Of all the things to write, I feel one of the all-time toughest has got to be fetish erotica. Gay or lesbian—or straight, if you’re gay or lesbian or bisexual—is comparatively a piece of cake: just insert body part of preference and go with it. For gay erotica, it’s a male body, and for lesbians, it’s a female body. For straights, it’s the opposite. You don’t have to create the ideal man or woman; in fact, it’s better to describe characters that are a bit more … real. Perfection is dull, and can be bad storytelling, but a body with its share of wrinkles, blemishes, or sags can add dimension and depth.
The same goes with motivation, the inner world of your character. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: the trick to writing beyond your own gender or orientation is in projecting your own mental landscape into the mind of your character. You may not know how gay sex, lesbian sex, or straight sex feels, but you do know what love, affection, hope, disappointment, or even just human skin feels like. Remember that, bring it to your character and your story, and you’ll be able to draw a reader in.
But fetishes are tougher. To be momentarily pedantic, Webster’s says that fetishes are: “an object or body part whose real or fantasized presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification.” That’s pretty accurate—or good enough for us here—but the bottom line is that fetishes are a sexual interest that may or may not directly relate to sex. Some pretty common ones are certain hair colors, body types, smells, tastes, clothing, and so forth.
We all have them to some degree. To open the field to discussion, I like breasts. But even knowing I have that fetish doesn’t mean I can really explain why I like big ones. It’s really weird. I mean, I can write about all kinds of things, but when I try and figure out what exactly the allure of large hooters is for me, I draw a blank. The same thing (even more so) used to happen when I tried to write about other people’s fetishes.
But I have managed to learn a couple of tricks about it, in the course of my writing as well as boobie pondering (hey, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon). I’ve come up with two ways of approaching a fetish, at least from a literary standpoint. The first to remember that fetishes are like sex under a microscope, that part of their power is in focusing on one particular behavior or body part. Let’s use legs as an example. For the die-hard leg fetishist, their sexuality is wrapped around the perfect set of limbs. For a leg man, or woman, the appeal is in that slow, careful depiction of those legs. The sex that happens after that introduction may be hot, but you can’t get away with just saying he or she had a great set of gams.
Details! There has to be details—but not just any kind of detail. For people into a certain body type or style, the words themselves are important. I remember writing a leg fetish story and having it come back from the editor with a list of keywords to insert into the story, the terms his readers would respond to and demanded in their stories. Here’s where research comes in: a long, slow description is one thing, but to make your fetish story work, you have to get your own list of button-pushing terminology.
The second approach is to understand that very often fetishes are removed from the normal sexual response cycle. For many people, the prep for a fetish is almost as important, if not as important, as the act itself. For latex fans—just to use an extreme example—the talcum powder and shaving before even crawling into their rubber can be just as exciting as the black stretchy stuff itself. For a fetish story, leaping into the sex isn’t as important as the prep to get to it. Another example that springs to mind is a friend of mine who was an infantilist—and before you leap to your own Webster’s, that means someone who likes to dress up as someone much younger. For him, the enjoyment was only partially in the costume and role-playing. A larger part of his dress-up and tea parties was in masturbating afterward: in other words, the fetish act wasn’t sex; it was building a more realistic fetish fantasy for self-pleasure afterwards. Not that all of your literary experiments need to be that elaborate, but it does show that for a serious fetishist, the span of what can be considered sex can be pretty wide.
The reason to try your hand at fetish erotica I leave to you—except to say what I’ve said before: that writing only what you know can lead to boredom for you and your readers. Try new things, experiment, and take risks. In the case of fetishes, it can only add to your own sensitivity and imagination—both in terms of writing and storytelling, but maybe even in the bedroom.
And who could argue with that?
by Ashley Lister
Have you been naughty?
Do you need a good spanking?
Which paddle should I select?
I have been naughty.
I deserve your punishment.
Please use the studded paddle.
We’re all familiar with the haiku: the poetic
form, imported from Japanese culture, and interpreted by western poets as a three-line
stanza with a syllable count of 5-7-5.
