Monthly Archives: January 2012
by Kristina Wright
Let me tell you a story about why you’ll be seeing me here on the 28th of each month:
When I was invited to start blogging at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association blog, I said yes even though I didn’t have a clue what I would write about each month. I also wasn’t sure how I’d find the time. I’m kind of insanely busy these days, having had 2 babies in the past couple of years in addition to adding the title of anthology editor to my resume in that same time frame. But despite not knowing what I’ll be writing about on the 28th of each month (because I’m really a fiction writer and nonfiction is hard for me) or when I’ll even find the time to write (probably at 11:30 PM on the 27th…), I still said yes. And while it’s an honor to be included in the same lineup with some of my favorite writers (some of whom, I admit, intimidate me more than a little) there’s really only one reason I said yes: Adrienne Benedicks.
Adrienne is the woman behind the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. She’s the reason ERWA exists (and I remember back in the day when it was just ERA) and I can say with all certainty that she was the catalyst that started my erotica writing (and editing) career. And I bet I’m not the only author who can say that. I have met many wonderful editors and authors in the more than a decade I’ve been writing erotica (and now erotic romance), but it was Adrienne who gave me my start. She is amazing and tireless and kind and there isn’t much I wouldn’t do for her or for ERWA. Seriously.
My erotica writing career started completely by accident in 1999. I had just published my first romance novel with Silhouette Books and my second novel had been rejected by them. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with the book (I was told), it simply wasn’t what they wanted to see from me at that time. So I started down the tedious path of writing proposal after proposal (three-chapters-and-a-synopsis, ad infinitum) and having each one rejected. Part of it was I couldn’t seem to deliver another romantic suspense novel like my first book and part of it was I would be assigned to an editor who loved whatever I was currently working on, only to be reassigned to a new editor by the time the proposal was delivered. And so it goes…
I was burned out on novel proposals when I wrote a quirky little story called “Service Entrance.” It was about a married woman who pays a man for the privilege of giving him a blowjob. The story was little more than a writing exercise–something entirely different than anything I’d been writing for the previous year or so, something really “out there” and beyond the rules and regs of romance fiction. After writing novel proposals, I had actually finished something, even if it was only a subversive little short story. That in itself felt good. Refreshing! I had no idea what to do with the story–it wasn’t just sexy or erotic, it was downright dirty. I hadn’t read anything like it before and as an author who’d been told to cut several love scenes from her steamy romance novel, I was convinced I wouldn’t ever find a place that would publish it.
I might have filed “Service Entrance” away forever if not for my subscription to an electronic newsletter called Jane’s ‘Net Sex Guide and a timely call for submissions. The e-newsletter was put out by Jane Duvall, who was one of the first sex bloggers I ever read. The newsletter no longer exists, but Jane still runs the well-known adult website review blog Jane’s Guide. The editor of Jane’s ‘Net Sex Guide was none other than–ta da!– the wonderful Adrienne Benedicks. Each month, she featured a short story in the newsletter. I sent “Service Entrance” to Adrienne and she bought it within days. Not only was my head spinning from the quick turnaround time (at this point, I was used to waiting months for a response to a proposal that had only taken me weeks to write), Adrienne also sent me a lovely, flattering note of encouragement. That sale, and her kindness, changed my writing career and probably my life.
After that introduction, I discovered Adrienne’s Erotica Writers Association and sent “Service Entrance” off to editor Marcy Sheiner about a month later for consideration in an anthology she was editing. I didn’t think lightning could strike twice, but Marcy bought the story a few weeks later and “Service Entrance” went on to appear in the inaugural edition of Best Women’s Erotica (published in 2000). I was stunned. “Service Entrance” was my first erotica story and I had sold it twice in just a couple of months. I had not only found my niche, I’d found a home.
I have such appreciation and gratitude for Jane Duvall, Marcy Sheiner and–most of all– Adrienne Benedicks and her Erotica Readers and Writers Association for starting my career as an erotica writer. I just signed my seventh anthology contract with Cleis Press and I feel as if I have come full circle, being able to buy those first stories and send those encouraging notes. Giving back to the community that has given so much to me.
