The 5 Most Important Things I Have Learned About Writing Erotica
My first piece of erotic fiction was published in 1991. Since then, my work has appeared in magazines and journals, in print books and e-books, in all kinds of anthologies, and even in book-length collections of my very own. The constant across all those forms and formats has been that I respect sex and I respect writing and I don’t ever lose sight of either one of those things when I come to the keyboard to craft new work. The basics of sex and the basics of writing are shockingly similar. In both pursuits, it’s all about the nouns and the verbs, the who-what-when-where-and-why.
1 – People, not just parts
If I don’t give a f*#@ about your characters, I won’t care when you write their clothes off and start bumping their pelvises together. Build people—fully realized, deep, conflicted human beings—before you even begin to worry about his length & girth or her cup size.
2 – What the f*#@ are they doing?
Give your reader details—specific, anatomically correct, graphic details. Certainly temper your language to the format and intended audience, but SHOW us what your characters are doing. People read erotic literature for all kinds of reasons: to be the fly on the wall or to imagine new possibilities for themselves, to name just a couple. It is our responsibility as writers of erotica to plant details in our readers’ brains that set their neurons firing.
3 – What time is it?
What day, what week, what month, what year? It’s important. Cuz morning wood is a whole lot different from the wood ya gotta work for at 11 PM after 2 meetings, a performance review, and getting 2 kids fed and bathed and off to bed. And an anonymous sexual encounter on the hood of a car in Chicago in January is a completely different animal from that same scene set in New York City at the end of July.
4 – Where the f*#@ am I?
Take the reader to your bedroom. Or the back row of your favorite movie theater. Or the one room in your place where you’ve never “done it”. The setting for an erotic encounter is one of the major players in the scene. Don’t give it short shrift.
5 – Why them, why this, why now?
More often than not, this last essential detail is for the writer more than the reader. The piece you’re crafting might not actually get into why these 2 (or more) have come together to come, but you as the writer certainly better know the answers. Knowing your characters’ basic motivations, their backstories, and their specific erotic needs are the jumping off points for any encounter you write. They are the place where you, the author, must begin.
Take your writing seriously. Take sex just as seriously. This is the most important thing I have learned, and I pass it on to you.
By Blake C. Aarens
Live fully, keep reading, and don’t stop pressing those keys!
Kink Fads By Nobilis
Like anything else, kinks run in fads—especially when it comes to fiction. A few months ago, everyone was talking about the authors who sold thousands of copies of dinosaur erotica ebooks. Then it came around to bigfoot and similar creatures. I’m sure in a few months it will be something else again. While each fad was in its prime [and before Amazon started its somewhat zealous censorship campaign —ed.], those books clearly had a large array of readers who couldn’t get enough of them, and I don’t begrudge their authors a bit of their success. This is also a great thing for me, because I consider tentacle sex (one of the things I like to write) to be somewhat related to those stories. I might get a bit of a boost in sales.
And then there are the other topics I like to write about: things like growth transformations, genderfuckery and other kinds of shapeshifting. Those aren’t even close to being in fashion, and they don’t necessarily appeal to the people who would buy them for an ironic laugh. There are folks out there who like those stories, but their sub-sub-genres aren’t getting blogged at Buzzfeed, Jezebel or Io9. And that’s fine too. Maybe someday I’ll get featured in one of those big-name blogs, but I’m certainly not going to build my career around hopes of a few weeks’ worth of fame and fortune by discovering a previously unrecognized novelty niche.
Because ultimately, it’s my career. My hope is that people buy my books because they like the way I write, not solely because they like what I’m writing about. If I’m not a good writer, then they won’t come back after the first book. But if they do like my work, the subject matter isn’t as important. On a number of occasions, readers and listeners have said to me, “I never thought I’d like a tentacle-sex story, but I liked this one!” or “Lesbian sex isn’t usually my thing, but this story really caught my attention.”
That’s my favorite kind of reader. Those are the folks who will stick with me, maybe read things they otherwise wouldn’t have. I think that’s the kind of reader we all ought to aspire to attract, if we don’t already. Does anyone really want the stories they’ve written to leave their readers either vaguely disappointed or unsatisfied? To have their name forgotten when the reader goes to find something new to read? I’m not at my best when I’m trying to write to someone else’s taste, when I’m trying to imitate or emulate; I’m much better off following my own muse. So I stay with what I like to write.
Not that this type of commitment makes it easy to see someone halfheartedly knock out a series of monster-du-jour books and get lots of attention (and dough) for it—I’m not immune to a bit of success envy. But I understand on a fundamental level that the stories I tell have to be my stories.
Because otherwise, who will tell them?