Less familiar, but similar in many ways to
the haiku, is the katuata. In its Japanese
form the poem was made up of 19 onji, which we’ve translated as syllables. Most
authorities give the Katuata a three-line form structure of 5-7-7.
One of the popular applications of this form
is the mondo: a poem traditionally written by two poets and presented in the
form of a question and answer. The first stanza is the question, the second is the response.
As a tool for helping with collaboration, this
is clearly an apposite way to begin a writing partnership. However,
as a fun way of getting two characters talking, or simply challenging the
artistic imagination, writing the brief exchange of a mondo at the start of a
writing session is an effective way to kick-start creativity.
Your plans for tonight?
House of Cards
or Breaking Bad?
Or Pretty Little Liars?
Let’s be more daring.
Forget this Netflix and chill
We’ll make our own blockbuster
As always, I look forward to seeing your
poems in the comments box below.
I believe at some point every writer finds herself in the throes of the story that has to be written. I think erotica writers might find themselves there even more often than other writers because we’re often intrigued with the taboo, with the transgressive, with the unthinkable ‘what ifs’ that are a part of the dark unconscious.
I think it’s a part of the calling of the storyteller — that need to delve a little deeper, that need to see what’s really going on beneath the surface of the fairy tale, the myth, the urban legend. We seldom find sweetness and light hidden deep in the human psyche. Every demon, every monster, every nightmare, every dark fantasy that we won’t even allow ourselves to look at in the light of day is hidden there. I can’t even think about what’s behind that closed door separating acceptable story fodder from the darkness and not shiver.
I had an experience once, while writing a story of that dark nature, or rather rewriting it, that reminds me of just how powerful that dark place can be. I was alone in the house, my husband was away on business. It was late — long after midnight, and I was in the zone. There had been wine, there had been coffee, lots of coffee, and there had been fabulous uninterrupted writing. I had just rewritten a stimulating chapter that I was very pleased with, and I was all poised to begin the next, when I realized what that next chapter was. It was easily one of the darkest passages I’d ever written, straight from the depths of my less than pristine, less than sane unconscious. It frightened me when I wrote it. There was no way I could face it alone in the middle of the night and sleep afterwards. I downed tools and picked up the romance novel I was reading, a novel full of – you guessed it, sweetness and light. Truth is I needed some hearts and flowers just to lull myself to sleep, safely away from my monsters and the nightmares they bring. It was clean, it was safe, it was happy, and it allowed me to shut the door on the darkness until morning.
My point is that we, as writers, have the ability to bring those places deep in ourselves into the light. If we’re brave, we delve beneath the sweetness and the typical HEA and we meet ourselves in our darkest places. If we’re really brave, we write down what we find there, we shape it into a story because it’s a little easier to deal with that way, to experiment with, to study and to try and understand. And then, if we’re exceptionally fearless, we put it out there for the world to see. To the writer, it’s being naked in the worst sort of way. It’s vulnerability that any non-writer would never understand. But quite often to the reader, it’s a look into the mirror at the parts of herself she may never have been bold enough to examine before.
I’ve been in both places. I’ve read stories through the haze of my own squeamishness, though my own anger and shame only to meet myself on the other side, and I’ve gutted it up with fear and trembling and told the tale that exposes self and mirrors it back to others. There’s no glam of the writing life in that, no swashbuckling, no billionaires, none of the Cinderella make-overs of a sunshine and cupcakes HEA. Instead, here be monsters, and they are not nice monsters.
But if we can get beyond the need to make it all better, the need to wrap it all up in satin and tie it with a bow, if we can get to the blood and guts of what’s there at the center of the human experience, we might just find that our commonality has as much to do, even more to do, with the guilt and the shame and the hidden desires of the monsters beneath than it does with sweetness and light. We live in denial, and to a certain degree, I don’t believe we have much choice if we want to stay sane. But there are varying degrees of denial, and denying and defying that denial from time to time makes me feel a little more real, a little more human, and sharing it makes me feel a little less alone with my monsters.