Hey, what do you know? Maybe my monthly blog posts here will have a theme after all.
For my first post on the ERWA blog, I wanted to do a bit of
an introductory piece. Firstly, I’d like to say that I was delighted to be
asked to contribute to the blog, particularly amongst such esteemed company, so
As the title of this blog post indicates, I have my fingers
in many pies. If people ask what my job is, I often say “a bit of
everything.” Naturally, that’s not exactly true, but I do lots of
different things which make up my full time (and the rest!) job.
I’m an erotica and erotic romance writer, with work published
by Cleis Press, Constable and Robinson, House of Erotica, Noble Romance,
Ravenous Romance, Summerhouse Publishing, Sweetmeats Press and Xcite Books.
I’ve also edited two anthologies, Uniform Behaviour (uniform erotica) and Seducing the Myth (erotic myths and legends), and there’s a good chance I’ll be editing another anthology at
some point, too, so watch this space!
I spend rather a lot of my time hopping between doing
promotional work for other writers, developing websites and also editing,
copy-editing and proof-reading. This is for my business, Writer Marketing
Finally, I run an erotica website which features author
profiles, interviews, competitions, guest posts, news and reviews. It’s for
readers, writers, and those of us who are both. Basically, anything that helps
promote the genre is welcome on the site. It’s helped me gain a reputation as
an advocate for erotica and means I get sent lots of sexy books to review! Take
a peek at http://eroticaforall.co.uk,
where authors will find a page telling them how to submit content for inclusion
on the site, and readers will hopefully have a damn good time looking around
and discovering new authors and books!
So, in a nutshell, that’s what I do. What I love is how it all
ties so closely together. I can go from writing an erotic story, to reading
one, to reviewing one, to promoting one, all in one day (or even less)! I get a
lot of variety in my days which is fantastic, and I love everything that I do.
I get to talk to the most fascinating people and do some very interesting work.
And who can ask for any more than that?
This concludes my blog post for this quarter. Now I’ve
introduced myself, I’ll be much more interesting next time, I promise. And just
to redeem myself a little… here’s where you’ll find the smut: http://lucyfelthouse.co.uk.
By Lisabet Sarai
This post is not about one night stands. I might explore that topic some other time: the thrill of the unknown, the intoxication with the unfamiliar, the tantalizing possibility that a random encounter might lead to a world-altering epiphany. Today, however, I’m actually talking about writing.
I publish both long and short erotica and erotic romance, in ebook and in print. I have a respectable back list for someone who doesn’t write full time. However, some of my best work doesn’t show up in the publishing history on my website, namely, the erotic tales I write to spec for Custom Erotica Source.
CES offers an unusual service. For a fee, and in complete privacy, CES provides a professionally written realization of a customer’s erotic fantasy scenario. Via an online questionnaire, the customer supplies all the details: the names, genders, ages, orientations, appearance and personalities of the characters; their relationships; the plot; particular erotic stimuli to emphasize; the type of language desired (from suggestive to filthy); and so on. Then the author (in this case, yours truly) takes this specification and spins it into a story from 1500 to 5000 words long (depending on what the customer orders).
At this point, some of my author colleagues may be shaking their heads. How can I prostitute myself in this way? How can I betray my art? Why would I surrender my creative vision and allow someone else to dictate the content and style of my work?
Well, of course the money is nice. But I do it partly because writing someone else’s erotic dreams is both a fascinating and an educational experience.
When I write something in response to a call for submissions, I have a generic audience in mind. I probably understand the type of tales a particular editor prefers. I know that Total-E-Bound’s readers are looking for something different than people who buy books from Cleis, or Xcite, or Republica Press. Furthermore, the anthology theme or the focus of the CFS provides some guidance as to content and tone. Within those broad boundaries, though, I’m free to follow my imagination in any direction it leads. I know I can intrigue and arouse at least some subset of the community of readers; I really can’t hope for more.
When I write for CES, on the other hand, I have an audience of one. I know exactly what turns that audience on – because the customer has shared his or her secret desires. It’s my job to put flesh on the bones of the story specification, to make my customer’s lusts concrete and then satisfy them.
