tagHow ToNotes to Myself on Writing Erotica

Notes to Myself on Writing Erotica


Implicitly, the root theme of all erotica is the human need to touch and be touched. We are primates.

Acts of sex are central to every erotica narrative (even in their absence), but they are not erotica's primary subject.

The primary subject is the how and the why of sexual behavior. The what remains inanimate without them.

To remain dynamic, the what needs to have a narrative function. Sexuality becomes an agent of transformation. The emotional entanglements, the multiple consequences, the ecstasy and the anguish of a sexual relationship substantially alter something within the main character. Loss and gain. For better or worse, life can't be lived as it was before. Sexual intimacy has shifted everything.

Begin the story with its first sentence, then never take a backward step.

Each successive sentence adds something that is immediately relevant to the narrative and previously unknown to the reader.

Invent continuously. Aim for the unexpected. Chopin!

If the story can appear to be continuously invented by the writer, it can be continuously discovered by the reader.

No prologues. Begin with a hook, a moment that leads inevitably to further action. Dramatize it, don't tell it.

Keep exposition short and scarce. Make the story come out in dialogue, action and setting.

Effective writing about sex cannot remain literal for long. Literal description leads to a whole lot of telling with no showing. It becomes exposition and reads like a punch list.

Effective writing is imagistic / aural, figurative. It works the senses. It invokes sense memory.

Find the metaphors that are appropriate to the story, and allow the reader to engage imaginatively with that imagery. Aim for the unexpected.

Generalities do not generate images. "Perfect tits" describes nothing. A writer of such a phrase assumes that each reader can fill in the blank with a personal ideal. Perfect tits = ______. (My own, unfortunately, seems to be a cartoon drawing.) It's about as absurd an expression as "A#1 cock."

To spark an image, a writer has to be specific. "When she lay back, her breasts didn't splay. They was perfect."

Sharpen your eye for the telling details. They make the story real.

Excise all but the telling details, and cite as few of them as possible.

Do not fear simplicity! It keeps you honest.

Eliminate the justifiers. "She felt herself becoming dizzy," or "She grew dizzy?" The first sentence pulls away from the action, interposing perception; the second states the action, directly and succinctly, and makes room for the reader. More of the latter and less of the former makes a stronger story.

Justifiers situate the narrator between the reader and the story. Let them bow out graciously, but do eliminate them.

Rarely should a line of dialogue require an adjective. Convincing dialogue speaks for itself.

It's true: adjectives tend to drag. Prune them ruthlessly.

Needless repetition, needless to say, is your story's ticket to the abyss. It's a story killer, needless repetition, and that's all you need to say about it.

"She climbed the worn steps, gripping the sticky bannister and listening to the creaking wood beneath her feet, while eyeing the ominous shadows at the top of the staircase," or "She climbed the worn steps, eyeing the darkness at the top?"

Do not fear simplicity.

"Jane licked Joan's salty love pie," or "Jane licked Joan's aquatic folds and tasted the sea?" Hmm. Both at least refer to salt. The former might be praised for its pithiness (eh), and it pursues simplicity - but it's also opaque, and a tad crass. The latter trends artsy-fartsy, but it offers a suggestive image and invites the reader to associate with the story through sense memory (touch, the texture of aquatic folds, and taste, NaCl).

Moliere is reputed to have said that he knew when his work on a play was done, not when he had put everything into it, but when he could take nothing more away. Pursue simplicity. Stay honest.

Reread "Cooper's Literary Offenses," by Mark Twain. More importantly, reread his follow-up, "Fenimore Cooper's Further Literary Offenses: Cooper's Prose Style." A great lesson in writing.

Never publish a first draft of anything, ever.

Never publish a second draft either.

Strive to entertain.

And, finally, for now, a small prayer. O lord, for the sake of better writing everywhere, please smite the word smirk from erotica's vocabulary. Unless muttered by a character who is soon to die painfully, or used with utter objectivity, let it be wiped from every page. Thank you. Amen.

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byJ_Melquiades© 9 comments/ 6932 views/ 12 favorites

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by Anonymous

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by mitchawa08/13/18

Good advice

I've only read one of your stories, and you attempted to follow your note but failed. However, I liked this piece and believe you have the right/best idea.

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