Want to come to a
book party? My new contemporary erotic romance novel No Restraint was released recently, and I’m hosting a book party in
its honor. I’m giving away some prizes including free Kindle erotic romance
books, some fancy schmancy soaps, and a Jack Rabbit vibrator!
I haven’t decided
which ebooks I’m giving away, but most likely they will be my two erotic fairy
tales Trouble In Thigh High Boots
(Erotic Puss In Boots) and Climbing Her
Tower (Erotic Rapunzel).
I love parties, especially where books are concerned. The most fun one I went to was for Broad Universe. I brought some of my horror books with me for a reading. Everyone brought a treat. We brought chili. There were also brownies, cookies, and soft drinks. The crowd was small but it was worthwhile. I got to practice my public speaking skills and mingle with strangers, which is no mean feat for me since I’m very introverted. I’d love to attend another public, live, in person book party soon, but for now, Facebook will do.
Here is the link for
my Facebook party:
It runs from 9 AM EST until midnight PM EST on Sept. 6.
Here is some
information about No Restraint, which was published by Xcite Books in the U. K.
Blurb and excerpt
from No Restraint. Buy this book at
Craig accepts a new job at a high-end sex doll company called Babes. Babes’
dolls are high-end, expensive silicone love toys. Working at Babes is like
working for a bacchanal. The company’s culture is all about decadence, enjoying
the good life, exciting sex, and enticing food and drink. Alex meets Jackson
Beale, one of the company’s vice-presidents. Jackson takes Alex on a new and
exciting journey of carnal pleasure. He introduces her to new tactile and kinky
pleasures, and she relishes her excitement. The world takes on an entirely new
meaning and importance to Alex as she learns what she’s been missing in her
walked hand in hand down the wooden pathway and across the bridge to the fine,
warm sand. Hot sun beat down on her shoulders, making her sweat. The heat was a
bit overpowering, and she wanted to swim to cool off from the sweltering
weather as well as her own arousal.
chill from the waves lapping at her feet made her jump; the water was colder
than she expected it would be. Jackson took her by the hand and the two of them
ran headfirst into the waves, splashing water all about them. With a flying
leap, Alex plunged into the waist-deep water, shrieking as the chill shocked
her. Once immersed in the water she felt cool and comfortable. She enjoyed the
much-needed relief from the smoldering heat.
smoothed her wet hair as Jackson approached her to wrap his arms around her
waist. Holding her so tightly she couldn’t escape, he lowered his head and
kissed her full on the mouth. Not expecting the embrace, she struggled to pull
away from him but soon surrendered to her passion. She wrapped her arms around
his back and sank into his kiss. His tongue slipped into her mouth and she
greeted him in kind, tongues dancing a duet to music only the two of them could
hear. Her head spun and sparks exploded behind her eyelids as her blood rushed
through her veins.
man had ever gotten such an excited response from her from his mere kiss.
pulled away from each other, lips unlocking, and she stared into his eyes. She
couldn’t read his expression. He gazed at her with an intensity she hadn’t seen
before. It was as if he wanted to see through to her very soul and possess it.
she would let him if he insisted.
warm breeze brushed her skin as she and Jackson walked along the beach.
Bubbling surf washed over her feet, cooling her in the hot sun. They walked
hand in hand as if they had been partnered for years instead of only days.
Amazed at how comfortable she felt in Jackson’s presence, she strolled by his
side, not talking, but only enjoying his company and the smell of the ocean
surf. Her other lovers paled when compared to Jackson. He was all she ever
wanted in a man – worldly, handsome, accomplished, and drop-dead sexy. He
treated her with respect and gentleness; not that she expected anything less.
If he had been less kindly toward her, she never would have taken up with him
in the first place. She wasn’t one to believe in soulmates, but Jackson came
very close to being hers.
squeezed her hand, bringing her back to the real world. Pulling her toward him,
he wrapped his arms tightly around her and kissed her lightly on the lips. What
started out as a gentle caress grew into a fevered embrace; fingers entwined in
her hair, her hands massaging his back. She wanted to implant the memory of his
body and his touch in her mind forever so she could easily remember him when he
was away. Their romantic setting set her head spinning with delight. A handsome
man on the beach. Her dream come true.