To succeed in this task, I have to somehow sync my own erotic imagination with his. I can’t write an arousing story unless I see the characters and the situation through my customer’s eyes. Somehow, I have to intuit the customer’s reactions to the stimuli described in the spec and then coax myself into the same psychological state.
That’s where the intimacy arises. I don’t have any direct communication with the customer (although I am allowed to ask questions, via the management, if I see issues in the spec). Nevertheless, he (almost all my assignments have been writing for men) and I are connected, by his act of sharing his lewd dreams and my willingness to assume them as my own.
Some fantasies I’ve received as assignments don’t appeal to me personally at all. (I’m free to refuse assignments that I might find repugnant, of course. So far that hasn’t happened.) Still, I’ve managed to turn them into tales that pleased my unknown reader. This requires a kind of suspension of my own sexual identity in order to connect with his. By the time I’m finished, I’m usually turned on by the tale, regardless of my initial reaction. If I’m not, I know I haven’t fulfilled my part of the bargain.
Executing a CES assignment requires a possibly surprising degree of craft. I must pace the story in order to include all details from the spec while still keeping it within the word limit. I have to guard against adding erotic elements that push my own buttons, but might not have the same effect on my audience. At the same time, I need to add sensual details, plausible transitions and especially, emotional authenticity. That’s my added value, as a professional author. If just anyone could write a compelling, intense sexual fantasy, I’d be out of a job.
What really makes it work for me, though, is getting inside my customer’s head. Watching one of these stories unfold is a weird feeling, but exciting, too. It’s almost as though someone were whispering naughty ideas in my ear. I may have never considered these notions before, but when I wrap my mind around them, I begin to see the appeal.
It has occurred to me that my submissive tendencies account for some of my success in writing custom fantasies. My master once called me “suggestible”, and I suspect that’s an appropriate evaluation of my personality. The fact that I’m bisexual and exceptionally broad-minded about sex probably helps, too.
My one regret about these CES stories is that nobody else will ever read them. They belong to the customers who paid for them, not to me. I can’t post them on my website. I can’t even talk about the specific fantasy scenarios involved; that would be a breach of confidentiality. They’re eternal secrets, between my customer and me.
The last assignment I handled, though, involved an outrageous, kinky, gender-bending scenario that turned me on from the moment I opened the specification file. My personal sex life became significantly more interesting while I was working on the tale, because of the fantasies it inspired. I had no problem identifying with my audience in this case. And yet writing that story was possibly more difficult than my previous assignments, because I had to stop my own imagination from hijacking the customer’s vision.
I view my tales for CES as a sort of writing exercise. They require a level of control far beyond what’s needed for a free form story written to satisfy a vague theme. I believe that they’ve helped me hone my skills as an author of erotica.
The real payoff, though, is emotional – the heady sense of power that comes from bringing my customer’s dirtiest dreams to life. At the same time, it’s a sort of ecstatic surrender, a willingness to sink into my customer’s desires.
I will never know who my readers are, and they’ll never really know me. For a short while, though, we’re as close as lovers.
by Donna George Storey
A new year always brings a sense of adventure and possibility, and I’m fortunate to part of a very exciting new adventure here at the ERWA blog. It’s a real honor to be in the line-up of regular monthly columnists, all of whom I admire greatly as erotica writers and mentors.
As you may know, I write a column every other month for the ERWA website called “Cooking Up a Storey,” which combines a meditation on the writing process with a tasty recipe. For the blog format, it struck me that a sort of miniature version of “Cooking” would be fun to write. Coincidentally, I noticed that the #100 entry on this year’s Saveur magazine’s 100 list is mignardises (meeng-yar-deez), the tiny, artful sweets that are served as the last course of a grand meal in French and other fine restaurants. In “All About Pleasure,” I’ll offer you a monthly tidbit, a literary mignardises if you will, to remind you that writing erotica is sweet and hopefully leave you inspired to create your own.
