Two purveyors of smut and story, two literary giants who’ve gifted us with the steamiest, the sexiest, the naughtiest stuff to ever be in our hands; two individuals, who have used their words to bring us to our knees; two authors who can make our hearts pound—as well as other things!—are going to fight!
Ladies and gentle—please be gentle—men, we bring you E.L. James vs Josh Lark.
Ignoring the broader themes of Chuck Palahniuk’s seminal work, Fight Club, we’re going to do what we do best and have two people fight each other.
Since we can’t talk about Fight Club (see rules one and two), we’re going to write about it. Specifically, we’re going to have two writers fight each other. Three rounds will determine their strength as we go through their power of description, their distinctive style, and their impact on the world at large.
Bring out the whips and the aliens (we’ll get there), let’s have these two authors fight each other.
(Viewer Discretion is Advised)
Image Via Pink News
Now let’s get this one out of the way. E L James wins. Her trilogy, made up of Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed, has sold over 125 million copies worldwide, over 35 million copies in the United States. Bloody hell, she even set the record in the United Kingdom as the fastest selling paperback of all time!
Plus, in 2012, Time magazine named her one of “The World’s 100 Most Influential People” and she’s even had film adaptations of her works: Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed.
Simply put, you know her name.
But let’s not leave Lark in the dark, let’s give him his due.
Image Via Amazon
A self-published author whose work is massive, to say the least, Lark has written everything from college dorms to Area 51 aliens.
Huge beyond belief, Lark notes that ever since he discovered his attraction to men “he has been writing erotic stories about them”. He tells us that “[i]n his free time, he enjoys playing 7-card stud poker and gay rugby.”
He’s a force of wonder, but sadly he loses this match up.
Point for James!
2-WHO’s more DESCRIPTIVE? Who’s more steamy?
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It’s porn vs porn. Who’s the better writer? Who can make us just tremble with their words? As a side note, I don’t give a snot that Ana orgasming with every other touch isn’t realistic, I just want it to be described well!
Let’s tackle this passage from the first novel in her infamous trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey:
I pull him deeper into my mouth so I can feel him at the back of my throat and then to the front again. My tongue swirls around the end. He’s my very own Christian Grey-flavored popsicle. I suck harder and harder… Hmm… My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves.
The phrase ‘Christian Grey-flavored popsicle’ is hilarious. Also, the image of Ana’s inner goddess ‘doing the merengue’ is the strangest image. Both of these phrases, placed so close together, takes me out of the moment. Don’t get me wrong, they’re hilarious, they’re memorable, but they aren’t exactly descriptive. Plus, they take me out of the scene.
Here’s another passage from the last book in the series, Fifty Shades Freed:
He groans loudly and thrusts deep, again and again, over and over, and I am lost, trying to absorb the pleasure. It’s mind-blowing…body blowing…I long to straighten my legs, to control my imminent orgasm, but I can’t…I’m helpless. I’m his, just his, to do with as he wills…Tears spring to my eyes. This is too intense. I can’t stop him. I don’t want to stop him…I want…I want…oh no, oh no…this is too…
“That’s it,” Christian growls. “Feel it, baby!”
I detonate around him, again and again, round and round, screaming loudly as my orgasm rips me apart, scorching through me like a wildfire, consuming everything. I am wrung ragged, tears streaming down my face—my body left pulsing and shaking.
Much better! On a related note, FEEL IT, BABY!
But that brings me to the dialogue. Every so often during the sex scenes, the people talk. Lines like “Feel it baby” take me out of the scene, making me wonder if Christian Grey is unsure if Ana ‘feels it.’
Image via gyfcat
So some of the sex scenes are bad, while others are great with some wonky dialogue thrown in just to knock down our expectations.
Image Via Amazon
Now that’s a picture! On a related note, let’s switch to Lark and see what he has to offer. This passage comes from Now That I’m a Ghost, I’m Gay:
Even so, the tingle where we touched made his thighs quiver at the first sensation of what I was doing down there. When I had first taken Jason’s entire length, tickling under his balls as I did, he bucked his hips forward into my face.
Now that’s a picture! Short and to the point, it’s exactly what we want. Plus there’s this scene.
I only caught a glimpse of him naked, the water running in beads down his broad chest to his broad chest to his narrow waist, little rivers running off the end of his dick…
No metaphors, no comparisons, just flat out smut.
Comparing this to James’ work showcases how she isn’t that descriptive. She leaves a lot to the reader, and thus we don’t get images of water running off the end of someone’s penis like “little rivers.”