Elizabeth Black –
lives a dream life in a small home on the Massachusetts coast. She tries to go
to the beach every day. When in the Zone, she writes erotic fiction, romance,
dark fiction, and horror. She aims for la Dolce Vita and lives every day as if
it were a feast. She shared her life with her husband, son, and three cats. She
is published by Xcite Books, Cleis Press, Circlet Press, Bold Strokes Books,
and other publishers. You may find her on the web in the following locations:
SIGN UP FOR MY
MAILING LIST ON MY WEB SITE
Elizabeth Black –
Blog and Web Site
Elizabeth Black –
A. Black – Facebook Page (Like me please!)
Elizabeth Black –
Twitter (Follow me please!)
– Erotic Fiction Amazon Author Page
by Jean Roberta
My original plan for this post was to discuss words for sex acts and sex organs, as did Lisabet Sarai earlier this month. Context is very important to me, and this is why some of the shorter pieces that have been posted in ERWA Storytime make me uneasy, especially if they refer to such characters as “the office slut.” Has any woman who works in an office ever considered herself The Office Slut?
I don’t object to the word “slut” per se, but context is crucial. The purpose of most offices is to produce a product or a service other than sex. If someone in the office is known as the official Slut, she is probably not taken seriously as an assistant or editor, or whatever role she was hired to fill. (For more on this subject, see Nine to Five, the 1980 movie about working women in which Dolly Parton plays the role of a private secretary who is ostracized by everyone in the office because everyone thinks she is having an affair with her boss. She isn’t.)
Even literary erotica sometimes implies what porn films explicitly promise: that viewers/readers can visit a kind of alternative dimension, where great sex is always happening, and it is available to everyone who visits there. Rumors about actual places on earth where, supposedly, anyone could have consequence-free sex with anyone else at any time flourish best in real-world environments where sex is hard to get (e.g. high school, most workplaces, jurisdictions where “obscenity” is broadly defined and highly illegal). In the Land of Blooming Orgasms, supposedly, no one has to experience the frustration, rejection, humiliation, or competition for mates that characterize the real world.
A traditional double standard of sexual morality lends itself to belief in the Land of Blooming Orgasms. An extreme division of women into the good and the bad, based on sexual history, usually divides Virgins from Sluts as though these words defined different personality types rather than phases in a life. (Everyone starts out as a virgin, but anyone who stays that way for a lifetime has been deprived of much valuable experience.) Sluts can be imagined as having constant sex with random strangers whenever they are out of sight, not doing something more mundane.
The biological differences between males and females might encourage males (straight, gay or bi, but not trans) to believe that some women have sex constantly. Men know that they simply aren’t equipped to get aroused, ejaculate, then repeat the process again, and again, and again. Even the mightiest stud has his limits. Females, however, can be penetrated in every orifice as many times as they want – and if their desire has limits, the ability of others (armies or gangs) to rape them has no limits.
And therefore the myth of the constant Slut pops up in various contexts, and is often treated more seriously than it deserves. When I had sex for the first time with a boy I liked, it was a fumbling affair of mutually-missed opportunities. I was a teenager, and I had only a vague idea of what to do. Nonetheless, as soon as the boy had caught his breath, he said: “You must have done this a lot.” Apparently one fuck had transformed me from a nice girl with no experience into the eternal Slut. I was tempted to respond with teenage snark. (Well, I’ve spent the last five years in a whorehouse in Tiajuana.) Luckily, I didn’t say what I was thinking. I realized even then that the school gossip network would have accepted that statement, embroidered it, and circulated it throughout our small town.
This leads me back to erotic writing, a more wholesome exercise of imagination than gossip about actual people. References to the Office Slut, the Town Slut, the Wild Slut of the Jungle, or the Interplanetary Slut suggest fantasies about the Land of Blooming Orgasms. This is escape literature or masturbation material, and its charm is obvious. It’s not realistic, and intelligent authors don’t intend it to be mistaken for realism.
