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.