When it comes to descriptions, Lark knows just what words to use to make us tremble.
Point for Lark!
3-WHO’s got More Style
GOT STYLE? / Image Via StyleCaster
Humor is a style, and James is hilarious. Throughout the book, and usually after sex, the characters will be forced to talk to each other. For instance, Christian tells Ana that, “I know that lip is delicious, I can attest to that, but will you stop biting it?”
Maybe the line is supposed to be sensual, reminding us both of what just took place and what will take place, but it’s hilarious. You needed to tell her that her lip was delicious? How thoughtful!
Even in one of the earliest scenes in Fifty Shades, Ana and Christian decide to go out for coffee. What follows is a farce. We go through the intricate details of getting the keys, determining what car someone should go in, where the keys are, and how this whole situation, a billionaire wanting to go out to coffee with Ana, is quite insane.
But Lark is also funny. Just look at his Amazon descriptions. They’re erotic, they’re funny, and they come with incredibly helpful warnings. His story about a man giving his sister’s boyfriend a blowjob has a warning that reads:
WARNING: This 5600-word erotic story by Josh Lark contains explicit descriptions of a hot straight virgin giving his sister’s college boyfriend a hot gay blowjob, including forced fingering and cum eating. Pray that your e-reader doesn’t melt before you get to the end.
His story about a gay doctor who has to suck out snake venom from a cowboy reads:
WARNING: This 4900-word story by Josh Lark contains explicit oral sex between two men, anal fingering, and a cumshot that will have you milking your own snake of its venom.
Image Via Teachers Pay Teacher
How are their plot structures?
With James, well, there’s no flow. Her novels retain their fanfiction roots where stories would come chapter by chapter. Plot points are introduced and dropped in the same chapter, which makes everything clunky. For instance, the villain in Freed is Jack Hyde, a publisher who was fired by Christian Grey for harassing Ana. But he actually didn’t care about Ana, and hates Christian because he was adopted into a bad household and Christian was adopted by a millionaire family. But Hyde isn’t the true villain because he’s been taking orders by Mr. Lincoln, a man who has one appearance and is mentioned briefly at the end. Why doesn’t the Ernst Stravo Blofeld of the Fifty Shades universe appear more?
It makes everything seem like it was written without an outline, which some authors do, like Stephen King, but it’s less successful here.
Image Via The Clever Homeowner
Let’s look at Lark for a hot second. Each of his books follows a similar structure: introduce the characters and the premise, the characters get closer, they have sex, the story ends with everyone happy. It’s simple, straightforward, but let’s dive deep back into Now That I’m a Ghost, I’m Gay.
In this story a college student dies and is transported to the shower, where his roommate is stepping out. Oh, no, our main character is secretly in love so him but he never told him anything. Gradually, the roommate realizes that the dead student is there as a ghost. He’s frozen with fear, and our main character writes on a foggy mirror, “I am,” but stops.
What should he say next? That’s he’s dead? Or that he’s gay?
Things go quickly after that. They have sex, they finish, and our main character looks back at the mirror and finishes the sentence I AM with SO GLAD.
See? Every plot point is necessary, and there’s a lot of time spent in the bedroom. We know what we’re getting into, and we know what to expect. It’s like a circle.
Image Via Giphy
Of course, is it fair to compare Lark’s utilizing every page to James just flittering them away with pointless plot points? Is James’ clunky storytelling and laugh-out-loud descriptions a style though?
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A little history…
Erica Mitchell rose to fame as Snowqueens Icedragon on FanFiction.net, writing Twilight fanfiction in staggering succession. She started with Safe Haven, a point of the story through the eyes of Edward, and later wrote Master of the Universe, a loose retelling of Twilight.
From there, thanks to her large outputs and responsiveness, Master of the Universe continually graced the top charts. Eventually, Australian Publisher, The Writer’s Coffee Shop, agreed to publish her story as a trilogy. Since then her stories have been pulled from FanFiction.net and the archives.
That’s not to say her novels are Twilight ripoffs. The names have been changed; the supernatural elements are removed in favor of BDSM. Plus, she’s added some weird stuff.
Image Via Letter2Self
Christian is an abusive boyfriend.
Take this scene in the first Fifty Shades of Grey. When Christian asks Ana what her hard limits are and she tells him she’s a virgin, Christian stomps around the room before he decides to take her virginity as “a means to an end.”
That’s not mentioning the other stuff.
Plus, in Fifty Shades of Grey Christian tells Ana “I’m a dominant,” when Ana asks him, point-blank, “Are you a sadist?”
