You are on page 1of 16

The Do's And Dont's Of Writing Erotic

Fiction

Sex is at the heart of what it means to be human. Its vitally important to nearly all of us.
Its a driving force in our daily lives (even when were celibate), and its mysteries are
infinite. So it bewilders me that as a rule erotica is seldom taken seriously, either
by writers or readers. Intelligent, well-written erotica is a rare, rare thing (and Ive been
looking for it all of my life).
I believe that in order to write well about sex, we have to resist the version of sexuality
thats brandished at us every day by the advertising and fashion industry: most
especially the idea that we can only be aroused by superficiality and perfection. How
can we make sex on the page as well as in life less a performance and more a
source of communion? How can we go deeper?
The following are some of my own tips for writing erotic fiction:

1. Respect The Genre. Respect The Reader


Bring the same attention and regard to writing about sex as you would to anything else
youd write. Assume the reader wants and is capable of appreciating something
beyond a jerk-off vehicle. Theres nothing wrong with getting off I always hope my

readers are getting off on what I write! but I want to affect people between the ears
as much as between the legs.
Theres nothing wrong with getting off I always hope my readers are getting off on
what I write! but I want to affect people between the ears as much as between the legs.

2. Spare The Rod


The throbbing rod, that is, and all other coy euphemisms for body parts. Please dont tell
me about our heros member, or manhood, or hard hot tool or battering ram. Likewise,
dont refer to our heroines mound or tunnel or the center of her womanhood.

3. Dispense With Cliches


Dont say that he pounded her like a jackhammer, or that she lay back, spent. Tell me
something I havent heard before. Make me think about something that wouldnt occur
to me otherwise.

4. Less Is More
Stay away from blow-by-blow descriptions of sex acts. The mechanics arent whats
intriguing. The emotional dynamics between people are intriguing.

5. Keep It Real
Two flawlessly beautiful people having ecstatic sex is just about the least interesting
thing I can think of. The key to any fictional scene is tension and conflict. Its okay for
characters to feel awkward or angry or afraid within a sex scene. Its all right for a man
to be short or to wear glasses (meet Laura Antonious Chris Parker), fine for a woman to
have a flat chest or ample proportions. We are drawn to each others darkness,
strangeness, sadness, and vulnerability.

6. Draw On All Five Senses When You Write A Sex


Scene
The curve of a hip. The scent of leather. The taste of boot polish. The sound of rain on
the roof. The texture of the grass in a secluded field. A compelling fantasy demands a
certain immediacy. Put the reader where your characters are.

7. Hone Your Dialogue


...and expect it to carry the scene. Again, the old in-out is not compelling in itself. What
is the fantasy these lovers are enacting? What is the power dynamic between them?
What secrets, longings, grudges, insecurities, memories are in play here?

8. Bring The Reader Into Another World

We read to be transported, and theres no reason erotic writing shouldnt demand the
same original vision and creativity as any other genre. Laura Antonious Marketplace
and the Chateau of Roissy are richly imagined alternate realms with their own rules and
rituals and hierarchies.

9. Avoid The Overwrought


I believe that the more extreme the scene, the more restrained the language should be.
Both The Story of O and Nine and a Half Weeks bring a straightforward, understated
narrative style to an outlandish tale and I believe take on potency and credibility
for having done so.

10. Write Your Own Fantasy. Make It Authentic


If Im working on a sex scene and Im not turned on, I know it probably isnt very
effective. If youre not hot and bothered while writing, chances are good that ultimately
the reader wont be either. Conversely, if you can bring yourself to write what genuinely
excites you, no matter how strange or mortifying, readers are usually affected in turn.
You cant fake this. And you cant play it safe. You have to be brave.

These are the rules that I try to follow myself, and of course, they reflect only my own
aspirations. If your goal is to write the next Fifty Shades Of Grey, then this isnt the list
to consult. But if you believe, as I do, that nothing is hotter than authenticity, discipline,
inventiveness and depth, then I hope it will offer you something you can use.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know


About Writing Erotica (But Were Afraid
to Ask)
As an erotica author, Ive found that many people have preconceived notions about the
art of writing erotica and erotic romance. Before I became well versed in writing the
genre, I had misconceptions of my own, and that led to much trial and error as I worked
to refine my craft and learn how better to please my audience. Following are 10 tips
Ive accrued for those curious about writing erotica:

Lisa Lane is an eclectic writer who works in


multiple genres and formats; she writes
novels, original screenplays, short stories
and essays. Four of her erotica novels and
six erotic romance short stories are published
through Ravenous Romance. She also has one
sweet romance published. See her website here.