January is a month when we all need a little extra inspiration, so I decided to start with one of the most powerful foundations of good erotica—the vivid, fresh expression of sensual pleasure.
Writing requires us to pay attention to everything around us, even the most humble and ordinary things. Without this focus, this desire to transform sensual experience into evocative words, we could not capture the truth of human experience in our own fresh voice. Better still, paying attention to the amazing world around me invariably brings pleasure and often awe. I liken this to the scene in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy wakes up in Technicolor Oz after a dreary life in black-and-white Kansas. This intensity of awareness is what readers expect from writing, and it’s what will keep them coming back for more.
With fifteen years of fiction writing behind me, I sometimes take the process for granted. I can dash off a decent, publishable story for a deadline while drawing from my archives of moments of heightened sensual awareness. But I think even veteran writers can use a reminder of what really matters in a story. A good writer captures experience from the inside, thus allowing the reader to enter the world of the story fully. In the best case, our fantasy might begin to seem more real and true than anything he has experienced in his own life. As in sex, the fresher and more wondrous it is for you, the better it will be for your partner, the reader. This is particularly true for erotica.
So, with the rekindling of sensitivity and wonder in mind, I’d like to offer a classic exercise in sensual awareness, known in Japanese as monoawase (moan-oh-ah-wah-say). A thousand years ago, during the age of The Tale of Genji, it was a court pastime to compare thoughtfully different types of incense or pottery or poetry or rice wine. The purported goal was to discern the blend of ingredients and their place of origin by sensual properties alone, but in the process, the critic had to hone her senses and pay close attention to the components. It is that part of the experience that is of real value to a writer.
In spite of the exotic name, the exercise is quite simple. Choose two pleasurable things to compare (“pleasurable” is, well, more pleasurable, but you can go with whatever adjective suits your current writing project). An obvious choice is two squares of different brands of dark chocolate—since Valentine’s Day is on the horizon—but two brands of Greek yogurt or two types of apple or tangerine or two lovers in one bed will serve just as well. The two things don’t really need to be similar either, just comparable, which I suppose means anything. Whatever you choose, your next step is to procure a piece of paper, a writing implement, and a place free of distractions.
Take a deep breath, and let’s begin (I’ll assume we’re dealing with two small pieces of good-quality chocolate—any complaints?)
First undress the chocolate slowly. Note the sensation of the paper, the crackle as it tears. Take a good look at the chocolate itself, jot down notes if you like. Describe the color, the relative glossiness of each. Do they look different than you thought?
Treat the chocolate like fine wine—perhaps the only consumable we are allowed to imbibe with such ritualistic reverence in Western culture. Take in the fragrance slowly. The challenge here is to describe the experience. You can use the language of wine critics to describe the scents—earthy, hints of vanilla, more obvious with mint or strike out into new territory. Our sense of smell is most directly connected to memory. Perhaps the pieces of chocolate evoke particular memories for you?
Some practitioners of monoawase say the item they are appreciating speaks or whispers to them. What is the chocolate saying to you? How can you transform the “voice” of the chocolate into your own words?
Next taste a small bite of the chocolate, no more than a third of the square. The first taste is going to be the most intense. Let it sit in your mouth and pay attention to the process and tactile experience as well as the taste. What does it feel like on your tongue? Do the flavors change? Jot down a few notes, then take another bite.
Once you feel you’ve gotten as much as you can out of the exercise, feel free to stuff the rest in your mouth and get lost in pure indulgence!
Monoawase is perfect for threesomes in bed, especially if you’re in the middle, but can this exercise be translated into an erotic experience with a long-term partner? Indeed, as in haiku poetry, the limitations of form can inspire a profoundly creative result. A favorite contrast game for me involves oral sex and a cup of hot tea. Take a mouthful of tea, let it warm your mouth, and swallow. Then immediately put your mouth to your lover’s tender parts—for both male and female, the intense warmth is bound to elicit a gasp of surprise and pleasure. Or focus on the tactile—stroking your lover’s body with a piece of fur or silk or one of those sex toy store mitts that are fur on one side and leather on the other.