However, the tone of a piece of erotic writing isn’t always clear, or consistent. (If your goal is to write something entertaining and unbelievable, snark is good.) References to the Office Slut can sound negative, not because sexual skill or experience are necessarily bad, but because women are so often accused of being Sluts instead of whatever they appear to be: secretaries, administrators, students, teachers, mothers, faithful companions.
If I’m reading a piece about Captain Luscious of the Starfuck Fleet, I would like to see some reference to her actual ability to fly a space vehicle, even if it’s only mentioned in passing. This information would raise her above the level of a cartoon, or an insult. In the real world, even sex workers eat, sleep, do laundry, pay bills, meet friends for coffee, and raise the children for whom they need to earn money.
Besides, the sexiest stories are those that suggest the possibility of good sex in the messy, complex world where people actually live.
by Kathleen Bradean
Two months ago, I asked readers to tell me what topics they’d like for us to cover. Martin asked how to avoid redundancy in sex scenes while writing a novel. I tried to pass that on to Lisabet and Donna, and they did answer, but this question deserves deeper investigation.
For purposes of discussion, I’m going to over-simplify a few things, such as an observation that there are two types of erotica novels. The first is a fun romp of sex scenes loosely tied together. The other is the exploration of a character through the lens of sex and sexuality.
If you’re writing the first type, the aim is variety. A Donna mentioned, avoid redundancy by bringing in different or multiple partners, using different sexual acts, adding elements such a voyeurism, and increasing the stakes be it more intense BDSM or the possibility of being caught or whatever fits the plot. The result should be light and fun for both the characters and the readers. (I don’t mean light as an insult. It’s difficult to maintain an upbeat tone page after page. I couldn’t write a breezy story if my life depended upon it. But I do enjoy reading them.)
If you’re writing the second type, you’re probably going to have fewer sex scenes than in the first type, but that’s up to you and what best fits your story. You can use all the tools available to the previous type, but this isn’t sex just for the sake of sex. This is a carefully crafted sexual encounter designed to transform the character. Titillating your audience isn’t necessarily your aim or an inadvertent outcome, although there is absolutely nothing wrong/right/good/bad if it happens. Redundancy shouldn’t be a problem here because you are focusing on what this particular encounter means to a character at this specific point in their life. Since your character should be changing throughout your novel, at each sex scene they have a slightly different take on what’s happening and you’re going to help them grow through it. So even if in both scenes the sexual positions and partners are the same, the emotional outfall might be very different. Maybe the first time the character is over the moon that this person wanted to have sex with them, but the second time, they feel used or sad. You also have the luxury of writing bad sex/sex gone wrong/discomfort with what happened/mixed or complicated feelings. We learn a lot through setbacks in life, and so should our characters.
Martin, I hope this is what you meant by redundancy. If not, let me know.
Feel free to add your thoughts on this.
By Lisabet Sarai
When it comes to sexual vocabulary, I’m agnostic. I will use whatever word seems to fit in a particular situation. Some authors I know are uncomfortable using terms that are particularly graphic or viewed as obscene. In contrast, I have no problem calling female genitalia a “cunt”, assuming the term is consistent with tone of my tale and the personality of my characters. On the other hand, I won’t eschew a bit of euphemism, even somewhat purple-tinged, when the story, the characters and/or the readership require it. I’ll use clinical or anatomical terms, too, if that’s what seems right. I think carefully about the words I choose in sexual description, because an unfortunate decision can distract and even alienate readers.
Hence, I don’t appreciate being told what words I can and cannot use in my fiction. For the most part, I am deeply satisfied with my main erotic romance publisher, TotallyBound. They’re the most well-organized, diligent and supportive publishing company I’ve ever encountered. And they let me get away with a lot! However, I’ve had a few run-ins with editors when I wanted to use the word “prick”.