1. Its not all about the sexreally. While sex does play a key role in erotica, the sex
itself is secondary to the development of the characters and plot. A good erotica writer
knows that, no matter how great the sex is, there still needs to be a good, solid story if
one wants to hold a readers interest.
2. Dynamics sell. Flat characters never go far, but in erotica, you really do have your
work cut out for you when it comes to creating believable and entertaining character
dynamics. Dashing heroes make for great romance and passionate love-making, but
they wont keep the story going. Think about the characteristics that you find most
entertaining, and then brainstorm: Readers like characters who use fun dialog, have a
good sense of humor, and make interesting choices. What types of hobbies, beliefs or

interests might help to develop your charactersand give them something in common?
The hero must be worth pursuing, and the heroine must be worthy of her hero.
3. Perspective is pivotal. Most readers prefer erotica shown from the female
perspective, unless the work is written specifically for readers of M/M (man on man). If
you have an idea for a heterosexual erotic story with the hero taking full lead, consider
ways you might revise it to focus more on the females point of view. Some (very
limited) authors have found success in shifting through both points of view, and it works
well in some circumstances, but many editors will frown on the head hopping of
internal dialog.
4. Mixed-genre erotica and erotic romance are all the rage. While many readers still
enjoy straight erotica, mixed-genre erotica is a great avenue to take for writers looking
for their niche. Use your literary interests to your advantage and write what you like,
letting the erotic aspects work as an added feature to your work. Youll have more fun
writing, and that will shine through to your readers.
5. Know your target audience and make sure you brand your work accordingly.
Are you writing for fans of erotic romance or other subgenres? Make sure that romance
is a strong part of your plot if youre planning on marketing to erotic romance readers,
and make sure youre clear about your subgenres. Let your audience know what theyre
in for before they read your work: if you are including kinky or gay/lesbian aspects to
your story, or if you are incorporating audience-specific subgenres such as horror,
steampunk, or hard science fiction, be clear about those aspects in your marketing.
Readers do not respond well to these types of surprises.

Buy Love in Space

Buy Lust in Space

6. Dont be afraid to take chances. One point that I cannot stress enough is the
importance to be innovative and unique in your erotica. There are only so many ways to

write a traditional sex scene, and they can become repetitive and boring. Use your
subgenres to your advantage. What is it about your characters or their circumstances
that you can use to make your erotica different? What limits can you break, without
crossing the line?
7. Dont be too quick to relieve your audience of the romantic and/or sexual
tension. Let it build, let it fall, let a heart or two break, and then give the readers what
theyve been waiting for.
8. Great sex doesnt always have to include love. While erotic romance is a hot
market right now, dont underestimate the power of pure, raw, primal sex. It can be fun
and interesting to develop characters that make their moves based on pure attraction, the
love/hate dichotomy, and revenge or rebound.
9. Dont forget the foreplay. Just as it is important to build sexual tension, it is also
important to make sure your characters dont jump into the act of lovemaking too
quickly. Foreplay helps to add to the sexual tension youve already built between your
characters, and it makes that final climactic release all the more satisfying.
10. Be tactful about your ending. Like romance, erotica and erotic romance readers
tend to expect a happily ever after or happy for now ending. Dont let your
audience down by offering them a great story, only to leave them hanging or
disappointed by the characters outcomes. Even cliffhangers in series need to give the
readers hope that all is well, if at least for the time being. If the main couple does not
end up together, make sure there is a good reason for it, and that they are better off
going their separate ways.
Writing erotica can be a fun and rewarding venture, but as with any genre there are rules
to which the author must adhere. While rules can sometimes be stretched or even
broken, knowing your audience and your market will go a long way in helping you to
promote your work. Have fun, write what you like, but make sure that youre also
writing with your target audience in mind. Good luck!

