The Three Bears of Fiction
A very, very special magic happens when a story fits exactly into its book. It’s a rarity, but it always makes me take notice, makes me put the book aside and breathe in deep with admiration that tingles somewhere at the base of my spine.
When it comes to fiction, we have the big, mighty daddy bear: the novel. Some are more epic in size than others, of course. Fantasy especially seems shop in the XXL section, wrapped in luxurious silks and ermine cloaks. Then there is the medium sized momma bear: the novella. She can be an itty bit of thing of 25k words or stretch all the way into fiction territory around 50k. And of course there’s the teeny tiny little baby bear, the short story. And if you know little kids at all, it makes perfect sense that these can often pack the most brutal punch of all.
Of course life can’t quite imitate art. In real life, tiny bear also has an older sister. A sweet girl, novelette, who aspires to become her mother. She puts on her lipstick and her bra and her dresses, but she’s most comfortable in her own size of about 15k.
So often, we pick up books and it feels like a little bear is lying in the middle of a vast bed of fluff. Or a beautiful, curvy bearess is trying to squeeze into a tiny little bed, stretches it out and tries to make herself smaller than she is as though she, like most of us, has been taught she shouldn’t take up space. Stupid society. Both is sad. But as a writer to learn exactly how to figure out the size of your bear, the size of your story so that you can tuck it into the right-size book is the challenge of a lifetime.
Of course, like everything, there are no hard or fast rules. A book that feels far too large for its bear to me, may feel perfect for someone else. Reviews prove this, time and time again. And I can never help loving to dive into the review section of books I am reading far more than the ones I’ve written.
This is what I have learned about myself:
- I prefer shorter books to longer ones. And I prefer to spend money on a book I will enjoy for 3 days than one I will slog through in 3 weeks, even if most of those 3 weeks were enjoyable.
- I love the feeling of a tight-fitting story with a narrow point.
- But I also love the epic sweep of feelings and families across generations.
- I learned that no matter how long a book, I cannot stand more than three sex scenes in one story and so my erotic stories will always be novellas, and my long novels will always contain a sex scene here or there.
When I wrote Driftwood Deeds, I could have written a novel about slowly falling in love. About how two very different people start to find their common ground. I could have written about them and their many tentative meetings. But that was never the story in my head. Driftwood Deeds’ bear wasn’t really a story at all. It was an idea, it was a feeling, it was protest piece against bdsm as something dark or forced or something only for billionaires and people who are terribly scarred in some way. I wanted to write about a sexual adventure that was kind and funny and sweet. And yes, sexy and kinky, too.
That was its focus.
In Trading Tides, the focus shifted to the female lead. I wanted to explore her more, her emotional landscape and the heartbreaking loneliness of being in a distance relationship. When I was maybe a chapter into writing Trading Tides, I knew that Book 3: Saltwater Skin would be the opposite. It would be about Paul and his character. It would be about his past and how strange it is to be so close to someone you can’t imagine ever being without them again.
For me, the three bears fit nice and snug. I like the way each book is different and about something new. I like that they can be read in a day or two like big spoonfuls of sweet and spicy goodness. And I also couldn’t be happier that they are all finished now, and I can look back, take what I’ve learned and apply it to my next project.
Synopsis: When journalist Iris Ellis visits a sleepy seaside town to interview recluse screenwriter Paul Archer, he offers her insights into never acted upon fantasies of dominance and submission. Too curious to deny herself a taste of them, Iris gives herself up to Paul's gentle guidance, but when she realizes that a taste can never be enough, she must find the courage to ask for what she needs or risk losing it all. Called a "gem for fans of BDSM romance and the perfect starting point for readers new to the genre" by RT Book Reviews, Driftwood Deeds is a novella of sexual awakening as well as consent and communication in bdsm.
Synopsis: Love, they say, is magnified by absence. After the dream-like quality of Iris' visit at Paul's sea-side home, she is back in the routine and drudgery of her city life. Struggling to put a label on what they have together, they phone and write letters, trying to sustain the flame, until they can make time to be in each other's arms again. But once they are, how do you pull back into proportions a love so magnified it burns?
Synopsis: In this last installment in the Breaking in Waves series, Paul takes the helm and tells the story of how he and Iris move in together. Two decades of a bachelor's lifestyle are not easy to merge into a life together, and Paul goes on a journey of embracing Iris in his seaside world. Without holding back and without fear.
About the author:
Laila Blake (lailablake.com) is an author, linguist and translator. She writes character-driven love stories, co-hosts the podcast Lilt and blogs about writing, feminism and society.
Her work has been featured in numerous anthologies. Keeping a balance between her different interests, Laila Blake’s body of work encompasses literary erotica, romance, and various fields in speculative fiction (dystopian/post-apocalypse, fantasy, paranormal romance and urban fantasy) and she adores finding ways to mix and match.
A self-proclaimed nerd, she lives in Cologne/Germany with her cat Nookie, harbors a deep fondness for obscure folk singers and plays the guitar. She loves photography, science documentaries and classic literature, as well as Doctor Who, Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory.
You can find her across the web. To stay up to date with her most recent publications, please consider signing up for her spam-free newsletter.
If I was writing a film about us, my kitchen would be the central location. Good sex and good cooking are linked for me, inextricably together. They trigger the same areas of the brain-- taste and smell and texture and pleasure. I think of sex when I eat good food, and I want good food when I lie there spent after an orgasm, something full of life and flavor and color to recuperate and start again.
We’ve always spent a lot of a time here. In varying states of undress.
She feels it too, I think. That’s why her breathing is a little shallow. That’s why she steals a slice of zucchini as I layer it piece by piece between the eggplant, the yellow squash and the bright tomatoes. She has that glint in her eyes, small and wicked, and even now, after all this time, she looks hesitant when she tries to push boundaries. She still stops short of actually pushing them.
Iris loves to be good, to be praised, to be my beautiful, precious girl. She hates displeasing me, even as a game. But neither can she come out and ask for it, tell me about the tingling between her legs, the longing, the ache that only the crack of my belt can mend. And so she steals bits of zucchini, or switches the radio away from my favorite station just as we drive into my street. She criticizes books she knows I love, or picks them up and leaves them on a different shelf-- like I had any order in mind to begin with. They are little things, so minor I would miss them all the time, if it wasn’t for that look in her eyes.
It’s the look of guilt and desire, of fighting against her nature and fearing the consequences she’s trying to induce. It’s a look that makes my cock hard, that squeezes my chest almost painfully.
I listen to the zucchini crunch between her teeth. She eats it slowly, eyeing my profile as though wondering if I noticed anything at all. Sometimes I like to indulge her, I like to give her what she wants even though she can’t ask for it, even though she’s trying to manipulate the circumstances. It feels good sometimes, to let her out to play.
Today I don’t.
She picks the next slice out of the casserole, right out from between a slice of tomato and a slice of yellow squash, where they nestle in colorful stripes. She knows I can’t miss this one, and her hand hovers there a moment too long, just like she’s waiting for me to catch up and slap it away. But again, I don’t.
I watch her bring the slice to her mouth from the corner of my eyes. She places it on her tongue like a communion wafer, with intensity and slow purpose. She shudders; it’s a marvel to watch that change. A few seconds ago, she was my sweet girl, leaning next to me, relaxed and happy. Now, she’s strung tight, nervous and needy, like she exchanged her body for a different one.
“Are you bored?” I ask her. I look down at the pattern of vegetable slices, at the spot where she messed it up. When I drag my gaze up to her face, there are red spots on her neck, white teeth-marks on her lower lip.
She shakes her head.
“I think you are. You want attention, pet?”