I’ve been told that, according to their style guide, “prick” is not acceptable terminology. I’m really not sure about the motivation, since for me the word is no more graphic or offensive than “cock”. It’s true that in American English, calling a man a “prick” (or a “dick”, for that matter) is considered deeply insulting (though the two epithets do not have the same implications). Does that carry over into the original use of the word to denote the penis? Not in my dialect, anyway. It has occurred to me that the connotations might be different in the UK, where TB is based, but we do have readers all over the world.
I’ll sometimes choose “prick” as an alternative to “cock” when a man is thinking about his own organ. It seems to capture, for me, some aspect of gritty physicality. It makes me think of locker rooms and surreptitious hand jobs, of embarrassing hard-ons and Internet porn watched on the sly. Personally I wouldn’t tend to call a penis a “prick”, because I don’t have one, but I feel that a man might (and I hope that our male Grip members will either confirm or refute this).
“Prick” also has the nice implication of something that pierces or penetrates. I’m certain that extra level of meaning makes it sound a bit dirtier.
Anyway, when I received the edits for a recent erotic romance, Challenge to Him, there were several instances of “prick” called out.
He could scarcely look at her without imagining her rounded limbs wound with rope, her neat bosom bared to his pinching fingers, her lively brown eyes hidden by the blindfold that would give him license to use her however he chose. His prick swelled to an uncomfortable bulk inside his trousers. He was grateful that the motoring duster he wore concealed the evidence of his excitement.
This example fits in with my commentary above. The hero is slightly embarrassed by his sudden arousal, and thus thinks of his organ as a “prick”.
I thought a long time about whether it was worthwhile to fight about this. Ultimately I decided to change the word to “cock”. In my opinion, this loses a bit of the meaning, but not enough to justify antagonizing the editor.
However, a second case occurred here.
“You’re a clever little slut,” Andrew muttered through gritted teeth. “I’ll wager this isn’t your first time eating a man’s prick.” He wound his fingers into her hair and held her head still. “Open!” Jerking his hips, he drove his cock down her throat with bruising force.
I refused to change this instance. Andrew has deliberately selected the term “prick” to embarrass and excite the heroine. Replacing this with some other term would weaken the utterance. There’s also the problem of repetition, since I wanted to use “cock” in the following sentence.
Some authors agonize over every word. I have to admit that I don’t do that. However, I can usually trust my instincts, especially in a sex scene.
I’m not a prima donna, I swear! You can even ask my editors! However, I’ll stand up for my right to use the words that work in my story. Penis, cock prick, dick, dong, schlong, shaft, meat, phallus, skewer, screwer… there’s a place for each one. Maybe even “hardness”! Words are my tools. I’m not going to reject any of them out of hand.
Where did the summer go?
I hope you’ve spent yours writing suitably steamy stories. If so, today is your chance to share a bit of them!
The ERWA blog is not primarily intended for author promotion. However, we’ve decided we should give our author/members an occasional opportunity to expose themselves (so to speak) to the reading public. Hence, we have declared the 19th of every month at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association blog Sexy Snippet Day.
On Sexy Snippet day, any author can post a tiny excerpt (200 words or less) in a comment on the day’s post. Include the title from with the snippet was extracted, your name or pseudonym, and one buy link.
Please post excerpts only from published work (or work that is free for download), not works in progress. The goal, after all, is to titillate your readers and seduce them into buying your books!
Feel free to share this with erotic author friends. It’s an open invitation!
Of course I expect you to follow the rules. One snippet per author, please. If your excerpt is more than 200 words or includes more than one link, I’ll remove your comment and prohibit you from participating in further Sexy Snippet days. I’ll say no more!
After you’ve posted your snippet, feel free to share the post as a whole to Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else you think your readers hang out.
As I’ve written here before, it seems that every generation believes it invented sex. Given the long history of the human race, this idea is physically impossible, of course, but it is not wrong in spirit. Each individual does indeed “invent” sexual experience for herself with every passing day. Yet one of the fascinating surprises of my research into early twentieth-century erotic culture is that many aspects of what we consider “modern” sexuality—“respectable” girls pursuing and enjoying sex, finding boyfriends at dances or other amusement places, and generally rebelling against wait-until-the-wedding values—were flourishing all the way back in 1910.