5 Steps to Writing Successful Erotic


Fiction
By Daniel O'Brien October 16, 2009 483,159 views

Facebook

Twitter

Add to Favorites

As most of you know, Cracked.com is actually my night job. My real job is, and has
been for the last several years, Chief Editor in Chief at O'Brien & "Sons" Erotic Fiction
Publishing House, where I've been overseeing the publishing and distribution of
thousands of the most successful Erotic Fiction novels to hit the stands. If you picked up
an Erotic Fiction Novel (EroFicNov) over the last decade, chances are it carried the
O'Brien & "Sons" label.
As you can imagine, a ton of Erotic Fiction Manuscripts (EroFicMan) have come across
my desk over the years, some of it great, some of it not so great. To answer some of the
questions I get regularly, and to make my job easier, I'm going to list all the important
steps to writing great Erotic Fiction, everything that separates the un-publishable from
the publishable. Follow these instructions and, in no time, you'll write something so
great it'll make The Way of a Man with a Maid look like The Lustful Turk!Be Original,
People!
I can't tell you how many times I've rejected the same, stale Erotic Fiction premises
(EroFicPre). A pizza delivery guy enters and seduces with a housewife. A rich prince
sweeps a poor, delicate woman off of her feet and into his bed. A painter is so overcome
with the beauty of his model that he abruptly stops his work and romances
her/masturbates in front of her. A vampire and the twins from that Harry Potter movie
fuck in a cave, somewhere. A stale premise won't get your foot in the door, which is
why originality is the single most important part of Erotic Fiction.
The Erotic Fiction Community (EroFicCom) is overrun with these premises. Surprise
us! Show us something we haven't seen before, or your Erotic Fiction will live at the
bottom of the bargain bucket with the rest of the literary world's excrement. It's easy and
lazy to say that all of the good premises have been taken. True, the remaining premises
don't immediately lend themselves to Erotic Fiction, but with some creativity, I'm
confident that you can make anything sexy!
At the zoo!

Pizza REMOVAL Guy!


(What a twist!)

Erotic Historical Fiction

Erotic SCIENCE Fiction?

Wish Fulfillment
When people buy Erotic Fiction, they're doing so to live out their sexual fantasies, the
kind of fantasies they're too nervous to ask their real-life partner about. This bears
repeating: Erotic Fiction is what the reader cannot get in real life. Understanding this is
the key to unlocking success in the publishing world and is, without a doubt, the most
important part of Erotic Fiction. So don't give them what they can get at home, give
them something fantastical and amazing, fulfill all of their wildest desires. In the
following sample (Autobiography: My Life in Six Butts), we see what, according to my
best guess, every average woman craves but doesn't get at home.
Sample:

Details, People!
While it's stupid to deny that Erotic Fiction is chiefly about fornicating, it would be
dismissive -not to mention detrimental to your writing- to say that it is only about
fornicating. Think of Erotic Fiction as a Tootsie Pop. Fornicating is certainly the rich
chocolate center that everyone craves, but we still need that thick, delicious shell of
candy that accompanies the chocolate/fornicating. And what hides in that shell? Details.

Nobody wants to read about just "two bodies fucking," they want to know that those
two fucking-bodies are attached to fucking-people with hearts and souls (that fuck each
other). The reader wants their characters to be real and human which is why details are,
hands down, the most important part of Erotic Fiction. Give your characters lives. Who
are they? What do they look like? How do they dress? There are only two and a half
ways to have sex, and there's nothing you can do about that. It is in the details where
you can get creative and separate your piece of Erotic Fiction from all other competing
titles.

Dialogue, People!
Dialogue is the most important part of Erotic Fiction. I know, you want to just rush into
the fornicating, but dialogue helps round out your characters and establish the mood.
Also, don't miss an opportunity to have fun! Dialogue is your chance to get creative, get
silly, get naughty.

I've included several samples from my own work. What follows are a number of lines of
dialogue for which I've received much critical praise.
"Did somebody order a boner?"
-From A Fistful of Seduction
"Is it me or did it just get boner in here?"
-From The Thunder Strikes 12 at Midnight
"Boner? I barely know her! And, yes, I have a boner."
-From The Great Gatsby II: Gats ta Git Dat Booty
"On your mark. Bone set. Boner!"
-From Fucked at the Olympics!
"...Yeah? More like 'Bonercane Katrina,' and instead of your house I'm going to utterly
destroy that vag!"
-From Love in the Time of Post-Disaster New Orleans: A Memoir
Also, let double entendres be your friend. A Double Entendre is when you say one
thing but you really mean fucking. Double entendre-laden dialogue, in fiction and in
life, is like verbal foreplay and an excellent way to build sexual tension in Erotic Fiction
(SexTenEroFic). In the below example from A Sex Day at the Fuck Races, see how
Mary and Bort, two relative strangers, speak indirectly about sex through the use of
running-themed double entendres.