Compare and contrast. Once it was a meaningless exercise on essay exams in high school. Now it’s a way to hone your writer’s skills, an excuse to eat lots of chocolate, and a reason to have oral sex while you’re drinking your tea. This focused celebration of the senses is the foundation of good sensual writing.
So go write something vividly, enchantingly and deliciously sexy—and change the world!
Donna George Storey is the author of the erotic novel, Amorous Woman. Her short stories have recently appeared in Best Women’s Erotica 2012, Best Erotic Romance, and The Best of Best Mammoth Erotica. Learn more at http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor.
Please press play and read on
When I was invited to join this group of esteemed erotic authors posting to the ERWA blog, I picked the 15th of the month for a reason: Pivot points. For me, the best stories, and poems for that matter, are about pivot points. Changes.
Falling leaves. Emerging buds. Sunrise,
Moonrise, high tide. Hello, goodbye, taste the shrimp creole, it’s to die for.
And it is kind of poetic and fitting that this, my first post, goes up January 15, 2012. Tomorrow, I start a new day job for a company that is clear across the USA from the company I have been affiliated with the past twenty-five years. It is worthy of note that I had picked the 15th as my date to post before I entered into the venture that is responsible for this change. I knew I’d be writing about transitions, but was not aware I’d be living a big one.
Anyway, twenty-five years. Half of my life. This is a big pivot point, methinks. And what about that jet airliner reference?
Today, my wife and I are flying across the country to spend a week at my new job to begin the transition. Today we look at possible new new homes. It is my experience that jet airliners and pivot points frequently go hand in hand. Jet airliners can lead to life in a motel, just me and the lady who graciously agreed to marry me over thirty years ago. Holding on to something familiar while changes race all about.
So while this, my little corner of the ERWA blog, in the future, will sometimes address sexy pivot points, like a first kiss between a couple who have discovered the first taste of chemistry on a blind date, or the gentle popping of a jeans-button and crackling of a zipper in the back seat of a Chrysler, today this blog celebrates the kind of pivot that opens onto the next step in a person’s life.
From my perch, 33,000 feet above the earth, I wish you all the best with your pivot points, be they small or large.
Ashley Lister is not an easy act to follow, but I thought perhaps I’d offer a post on theory to compliment his wonderful post on practice.
It may have caught your notice, for those who venture over into literary fiction, that writers these days produce some very unerotic, hollow and depressing sex scenes. It would be easy to assume that they can’t write sex, but I suspect their representations are purposely unarousing. So, are they all sex-negative prudes? I don’t think so – I just think they’re scared. But scared of what?
When we read, we are re-writers. We take the words of the text and bring them to life in our minds using our own experiences to flesh out the inner story. When we read about something we’ve never experienced, we hybridize the portions of the events we have experienced and enhance it with whatever information we have that might be close. For instance, we’ve never been in a spaceship, but most of us have been in an elevator, have sat in front of a computer, have looked out a viewing window of some kind. We many never have had an adult erotic spanking experience, but we’ve probably been spanked as children and seen a couple of those vintage postcards. We use whatever frame of reference we have – and then we improvise the rest. Our brain performs a brilliant remix of experience triggered and guided by the words we’re reading on the page. At its simplest level, this is why people are often so angry about film versions of books. They’ve already made the film of the book in their mind as they read it. If the one on the screen doesn’t come close, it’s disappointing.
There are two types of experiences stored in our brains. Lived-experience and mediated. They are all memories – everything is a memory once it’s occurred – but there are memories of the things we have lived through and experienced in our bodies and minds ourselves and memories of information given to us through different forms of media – writing, art, music, photographs, TV, Film, etc. We may know about, say, the Holocaust, from books we’re read, films we’ve seen, documentaries featuring survivors. But these are all mediated experiences of the Holocaust. You can only have a lived-experience of it if you’re a Holocaust survivor. And, as you can imagine, those narratives are fundamentally different. The lived, day-to-day experience is much more intense, but also contains experience of grinding hunger, chronic fear, long stretches of boredom between moments or hours of terror that might not make for an engrossing piece of narrative.
Are you still with me?
