the idea of reading about a domme and seeing the world through her eyes, yet also by keeping them on their toes with plot and character developments. It's a delicate art, but it's what I have to do when I have a character that's really very different from what people have seen before.
Different is good, and I fully embrace Emerson's kind of different. But sometimes there's some hand-holding and seduction involved to make it easier for everyone else to accept different. I'm 70,000 words in, and although there's been all manner of nudity, punishment, and kinkiness laced throughout the story, I've just hit upon the first time when using a word like cock was unavoidable.
That's what my kind of seduction is all about--make the reader know exactly what I mean, and help them see that scene in their head, but don't scare them away by using strong sexual language. I want the reader to be as enthralled by Emerson as I am, and I don't want any jarring words to diminish that.