Sexual freedom was especially abundant in one famous locale at the bottom edge of Brooklyn: Coney Island. I had the pleasure of visiting Coney Island for the first time earlier this month, and while its glitter is somewhat diminished from its heyday in the early 1900s, the spirit of carnival and sensual liberation lives on.
The desolate sands of Coney Island were first developed into a high-class hotel resort in the mid-nineteenth century. With the advent of cheap trolley, steamboat and rail service, Coney soon became the playground of the people, an affordable way for working families to escape the heat of the city. In the early twentieth century, the enclosed amusement park was born at Coney. Steeplechase Park, Luna Park and Dreamland lured millions of visitors to frolic every summer. Rides included roller coasters (also known as “scenic railways”), tunnels of love, trips to the moon or exotic terrestrial lands, and reenactments of fires and floods.
But the real attraction of Coney Island was sex. Sea bathing only became popular in the late nineteenth century. Bathing suits covered far more flesh back then than they do today, but they were quite skimpy by the standards of 1900 dress. Shedding corsets and waistcoats led to untrammeled fun. Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 notes that bathers were acting “precisely as if the thing to do in the water was to behave exactly contrary to the manner of behaving anywhere else.” (p. 1136)
Even more insidious to morals were the mechanical rides. From 1897 to 1964, Steeplechase Park’s headliner ride–a mechanical horse race that allowed for two riders to share the saddle, one behind the other–provided a well-known opportunity for couples to get closer than they ever dared in the parlor of a Sunday. Roller coasters allowed young women to clutch their male escorts tight and scream. Tunnels of love such as the Old Mill allowed couples to spoon and cuddle without a chaperon. “Three times through the Old Mill was considered equivalent to the engagement ring, and sometimes once even did the trick,” write Oliver Pilat and Jo Ranson in Sodom by the Sea: An Affectionate History of Coney Island. An old Coney Island joke runs thus:
“You shouldn’t have done it Sam,” Sarah said after the Old Mill ride.
“But I didn’t do anything, Sarah!”
“Not a thing, Sarah.”
“Well, somebody did!” (Sodom by the Sea, p. 217)
Sweethearts often went to Coney together to dance and dine, have their photos taken and their fortunes told, but the resort was also known as a place to meet a stranger of the opposite sex for a day of fun. Young working-class women could enjoy all of Coney’s pleasures for the price of trolley fare, as single young men were on the lookout for a pretty girl to treat with the promise of at least a kiss or two. Common wisdom has it that the clever girls managed to board the train home without surrendering any sexual repayment, but one wonders if the girls weren’t caught up in the anything-goes spirit of the place as well. Rent-by-the-hour hotels were certainly a mainstay of local business. (For more on the Coney Island sex excursion, see Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York 1880-1920).
Today Coney Island still offers cool breezes on a hot summer day, as I can well attest. You can still ride Deno’s Wonder Wheel and dare yourself to try the roller coasters and spook houses. You can still eat a hot dog from Nathan’s in its centennial year and get your fortune told for a quarter from a waxwork grandma. She told me to expect a letter soon and refuse the next opportunity to travel because my “best interest lies in staying at home.” Grandmother also foresaw a great financial change in my status in the near future and suggested I drop in another coin to learn more.
The tradition of sideshows also lives on at Sideshows by the Seashore where a vaguely nefarious barker beguiles passersby into stepping inside to see a snake dancer, a sword swallower, a fire eater, a singing dwarf and a very weird guy who swings a bowling ball from ropes threaded through his nose piercings (I closed my eyes for that one). The performers insist that no one lies on stage at Sideshows by the Seashore, and strangely, seated in the small, bare-bones theater, I sensed there was truth to that falsehood. Or perhaps there’s just something in the sea air that makes you want to believe?