Looking back on the canon of erotic literature in the 20th century, many of the writers we think of as the fathers and mothers of our genre are also considered significant literary figures. But Lawrence, Miller, Nin, Nabokov, Duras, Bataille, etc. were all writing in times when the world was not filled with images of sex. You had to make significant efforts to find dirty postcards, bits of illicit film.
In the past, when people read “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”, or “The Delta of Venus”, the images those erotic passages brought up in their minds were memories of the sex they had experienced or witnessed others having. That’s not a large imaginary encyclopedia to work from, but most of the reference materials were of actual, real sex.
Today, of course, we still have our own experiences from which to draw, but we are also inundated with mediated images of sex. Victoria Secret Catalogues, previous erotic writing we’ve read, sex scenes in movies, amateur porn clips on YouPorn.com, stories our friends or lovers told us.
And of course, we have our own sexual fantasies, which we’ve written, directed and produced using lived experience and all the mediated images of sex we’ve consumed.
So, a great deal of our inner encyclopedia of sex is filled with versions that are mediated. Yes, in porn, the actors are actually penetrating, ejaculating, etc. But they are actors. They are having sex in order to produce a piece of entertainment for others. They fuck in positions that allow camera access. They withdraw and ejaculate where the camera can capture it. This is not how people actually have sex. This is how porn actors producing porn have sex.
Wait, you say, what about amateur porn? That’s real. Well, yes and no. Because the very act of deciding to film yourself having sex changes the intention of the sex. Even amateur porn is obsessed with creampies, gaping pulsing orifices. It is having sex for the purposes of capturing a record of it and showing it. Most amateur porn attempts to reproduce some of the common memes of commercial porn.
The truth is, most people don’t see a lot of real human sexual experience, other than our own. And in that way, we are still a very puritan society indeed.
Why does all this matter to you as a writer of erotic literature? Well, if your goal is to produce erotica primarily as an aid to sexual arousal for masturbation, it really doesn’t.
But why I think a lot of literary writers have shied away from erotic sex scenes is because they believe their job is to write about real and profound human experience, whether dramatic or quotidian, and to trigger reverberations of that profundity in their readers. They resort to writing sex scenes that are hollow, joyless, and dissociative, I suspect, because, as yet, no one has bothered to make a lot of mediated versions of awful sex since it doesn’t have a lot of commercial potential. But we’ve all had the occasional bout of rotten sex. So writing it guarantees that what will be triggered in the reader’s mind is memories of the real.
You may feel, as a writer of erotica, that it’s not important whether the images you trigger are real or mediated, but it is to me. I don’t want to connect with my readers over a landscape of commercialized sex. When they read a piece of my erotic work, I attempt, as far as possible, to ensure that what they’re imagining calls to their real memories and lived abstractions, not a porn flick. Because I feel that the story will resonate at a deeper level if my words are associated with their real, felt, lived erotic experiences.
So, how might one go about trying to write work that triggers lived-experience memories? I think it’s damn hard. I think it’s the biggest single challenge erotica writers have. But I do have some ideas.
First, watch a lot of porn. Then watch it until you’re thoroughly bored. Once it stops arousing you, you can start to see, analytically, where porn sex really differs from lived sexual experiences. Have you ever made those sounds during sex? Given a choice, would you actually choose to have sex in that position? Notice how little full body contact occurs in porn. That’s because it’s no good for the camera. Same with settings. I’ve had sex up against the wall in a dark, cramped cupboard. But there’s no way to show that in porn: there’s not enough lighting and there’s no room for the crew. In a thousand ways, porn sex bears little resemblance to the sex we actually have. But because of its ubiquity, it’s definitely starting to shape the sex we’re told we want.
Since the majority of mediated sexual information we get is visual, make this the least important part of your writing. Visual imagery in text tends to trigger visual memory in readers. I have a suspicion that the absence of visual description in the text may force the reader to rely on other senses for which they only have lived-experience. When you do use visual imagery in your writing, spend time on the visuals that are there in the real world but that are seldom focused on in mediated sex scenes. Our inner minds don’t need filmic lighting, or space for the camera crew.