When In Doubt, Just Write About Two Bodies Fucking


That's honestly all people want. It's both the most important and the only essential part
of Erotic Fiction.
Sample:

How To Write Erotica

Want to learn how to write steamy sex scenes? Check out these tips from a woman, and
these slightly more offensive tips from a man.
The woman is Belle de Jour, author of Playing the Game, and her suggestions pretty
much read like pointers for good writing in general. She says,
Arms are flying, tongues are flicking, and where on earth did that extra arm come from?
The effectiveness of sex writing depends, as with real sex, on getting from point A to
point Z via all the letters in between. Too many stories start on the sofa, then segue
straight into a threesome on the beach.
Plenty of non-erotic books fail because the author can't keep track of the rooms in a
house or the stops on a bus route, or because the action moves implausibly quickly or
slowly. Getting from A to Z effectively: good advice for any writer. So is de Jour's
caution not "to dwell on what ruffly garment was worn, the precise glossy shade of a
woman's hair, and so on," or to "describe anything that is not in fact chocolate as being
'like chocolate.'" Perhaps her only totally sex-specific tip is this one:
If I wanted to read about the kind of sex I have every day, I would . . . well, I wouldn't.
Why fantasise about what you already experience? I go to the written word for places
and faces that I don't get at home. Hot people in hot climates. Sex acts I can hardly
imagine. Porn is about the unachievable . . . and, therefore, the inherently desirable.
The male sex-tipster, Ewan Morrison, starts off by explaining why women don't write
about sex as well as men do (heard this before?). He says, "it's because male writers
have a much longer tradition of breaking taboos about sex (straight and gay)." His
examples are Henry Miller and Anais Nin. He writes,

"Women Can't Write About Sex," Says Female Sex Writer

In an Ann Coulter-worthy bit of self-undermining, sex writer and new owner of Britain's
Erotic Read more
Miller is all vigour, urgency and detail. Nin's body becomes relatively anonymous for
him. Nin has to make the act seem poetic and address the virility of Miller's 'authorship.'
'His book swells inside of me,' she writes. His penis is, almost literally, the canon of
Western male fiction.

Comparing a dick to a book (kinda oblong) doesn't sound all that hot, but is anonymity
really the recipe for great erotica? Morrison seems to think so. He writes that,
the bourgeois distinction between erotica and porn [...] is based on an opposition
between ethically good sex with 'wholesome, well-rounded characters' (erotica) and
nasty cheap sex with anonymous bodies (porn). Porn is omnipresent now and calling a
certain kind of porn 'erotica' is a middle-class attempt to set itself against the tasteless
culture of the masses.
It's clear here that we're supposed to think sex with "wholesome, well-rounded
characters" is less fun than "sex with anonymous bodies." And it sure is, if you make
those characters sound like big balls of oatmeal. If, however, a character has an
interesting personality or an exciting (or twisted) relationship to the person he's fucking,
isn't that more arousing than anonymous tab-a-into-slot-b? Maybe not for Morrison,
who seems to take a pretty narrow view of what's acceptable in erotica. He says,
Write from experience, not fantasy[.] Fantastical sex scenes are hilarious, shallow and
awful. Follow the masters: Miller, Jean Genet and Nin, who wrote from the depths of
lives devoted to sensual pleasure. If you don't have the experiences to enrich your
writing, go out and get them or stop trying to write sex scenes.
Pretty much the polar opposite of Belle de Jour's advice, and kind of odd coming from
someone who wrote Mnage, a novel inspired by the mnage trois between Henry
Miller, June Miller and Anas Nin. Presumably Morrison never actually had sex with
any of these people, and thus his writing didn't really come from experience. Perhaps he
discovered that imagining sex you could never or would never have is actually
titillating? But then again, that's probably just my failure to break taboos talking. Better
go back to fucking books.