And now I’m going to follow that essay with a story idea, as I do every month. Please have a look at it, and decide if you can make it yours—because a story is more than idea:
What if you were born on an isolated space colony with a small population, say a hundred people or so, and discovered you really were the only person on the planet that had a particular fetish? There’s always something missing from your life—until a starship arrives, carrying someone with a brain implant allowing any fetish to be put on and taken off like a new set of clothes…
Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…
temp-anonymous asked: write-sex*tumblr*com/post/78136366198/a-very-special-confession I can certainly respect that. You don't need to be an "honest" erotica writer, just a great one and you've shown that in spades. Much more in that you didn't list a reason like "I don't feel like I can do my own kinks justice with words.", it shows you have confidence in your writing. Thanks for the inspiring post.
AWWW - I can’t begin to tell you how much your comment means to me!
A Very Special Confession
My name is Chris – though my pseudonym is usually M.Christian – and I have a confession to make.
I’ve written – and write – a…what’s the technical term? Oh, yeah: shitload of erotica. Some 400 published stories, 12 or so collections, 7 novels. I’ve also edited around 25 anthologies. I even have the honor of being an Associate Publisher for Renaissance eBooks, whose Sizzler Editions erotica imprint has some 1,300 titles out there.
I’ve written sexually explicit gay stories, lesbian stories, trans stories, bisexual stories, BDSM stories, tales exploring just about every kind of fetish, you name it and I can all but guarantee that I’ve written about it. I like to joke that a friend of mine challenged me to write a story to a ridiculously particular specification: a queer vampire sport tale. My answer? “Casey, The Bat.” Which I actually did write…though I dropped the vampire part of it.
Don’t worry; I’m getting to the point. I can write just about anything for anyone – but here comes the confession:
I’ve never, ever written about what actually turns me – what turns Chris – on.
This kind of makes me a rather rare beast in the world of professional smut writing. In fact it’s pretty common for other erotica writers to – to be polite about it – look down their noses at the fact that I write about anything other than my own actual or desired sexual peccadilloes. Some have even been outright rude about it: claiming that I’m somehow insulting to their interests and/or orientations and shouldn’t write anything except what I am and what I like.
To be honest, in moments of self-doubt I have thought the very same thing. Am I profiting off the sexuality of other people? Am I a parasite, too cowardly to put my own kinks and passions out into the world? Am I short-changing myself as a writer by refusing to put myself out there?
For the record, I’m a hetero guy who – mostly – likes sexually dominant women. I also find my head turned pretty quickly when a large, curvy woman walks by. That said, I’ve had wonderful times with women of every size, shape, ethnicity, and interest.
So why do I find it so hard to say all that in my writing? The question has been bugging me for a while, so I put on my thinking cap. Part of the answer, I’ve come to understand, relates directly to chronic depression: it’s much less of an emotional gamble to hide behind a curtain of story than to risk getting my own intimate desires and passions stomped flat by a critical review or other negative reaction from readers. I can handle critical reviews of a story – that’s par for the course in professional writing – but it’s a good question as to whether I could handle critical reviews of my life.
But then I had an eye-opening revelation. As I said, I’ve written – and write – stories about all kinds of interests, inclinations, passions, orientations, genders, ethnicities, ages, cultures…okay, I won’t belabor it. But the point is that I’ve also been extremely blessed to have sold everything I’ve ever written. Not only that, but I’ve had beautiful compliments from people saying my work has touched them and that they never, ever, would have realized that the desires of the story’s narrator and those of the writer weren’t one and the same.
Which, in a nice little turn-around, leads me to say that my name is Chris – though my pseudonym is usually M.Christian – and I have yet another confession to make.
Yes, I don’t get sexually excited when I write. Yes, I have never written about what turns me on. Yes, I always write under a name that’s not my legal one.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel when I write. Far from it: absolutely, I have no idea what actual gay sex is like for the participants; positively, I have not an inkling of what many fetishes feel like inside the minds of those who have them; definitely, I have no clue what it’s like to have sex as a woman…
I do, however, know what sex is like. The mechanics, yeah, but more importantly I work very hard to understand the emotions of sex and sexuality through the raw examination of my own life: the heart-racing nerves, the whispering self-doubts, the pulse-pounding tremors of hope, the bittersweetness of it, the bliss, the sorrows and the warmth of it, the dreams and memories…
I’m working on a story right now, part of a new collection. It’s erotic – duh – but it’s also about hope, redemption, change, and acceptance. I have no experience with the kind of physical sex that takes place in this story but every time I close its file after a few hours of work, tears are burning my cheeks. In part, this emotional investment is about trying to recapture the transcendent joy I’ve felt reading the work of writers I admire.