Most marvelous of all, however, was the thought that people have been seeking sensual pleasure at Coney for over a century in the very same ways we do today. To all the couples who got engaged in the Old Mill and kissed under the boardwalk and dared to cuddle on the Steeplechase horses—you were the present and future of Eros in America.
Long live the Coney Island of the mind!
Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman and a collection of short
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her
work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com
By Bob Buckley
with a person’s emotions is a dangerous thing, but we writers do it all the
time, from the moment we seek to hook our reader with an opening paragraph that
piques their curiosity as well as, we hope, tweaks their libido. Then we string
them along, leading them down a path to a conclusion where we hope they say,
maybe they’ll just say, “Huh?”
the way to one conclusion or the other, our readers begin to wonder where our
tale is going. They can’t help it. They build up expectations: Will she sleep with him? Is he going to
leave her? Will they live happily ever after?
that last expectation – guaranteed if the story has been labeled romance –
still elicits a guess about how we’re going to get there – the HEA, that is. We
all do it as readers, after we’ve come to
care one way or the other about the characters. Sure we wonder what’s going to happen next, but we also anticipate, which is different – in effect, we try to get ahead of the story, writing our own in our head and seeing if it eventually matches up with the author’s plot. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, said at the end of a story or novel, “I knew that was going to happen,” or, “I saw that coming.”
– okay, cue up Carly Simon honking away with that nasally voice of hers.
of mysteries and thrillers craft their tales around readers’ anticipation and deliberately defy their expectations. It’s
called a plot twist. It throws you off the rails if it’s successfully executed,
if not, it might annoy the hell out of you. But for readers of these types of
stories, nothing is more satisfying than a twist, particularly the
twist-at-the-end. It’s then they realize they’ve been manipulated, deceived and
perhaps even disoriented. And they love it.
what if you’re writing a romantic, erotic story and yank the rug out from under
your reader by leading them to a place they didn’t expect to go? Well, if
you’ve achieved every writer’s goal of getting your readers to believe in your
characters and invest their emotions in them – they may end up hating you.
years ago I posted a story to ERWA about a pair of what my mother would have called “poor souls.” I wanted to explore why some people, men and women, go
through life alone and lonely, through no fault of their own.
main characters included a lonely guy who couldn’t get a woman to give him the
time of day. You know the type, a guy whose romantic history involves him being
aggressively overlooked. But like the Lonesome Loser of the song, “he
still keeps on tryin’.” He’s allowed himself to be set up in a series of
blind dates – none of which have panned out – by a good-intentioned friend. On
one of these arranged meetings, he’s introduced to a girl who has as sad a
romantic history as he does. And voila, they hit it off and have a wonderful
night together that leads to some wonderful sex.
for them, I’m telling this story, and I decided from the beginning it was not
going to end with a HEA. While he wants to continue to see her, she rejects the
notion of them in a relationship. Though she likes him, she thinks
it would be tantamount to “settling.” She fears the world will look
at them as two losers who couldn’t land anyone better and she won’t give the
world that satisfaction.
it’s a stupid reason to toss away something magical. Have you ever heard of
anyone tossing happiness away for a good
ends with her out the door and him sitting on the banks of the Charles River in
wasn’t quite prepared for the vehement reactions to the story, even though I
allowed that folks who love a HEA were going to be disappointed. Disappointed?
They were furious! Even some critics who, themselves, were into darker
explorations of the human heart were appalled.
responders demanded that I explain what it was about the male protag that made
him repulsive to women. Well, how should I know? Why do nice guys, or for that
matter, nice girls end up alone?
few suggested ways I could give it a happy ending. (In fact, I could have added
two short lines at the end and instantly turn it into a HEA.)
my sometimes morbid sense of humor, it tickled me to no end that some people
were angry at me for being a prick to my characters. I had struck a nerve.
The furious backlash told me I had gotten under the readers’ skins, manipulated
them into caring for and hoping for all the best for my characters. I can’t
blame them for being furious, but I’m glad they were.
it gives a writer pause, does it not?
you write, you’re playing with nitroglycerin … be careful.