There is a great deal of erotica out there these days, and Fifty Shades has broken down some of the mental barriers people had about reading erotica and fetish. Whether you are writing romantic , mystery, fetish or paranormal erotica, the same basic principles apply.
How many stories tread the well worn paths of hackneyed plots? You know the ones. The plumber who seduces the middle-aged housewife, the delivery guy who delivers more than a parcel, the secretary and her manager on the office desk. Boring! Sorry, but I lose interest very quickly if the plot is too obvious. So try and think outside of the box, or even throw the box away.
For example. I was working to a call for submissions on the theme of ‘Sex At Work’. So, rather than the office or the plumber, I decided my place of work would be a zoo and the characters two of the keepers. Surprised? That doesn’t sound like the setting for erotica, does it? But my story ‘Tropical Paradise’ had my couple getting together for clandestine meetings in the steamy, romantic setting of the tropical house in the zoo after hours. Birds copulated above my couple, amongst palm like trees and gorgeous tropical flowers. It was duly accepted for the collection Xcite published, was used as the lead story and inspired the cover for their five story collection and titled Tropical Paradise. It has had great reviews.
(If you want to find alternative sources for Sex at Work and Tropical Paradise, check out the ‘Our Publications‘ page on this blog.)
So try and find your own, unique take on a theme. Readers will thank you for it.
Another common mistake writers make it to tell you what is happening. Show, don’t tell the reader. Your goal is to fuel their imaginations, especially in the field of erotica. They want to go on a journey, escape real life and do stuff in their heads they can’t do or get in reality. If you tell them what is happening, there is no room for them to imagine. For example:
‘She was very excited.’
OK, you’ve told them she’s excited. But can they feel it? How about this instead?
‘She gasped. Her heart pulsed wildly, her eyes widened and her skin tingled as she lay there.’
Are you with her now? Can you empathise with her? If you can, you’re in the story, living it with her. Which is as it should be.
OK, you have a setting that’s fresh and exciting, maybe even surprising. You show the reader what’s going on. But who are these people inhabiting your story? They must have personality. Although you may not actually describe them in detail, you must know who they are to write their narrative successfully. Have an idea how old they are, how much experience they’ve had, where they are from and are they characters the reader can have some empathy with?
It is not enough that they have supermodel looks. By the way, most of your readers are probably not gorgeous (and know it), don’t have perfect bodies and probably are riddled with insecurities, as most of us are. When they read, they want to be in that wonderful fantasy world where everything is fantastic. They will fill in the looks of their characters to suit themselves with little encouragement. So keep descriptions of looks brief, and give a hint of personality through their narrative.
Keep the pages turning. What does that for you? Usually for me, it boils down to action and suspense. What will happen next? If the plot is hot, I will want to know, so I’ll keep reading. Also, if I don’t care about the characters, I won’t care what happens to them, and I’ll put the book down. You obviously don’t want this to happen. So give your readers characters they can identify with or love or hate. They key thing is that the reader cares about them.
Example: Amanda is thirty-four. She’s not new to sex, and she’s not new to her particular fetish. Which is being tied up, blindfolded, teased and given forced orgasms. She’s a woman with a sense of humour, a job in retail and a partner who loves to see her struggle when they play their games. He’s a sweetie. Really very gentle, but when they play he takes on a role and sounds quite menacing. But you don’t have to tell the reader all that. Let the story and their characters unfold. If you know your characters, like you know your friends, they will come to life. Having an ‘edge’ to one of your characters (like Amanda’s partner in play mode) helps to add that sense of suspense. If you’re not sure what he/she will do next you’ll have to keep reading to find out, won’t you?
Now, how did you start your story? Are there pages of preamble, long descriptions of place and time, preparation and other not-too-relevant details? Why not dive straight in, making the reader want to know more. Your character might already be tied to the bed, sweating and shaking and waiting. What for? What will happen to her? These are the page turning questions your reader will want to know the answers to. If you can grab them in that first sentence or paragraph, all you have to do then is deliver the answers in an exciting way.
Now you’ve sorted out your setting, who your characters are and what they are experiencing, you write your story. It starts in an attention grabbing way, and when you’re finished you’re pleased it’s turned out well. Next you’ll need to edit it. Is there stuff in there that is telling rather than showing? Fix it. Is there a boring paragraph or page that doesn’t add anything to the story? Does it slow the reader down or bore them? Remove it. Can you improve any of the narrative? Do it. Then put it away for a week and don’t read it.
Then comes the last stage in the process. Re-read very carefully. Check again for all the points above. If you’re happy with the content, you’ll want to check spelling. Don’t just rely on spell check. It won’t tell you if you have used the wrong spelling or word for the context. So if you meant frigid and wrote fridge, or wrote bean and meant been, it will be missed by spell check. Then check for punctuation. Are speech marks in the right place? Are commas used correctly? If you’re not good at this it’s worth drafting in someone with a good knowledge of English and a keen eye, because it will put off a lot of readers if you publish with lots of mistakes.
Remember, it’s better to hold back from submission or publication until you are sure you have the best story you can write. I hope I’ve been able to help a little in your achievement of that goal.
– Velvet Tripp
If creative writing is your thing, there are plenty of more detailed ‘how-to’ guides around. You could look at Kurt Vonnegut’s Eight Basics of Creative Writing, or Neil Gaiman’s eight rules, or find any of dozens of other sources from around the internet. They’re general guides about writing fiction but they apply to erotica just as they do to any other fiction. Or you could take the plunge and read M Christian’s guide, How to Write and Sell Erotica.