I've been working on my "elevator pitch" lately. Because, quite frankly, it sucks.
Not that I plan on running into or cornering an agent in an elevator anytime soon. But the elevator pitch would be handy during those moments when somebody asks, "So what's your book about?" and I'm stuck fumbling around for just the right words (and for all my effort, my description comes out sounding extremely lame).
Although I still have much more progress to make, I'm getting better at the elevator pitch. I've written the story of Emerson, a young woman who stumbles into becoming a hitwoman for hire... But what I'm not good at is addressing the black leather elephant over there in the corner.
Emerson is a wife. The only child of a murderer and an abuser. A young woman who keeps to herself, with good reason--she has many secrets. She's a habitual liar. She was thrust into the unenviable role of caregiver/breadwinner after her husband becomes paralyzed. She has a secret life. Maybe more than one. And now she's a killer, encouraged to kill by the cops, of all people.
I'll readily talk about all of those things. They're all integral to the plot, and they've held people's interest when I've talked about them.
What I haven't really talked about is that Emerson is also a dominatrix. A domme. Someone who blurs the line between pain and pleasure, who hurts people--because they ask for it--for money.
I'm comfortable writing about this aspect of Emerson. But I'm not so good at talking about it to other people. Because once you start talking about sex, people often get weird, uncomfortable, and even judgey.
I'm okay writing about it. If (after I'm published, of course) someone doesn't like reading about it, they can put the book down, write me a nastygram, leave a pissy review on Amazon.com, whatever. Or they can be intrigued by it, keep reading, gradually become comfortable with this aspect of Emerson... But it's different when I'm talking to someone about the story. If I start talking about the black leather elephant, they'll have to respond in some way, and...hello, awkward, if it makes them uncomfortable. I'm all about challenging people's comfort levels, but I don't necessarily want to be looking them in the eyes when I do it. And I don't want them to feel pressured to respond n a certain way, either.
I went to a writer's group meeting the other night. A few people, after critiquing a few of my chapters, asked follow-up questions about Emerson, and I happily answered them. Without mentioning Emerson's domme job. Sigh.
It's something that has to get mentioned sometime, but I'm nervous that once I mention it, it'll skew people's perceptions of the book. I've managed to write about a domme in a completely un-pornographic way (seriously, not to toot my own horn, but that takes a bit of talent). But that's hard to believe without seeing it, reading it. And I'm scared of this aspect of the story scaring people away from it.
So for now, I let it be the black leather elephant in the room. I know it's there, and for the time being, I let it lurk in the shadows, whip in paw (or trunk), paddle at the ready. But sometime it's gonna want to come out of its dark little corner, and at some point, I'm going to have to let it.