To a certain extent, sound is featured in mediated versions of sex, but it’s often done with little finesse. You don’t hear much heartbeat or breath in porn, the sheets don’t rustle, the headboard doesn’t bang, joints don’t creak. Avoid the sort of dialogue that you hear in porn between porn actors. I understand that sometimes people really do say ‘Oooh, yeah, baby. Fuck me harder.” But writing it in your fiction dialogue is much more likely to trigger mental auditory memories of people saying it on screen than real utterances during sex.
Taste, smell and touch are all senses that, as yet, we have not been able to remediate. These are wonderful things to focus on in your erotic writing because all your reader has to call on to reproduce these in their interior version of your story is their own real experiences.
It’s helpful to avoid sexual terminology that has been used for ‘classification’ purposes in adult entertainment. If we’ve had lovers from other cultures or with different coloured skin to our own, we don’t think ‘bi-racial’. That person is a person to us. We don’t classify our experience with them into a marketable slot. Similarly, most people who have sexual experiences with members of the same sex don’t think ‘Hey, I’m bi now!’ They just enjoy the person their with. They indulge in the new experiences that this may offer, but they don’t classify it.
The chances are, you know what your readers look like and most of them don’t look like ramp models or porn stars. Spend time really looking at people, their faces, the way they move. Chances are, the people we’ve loved and fucked weren’t celebrity look-alikes, but we found what was beautiful in them in our proximity. A really good photographer once told me: “everyone is beautiful in extreme close-up”. Wrinkles become the landscape of experience; pores become the texture of the living, breathing tactile skin. The fine hairs at the base of the spine become the sensory cilia of anemones. Ripples of flesh become the sea of indulgences.
I honestly think it’s fucking rude to make your female readers wish they were thinner, or your male readers wish they were two inches longer. If you really want your readers to immerse fully in your fiction, don’t present them with characters that they could never imagine themselves being. It sets up subliminal feelings of inadequacy. Which is fine, if that’s what you meant to do. But don’t do it by mistake.
Finally, and if you really feel you’ve got a handle on this, you can play with language – interrupting your readers assumptions when you know they’re likely to mentally reference mediated sexual imagery. BDSM is a really good example. It’s fair to say that most people are not living a BDSM lifestyle. So their understanding of it comes from mass media: Rhianna’s video, Cat Woman, that darkly referenced CSI episode with the Domme, BDSM porn, etc. These are mostly visual. So concentrating on describing what it actually feels like to have a crop hit skin or how the muscles ache when limbs are in bondage, goes much further to bringing your reader into the scene than a visual description or a he did this/she did that. To paraphrase Mitzi Szereto, don’t tell us what happened. Tell us how it felt.
I don’t want to pretend for a moment that writing like this is easy or that I’m all that good at it. I’m not. Because, and this is the real head fuck, I am just as much influenced and affected by the mediated experiences I’ve absorbed in my lifetime as my readers are. Not everything I write about in erotic fiction are things I’ve lived either. But please don’t despair; once you’ve started to interrogate your own creative imagination, you can often identify the sources of your internal data quite easily. Just being aware of this empowers your choices as a writer. Also – and this is vital – don’t try to use this critical approach on a first draft. Write your story draft first and then play ‘spot the mediated porn memes’ in the editing stages. Otherwise, you can easily begin to suffer from total creative paralysis.
I think the prospect of arousing your reader not simply at a genital level, but at an existential level, makes the challenge worth the effort. And we, as erotic writers are a brave and intrepid bunch. Literary writers who won’t write erotic sex scenes are, in my view, cowards for not, at least, attempting to integrate the erotic into their work and giving its proper and important place in writing the human experience.
By Ashley Lister
As Lisabet mentioned at the start of the year, the ERWA blog is going to see a lot more activity in 2012. My name is Ashley Lister and, aside from being a regular columnist and reviewer at ERWA, I’m also a freelance writer and a creative writing lecturer.
Because of that last qualification, I figured I could use this space to share some of my favourite exercises for all those erotica writers reading this who want to polish their craft.
