I’ve been having conversations about them since then, particularly about using them for different genres. Genre boundaries have diminshed a great deal in the last few years – particularly the ‘rule’ saying a writer should stick to one genre. And with online book stores, if a reader only wants books in a particular genre, that’s what tags and categories are for.
Tags are of particular concern in a lot of the fanfiction I read – writers are expected to tag for major character death or spoilers for canon, and for level of explicitness, and for whether it contains romance, and the genders of the people involved if it does. Writers are also expected to tag for graphic depictions of violence, underage characters in sexual situations, and rape or non-consent: these are things built in to the platform of Archive Of Our Own, which is where I post my work. There is a little checklist when you start a new story that lets you just tick the box for anything that might apply.
The social aspect of the community also encourages tagging for drug use, mental health issues, suicide, abuse, dysfunctional families – you get the idea. Things which might be upsetting to read to the point that someone would choose to actively avoid them get tagged*. There is such strong community impetus towards tagging that an author who chose not to include a specific tag (because it would have spoiled the entire plot) has actually been vilified because of not tagging.
But this is fanfiction, so things you’d want to look for, like specific pairings or stories about specific characters, are also tagged for ease of searching. A lot of tagging is about finding the particular reading experience you are looking for.
There is some of this available in original fiction, though obviously not to the same extent. Categories, though, offer very concrete ways to separate what one writes into genres without using pseudonyms.
So that’s what I’m going to do. I have no particular shame attached to writing erotica – I write smart fiction, no matter the genre, and I want people to find me and want to buy my stories based on that. That’s why all of my fiction under 3000 words will end up on here at some point, and everything over 3000 words will go up on my Smashwords (with the exception of Intervention, out on Feedbooks for a couple years already, and future novels that might end up out on other channels).
*This is also known as trigger warnings. For example, someone who has been raped might not be able to read about rape without having unpleasant flashbacks or intense anxiety that would ruin their entire day. Avoiding stories with rape in them is a lot easier if they say what they are on the tin.