Come Fifty Shades Darker, “I’m a sadist, Ana I like to whip little brown-haired girls like you because you all look like the crack whore—my birth mother.”
So he’s a liar who’s having sex with this woman because she reminds him of his mother.
The whole thing is Stephanie Meyer but WAY more problematic.
Image Via Amazon
In Now that I’m a Ghost, I’m Gay our main character sees the boy he’s in love with, and doesn’t go straight to screwing him. In fact, when they see each other, the main character notices the “…widening of his eyes, the hitching of his breath, and the almost imperceptible contracting of his balls made him seem so intimate and naked.”
Note how he isn’t doing anything, besides being dead. They just look at each other and let things go from there. No needless stomping around. Plus, unlike James, who doesn’t tell you about the rampant abuse that takes place within her pages, Lark lets you know all the eroticism that’ll take place in those warnings we mentioned earlier. It’s a “check out the box. Oh, it’s my fault I told you there was a poisonous snake in that box” vs “this box contains so much gooey gold you might just explode if you reach inside it” type of thing.
As Lark writes in his Amazon description’s warning for his book, How To Turn a Wolf Gay:
WARNING: This 4200-word erotic paranormal story by Josh Lark contains oral and anal sex between human men and a male werewolf, at one point partially morphed. If you think the rough punishment sex inside is too hot for you to handle, go read a boring Twilight knockoff and leave this one to the big dogs.
Winner: Joshua Lark
He walked to the center of the field, empty handed. It would be alright, he told himself, they would sort out their differences. It was a misunderstanding, after all, he didn’t mean to call her out like that in the Amazon description for How to Turn a Werewolf Grey. She would come, he would throw his hands up, and they’d have a cup of coffee. Or tea, if she pleased. He looked down at his watch. It was fifteen minutes after three and her car was nowhere in sight.
The grass around him started to shiver. A gust of wind slapped his face. His eyes rose to the sky.
Up in the sky a single black dot grew and grew, slowly descending, the clouds parting to the sides in fear. His eyes were wide. “Christ,” he muttered.
He threw his head to the side. A used condom was beside him. He looked back up, squinted, and with eyes like sniper rifles he saw that the side door to the helicopter was open and he saw E.L. James holding an actual sniper rifle. She fired.
He jumped to the side. She was shooting used condoms at him. They burst around him, splattering around, exploding like bursts of blood. The ground was littered with rubber and fluids. He ran back, but a wall of condoms exploded in front of him. To his right, to his left, behind him, in front of him, all around him, nothing but condoms.
He looked to the ground. Fitting, he thought, and he smiled.
The smile didn’t leave his face because, slithering through the rubber, was a snake. He tilted his head, the snake looked up at him, and he knew those eyes.
What E.L. James didn’t know, what most people probably didn’t know, was that AREA 51 was based on a true story. That snake was a shape-shifting alien, and they had been friends for quite a long time. It was the story of ET, but without the ending and with more sex.
Reaching out, the snake extended his neck, expanding, and soon it became a hose. Gently holding the snake by the neck, he turned and held up the hose, aimed. “Hasta la vista,” he said, and fired.
The horse shot out great gallons of fluid, striking the helicopter, and it spun out of control. Lowering the hose, letting it fall to the ground as it turned back into a snake, Josh Lark sighed, but his sympathy turned into curiosity because E.L. James had dropped her sniper rifle, jumped off the helicopter, and from her back pocket took out a whip. She spun it around her head and, like a helicopter, she slowly descended to the ground.
Her black eyes were locked with Joshua Lark’s.
The snake jumped back into Josh’s hands and quickly morphed into a hose. Josh squeezed the neck and his alien-snake-hose friend fired, but E.L. James was avoiding the blasts, zigging back and forth. Alright, Josh thought, let her come close and…
E.L. James had one hand on the whip, swinging it above her head, but with her other hand she pulled out a squirt gun. The squirt gun had been in the sun, and its fluid was piping hot. Before she would get close, she would fire and he would fall.
He fired at her. She maneuvered to the left, aimed, and fired.
Josh Lark saw the blast coming at him.
It was close.
The snake was in front of Lark, mouth expanded, and it swallowed the fluid. Josh smiled, and tapped the snake on the neck. “Go,” he said, and the snake fired.
James fell, crashing to the ground, slapping into a pile of clear goop.
Josh smiled, the snake leaned close to his chest. “Thank you,” Josh said, “I’ll offer you some tea. You’ve met my husband, right?”
Featured Image Via Amazon, Writer Write.co, and Penguin Random House