When I read manuscripts as an anthology editor, or as an Associate Publisher, a common mistake I see in them is a dedication to technical accuracy favored over emotion. These stories are correct down to the smallest detail – either because they were written from life or from an exactingly fact-checked sexual imagination – but at the end, I as the reader feel…nothing.
I’m not perfect – far from it – but while I may lack direct experience in a lot of what I write, I do work very, very hard to put real human depth into whatever I do. I may not take the superficial risk of putting the mechanics of my sexuality into stories and books but I take a greater chance by using the full range of my emotional life in everything I create.
I freely admit that I don’t write about my own sexual interests and experiences. That may – in some people’s minds – disqualify me from being what they consider an “honest” erotica writer, but after much work and introspection I contest that while I may keep my sex life to myself, I work very hard to bring as much of my own, deeply personal, self to bear upon each story as I can.
They say that confession is good for the soul. But I humbly wish to add to that while confession is fine and dandy, trying to touch people – beyond their sex organs – is ever better…for your own soul as well as the souls of anyone reading your work.
Sometimes I fantasize about the very end of my life, that final moment when I’ll be called to account for all my misspent years. Only instead of seeing St. Peter looming over a giant ledger in front of the pearly gates, I go back to those old black & white crime films—particularly the final scene where the cops have caught the bad guy and are pressuring him for a confession. I play the bad guy (duh), but instead of armed robbery or sassin’ my mother, the fuzz got me for writing porn. And just before they take me away to the rockpile, the hot lady cop (well, they’re both hot lady cops, with really big bazongas), tips back her fedora and growls:
“One thing bugs me, Colin…why’dja do it? Why’dja throw away years and years of your life writing about boobies and handcuffs and chicks taking off their shoes? Smart guy like you. You could’ve been a real writer, like James Michener. So for Pete’s sake, why?”
I’ve never doubted what my answer would be. Why did I spend so much of my adult life writing pornographic fiction? Why were my first stories published in soon-to-be-sticky, over-the-counter mags, alongside phone-sex ads and grainy blowjob photos? Why did I spend 2001 alone writing and publishing nine novels which were, as much as they were about anything, about women’s feet?
Because it was fun.
Now, it might just be me, but I can’t ever remember a time when the population at large had so furiously dedicated itself to eradicating every speck of fun from its collective lives. When fresh-faced twenty-somethings didn’t just work eighty hour weeks, but actually needed to snivel and whine for the opportunity to do so. When husbands and wives would bitch at each other to take the kids on Saturday, not so they could sneak out to brunch with their buddies or lovers, but get in an extra hour of so of training for that marathon they signed up for. When diet-masochists tried to live entirely on salads and ice water, until their bodies were so starved for basic nutrients that they would drool over steamed kale in the same orgiastic tones once reserved for hot fudge sundaes.
We thought the ’80s were bad. The ’80s were The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus freaky-deakin’ Bosch next to this puritan-infested wasteland we’re stuck in now.
Like I say, though, maybe it’s just me.
Look, hard work does have its rewards, for writers as well as sane folks. There is real pleasure in taking on a project that offers challenge as well as indulgence, that stretches your abilities to make scenes and characters work against insurmountable odds. It might even be that that particular pleasure is the real point of undertaking a life of writing.
But fun—at the very least—has its place as well, and that seems especially apt when you’re talking about erotica. Porn embodies so many of the things beginning writers are taught by the mainstream to avoid or even to despise: abandon versus control, action versus thought, and most of all an emphasis on the sensual over the cerebral. Yes, yes, I know: Michel Foucault, Georges Battaille, Marco Vassi, blah blah blah…despite what some think, porn has never wanted for eggheads. But surely part of what makes erotica attractive to creative people is that feeling of hurling yourself into something that appeals to the gut over the noodle, which bypasses black and white moral divisions, which is even a little naughty.
In my early twenties, I became briefly addicted to fetish videos. This was in the early ’90s, when most of the product out there still clung to storylines, as opposed to cutting right to the chase (or the favored body-part). It was all big hair, big boobs, too much makeup, implausibly broad characters and criminally bad acting—a neon-colored world of crap. But I loved it. The same goes for the fiction and “true-life” letters in the porn magazines. For better or worse, the tropes and rhythms I found there would be a crucial influence on the fiction I would later write. Forget sword and sorcery paperbacks and horror movies: this was real escapism. I could put aside the agonies of forging a social life and career in Reagan’s America in favor of jealous girlfriends luring each other into bondage clubs or paying their rent with casual sex.
The very real pleasure I took in that world still lingers. It’s why I still have a smile on my face every time I sit down to start a new story or novel or comic. ‘Cause it’s fun, dammit. And sometimes—no matter what your professors or bosses or significant others or the hot lady cops hauling you off to the big house say, fun is enough.
- By Colin