I usually work with three types of writing exercise.
The first type is the sort that’s traditionally used in the lecture hall. It’s a timed exercise designed to get students writing. These are usually ‘on-demand’ type exercises where students write haikus, limericks, cinquains etc. The purpose of these exercises is to get students familiar with the form being discussed.
From a writer’s perspective, timed lecture hall exercises work best when they can be recreated at home. That way the writer has the scope to properly use the exercise but without the pressure of meeting unreasonable standards set by peers.
The second type of writing exercise is the sort that’s solely intended to be done at home. For these, in my classes, I’ll give a theme or the opening paragraph to a story and ask learners to create a short piece of fiction to share with the rest of the class the following week.
Last term I used the opening pages from a piece of werewolf fiction I’d written (‘Scratched’, Red Velvet and Absinthe). The class’s responses to this exercise produced a lot of differing results. Few had gone for the traditional approach to telling a werewolf story. One had simply gone to see the latest Twilight film and told me the plot of that movie. Some of the stories were dark – dark even for werewolf stories. Some of them were whimsical. All of them had been written when the writers had the time and enthusiasm to engage with the subject. This level of personal involvement showed in the quality of the writing.
From a writer’s perspective, these are the exercises which I prefer. I can complete them at my own pace, in my own writing place, and without the pressure demanded by the need for immediate quality results.
The third type, to my mind, is the sort of exercise used for creating fresh ideas. Creating ideas can be daunting for any new writer and these are the sorts of collaborative exercises where we share our suggestions and bounce them off other writers. It’s a chance to voice ideas to others, see how they’re received, and to also get an insight into the way peers are thinking. In short: it’s a chance to hear some unusual ideas which can often prove tangentially inspirational.
One of my favourite exercises of this type is adapted from Margaret Geraghty’s The Five Minute Writer. Learners are expected to spend five minutes compiling a short list in response to the question: What does it feel like to…?
My personal responses to this included items such as:
What does it feel like to run a marathon?
What does it feel like to lick a hedgehog?
What does it feel like to taste an emotion?
Your exercise, should you wish to participate, is to produce five original responses to that question: What does it feel like to…? Feel free to share your suggestions via the comments box below and let’s see if we can inspire each other with some wonderful and original ideas.
By Lisabet Sarai
Dear Randy Revelers,
No, this isn’t a new installment of the Erotic Lure newsletter. Following our ERWA tradition, we give you a double dose of the salacious and sensual in December and then taking a well-deserved break in January. So the next Lure won’t be coming your way until February – although I’ll bet you haven’t exhausted the delights of the last edition yet!
I’m here because I want to let everyone know some exciting news about the ERWA blog. While we’ve been partying up a storm over at the ERWA website, this poor blog has been languishing, unloved and largely unvisited. In 2012 we plan to change all that.
To remedy this sad state of affairs, we’ve lined up a slate of regular contributors to heat things up in the blogosphere. Many will be familiar names to ERWA afficionados. Each of us will post on the same date each month, on your favorite topics: love, lust, relationships, writing, publishing, toys, fantasies, fiction, and the intersection of sex and society. We’ll be letting it all hang out. The great thing about a blog is that you can hang out with us!
Use the comment facility to talk back, share your opinions and experiences, argue or approve. Tell us what topics you think we should address. Let us (and the other visitors) know if you find web gems relevant to the subjects at hand. The ERWA web site has a few areas where you can participate, submitting your thoughts, but we hope the blog will be much more interactive.
Here’s the line up:
- 6th – Ashley Lister
- 10th – M. Christian
- 13th – Remittance Girl
- 15th – Craig Sorensen
- 18th – Donna George Storey
- 21st – Lisabet Sarai
- 24th – Kathleen Bradean
- 26th – Lucy Felthouse – every three months
- 28th – Kristina Wright
We may have other occasional guests as well. In addition, our beloved (web)mistress Adrienne will continue to step out of her dungeon every now and again to post calls for submission, publisher profiles, and other useful information.
So I hope you’ll visit frequently and join in the fun.
This new year is going to rock!