Friday, October 14, 2011

Bulletproof kinks revisited

I first posted this 2+ years ago on Livejournal. I'm revisiting the topic today because I'll be visiting a high school next week and would LOVE to have more examples from writers out there. (And for those of you worried about the delicate sensibilities of teens (heh), rest assured that there's nothing really "kinky" about these kinks -- I just like to use the term because 1) it's the term, and 2) it always grabs the attention of my audience.)

June 19, 2009

I love the term "bulletproof kink."

I first heard it in reference to fanfiction, or maybe tv show storylines, but to me it resonates for all fiction -- what I read, watch, and what I write.

According to Fanlore, "a bulletproof kink is a story element a fanfiction reader likes or is turned on by regardless of poor writing quality, implausibility, or unsavory plot elements. Perhaps suprisingly, given the sexual origin of the word kink, many bulletproof kinks are story tropes unrelated to (or incidental to) sex."

According to writer Nancy Kay Shapiro, it is "a shorthand designation for the kind of narrative, situation, characters, setting, theme that's irresistibly compelling, that makes a story idea go for the writer—and hopefully, the reader too. It's the kind of story you're drawn to, that you want to be immersed in, as writer or reader."

Here are five of my bulletproof kinks:

1. situation -- a character in love with someone who is in love with someone else. (I have three of these in my new story. And one of the someone elses is dead!)--(But NOT a zombie.) Favorite examples: Twelfth Night (which features a perfect love triangle!), Cyrano de Bergerac, Ivanhoe, and lots more I can't think of right now.

2. setting -- boarding schools, particularly of the 19th century finishing school variety (as in A Great and Terrible Beauty). But I also love fantasy versions (Harry Potter), and contemporary versions (Jellicoe Road, Looking for Alaska, and Prep.) For me, you can't go wrong when you pile a bunch of kids together in a faraway school and replace the parents with a small group of disgruntled teachers.

3. setting -- English country houses. Whether pristine or crumbling, the remote country house is the perfect setting for romance, mystery, and murder. Think Jane Eyre, Rebecca, Fingersmith, and all those pulpy gothic romances you used to devour when you should have been doing your homework/housework. A recent YA favorite of mine is Linda Newbery's Set in Stone.

4. character -- the governess. Whether she's demonized, marginalized, or eroticized, I just love a governess. Not really a servant, but certainly not part of the family, she's caught in between and this makes for great conflict! Favorites: Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey, Turn of the Screw (Why can't I think of more books? Help!), films like The Governess and Firelight.

5. theme -- hauntings (or would you say "hauntedness"?). I love everything from hauntings by ghosts to characters who are haunted by dark secrets, evil deeds, unrequited loves, etc. A great example is Sarah Waters' latest, The Little Stranger. What exactly is haunting Hundreds Hall? (I hope someone will discuss this with me soon, before I forget the details of the story!)

Most of these kinks can be tied into my obsession with Gothic, of course.

So . . . all you writers out there -- what are some of your bullet-proof kinks as a reader? Do you see them popping up in your own writing? (I have used ALL of the above in my writing, btw!) If you'd like to read the responses to my original post for inspiration, go here.


  1. Well, speaking of KINKS (heh) ... I am a sucker for a good romance. I don't read the traditional 'romance novels,' but I want a book with heat and a little bit of sexiness. My real "kink" here is sexual tension. Recent examples: Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare, Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe, Swear by Nina Malkin, and some of Suzanne Young's as-yet-unpublished nuggets of awesome.

    Another is a situation: coming of age stories. I am obsessed with the bildungsroman, and that tends to be the theme of my own unpublished scribblings. Some all-time favorites include: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, and Flash Burnout by LK Madigan. There's just something about the arc of these stories that really speaks to me, and always has.

    And finally: vampires. Yes, long before Edward Cullen came around, I loved a good vampire story -- and I still do (including those of the sparkly variety). It started with watching Buffy and reading Anne Rice, and has snowballed into a mild obsession. I love any kind of vampire story: schmoopy romantic, quirky and funny, gory and horrific, etc. Give me vampires & I am a happy camper.

  2. Oh, this is fun! I think we share some kinks, haha! There are some elements that I am a total sucker for. Ironically, I can see that mine have stayed pretty much the same since I devoured stories like "The Doll in the Garden" and "Stone Words" in the 3rd grade....

    * Stories involving old decrepit houses with bonus points for ghosts...and extra extra bonus points for being in the ENglish countryside a la Jane Eyre

    * Anything ghostly, slightly creepy but not goulish and demented. I also like a little magic and mystery like in works by Alice Hoffman.

    * Anything historical. But I am snobbish about this. I dont want to be force fed historical facts and feel like its work to make the story believable. To me, there is nothing better than an author who can make you instantly sink in and be comfortable in another place and time.

    *Kids with issues. I'm not sure why. I certainly wasnt a kid with issues ;) but people with issues and problems seem to have much more interesting adventures when placed in the elements named above :)

    I dont know if there is anything like a reverse-kink, but for me one thing I absolutely cannot read, no matter if it contains all the above elements, is a story written in present tense. I dont know why, but it grates on my nerves and I just cant take it!

  3. Yay Sara and Heather -- these are great!

    Sara, I love coming of age/bildungsroman, too. And that may mean that I'll always write YA! And excellent sexual tension never goes amiss, either. (I am taking notes on the titles you mentioned!)

    Heather - we really are on the same page with kinks. I know exactly what you mean about being forcefed historical facts in historical novels. I did a blog interview about this where I said I almost prefered historical fantasy or historical paranormal because in that case you know that STORY is the main focus, not proving how well the author knows the time period. I also like your point about kids with issues -- might be interesting to discuss with students next week. :)

  4. Haunted houses. Oh, how I love haunted houses. Gothic settings.

    And I know lots of people hate these, but I'm a sucker for love triangles. The conflict! Love it.

  5. Kim, I adore love triangles as long as they're complicated. If it's just "girl can't decide between two equally sexy boys" than I'm kinda meh. I really loved the triangle in CLARITY because there was history and betrayal and distrust and lust -- lots of complications!

  6. Lets kinks as a writer/reader. Hmmm.

    Characters- Those who like to challenge the status-quo. Shake the place up. Do things that others wish they could do. But without an ego attached.

    Settings - Stories that take place around historic backdrops. I agree about the importance of focusing on the characters and story. Being immersed in history is much better than being hit over the head with it.

    Themes - The struggle for power. Political, Personal, Family, Institution, or an Organization. The loss or gain of which builds or destroys the hero.

    Characters - Always a sucker for the Underdog. The more they get kicked in the dirt and get up, the more I cheer.

    I'm sure I have more but that's all I have time to list. This was a great little exercise. It does help you zero-in on related themes, settings, and characters that could benefit future stories.

    Thanks Sonia!

  7. Great examples, Doug! Thanks for adding to the list.