fiction writing

Why Writing the Wrong Thing is Better Than Nothing

The thing that I have learned about writing is that even bad work is useful.

Because whether we agonize over our words or produce them explosively with a mind to go back later and assess the damage, odds are good that whatever we’ve written will either be excised or heavily retooled by by the time we get down to revision. In fact, the odds are good that the very lines I am writing at this very moment, will vanish in the final edit. Such is the nature of the beast.

But one of the few goods things about this beast is that it is much like the Island of the Dead from Pirates of the Caribbean. Cannot be found except by those who helped create it.

Nobody sees the rough drafts. The pages and pages and pages of ideas that don’t pan out. The directions we carve a path towards only to suddenly course correct for reasons we can’t properly explain. This beast belongs solely to the writer and neither looks, nor acts the same from story to story.

Because the funny thing that happens when you write something down, give it form and shape, is that by the end, you at the very least have something to show for it. Now, your beast might be misshapen, or crude, or downright ugly, but however it may look, it still belongs to you. And the hard part that comes when you’ve lived with it long enough, is that if you wait, if you listen to this beast, to the click of its claws and its guttural whispers, you find you’ve got something more.

You’ve got an idea of what the right thing to do is, what the story could look like, if you keep going. Now, this is not a road map, far from it. It’s barely even a compass. But it is a feeling, a pull in a certain direction that you were only able to find by going off in the wrong way. Because sometimes, when you’re not sure which way to go, the only thing you can do is pick a direction and see how it goes, for good or for ill.

Sometimes, if you’re anything like me, you start out with a great plan. Or at least a part of one. You know how a story begins and ends but you get lost somewhere in the middle. The details don’t match up, or change even as you’re writing them, and suddenly you’re lost.

All at once, you stop and you grouse. You moan and you whine. Maybe you even punch a tree (a terrible idea, I speak from experience. But then, after you’ve rested, and taken another look around, you realize that while you might not get to where you wanted to go, you can still get somewhere, even if it is far from where you expected.

Because in writing, unlike almost any other profession, it is only by doing the wrong thing that you figure out what the right thing to do is. And while I know that sounds cliché, like a quote emblazoned across one of those ridiculously expensive journals they sell in trendy bookstores, it is still the truth. And whether we gussy it up or say it plainly, we all need to hear it.

Especially on those nights when all we have is the beast, and no real idea of where we’re going.

Ooh, Shiny!

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and her two cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page. 

Her m/m erotic medical thriller Roughing It is a sexy cross between The X Files, The Andromeda Strain, and Outbreak. Read her short erotic story Babes in Begging For It, published by Cleis Press. You will also find her new novel No Restraint at Amazon. Enjoy a good, sexy read today.


It’s been a bit of an adventure for the past three weeks. I was sick with a nasty head cold for two weeks. Then, going into the third week, the car died. While my husband and I were driving on the highway. In traffic. At 60 MPH. I’d never been so scared in my whole life. Our old Honda Civic Esmerelda served us well but we needed a new used car. Fast.

We bought a 2004 VW Bug. I’ve always wanted a Bug and now we have a blue one we named Zhaan after the big blue bitch on the Australian TV show Farscape. This car is very nice and we’re blinging it up. I have crystals hanging from the rear view mirror. We bought a bud vase! You can’t have a Bug without a bud vase although the newer ones don’t include it. That’s a sacrilege in my opinion. I bought fresh flowers for the house and put one in the bud vase. Here it is, on the dash.

We have veteran’s plates, but if we ever get vanity plates I want one that says “Bugasm”. Or one that says “Feature”. Get it? It’s a Feature, not a Bug? LOL

So this got me to thinking about new beginnings. It’s the beginning of the year so I wanted to see how I could change this year so that it is better than last year. 2017 sucked. I’m going to make 2018 better. So far, I’ve submitted five short stories to submission calls. They’re about equal between erotic fiction and horror. Six if you count the one that I submitted two years ago and it’s still under consideration. I’m not pulling it because this particular horror anthology is like Ahab’s White Whale and I really want to be in it. It’s just delayed. The book isn’t getting published until 2019, but I’m very patient.

I’m working on a seventh short horror story right now as well as my collection of erotic fairy tales. I plan to release the fairy tale book during the summer. I need someone to create a Table of Contents (I don’t know how to do that for a Kindle book) and I need a book cover. I also need to do some pre-release marketing. Hopefully this book will sell better than the two books I released a couple of years ago. They tanked. I need some good news. Fairy tales do well so I have great hope for this book.

I also just received my final edits for a mystery/suspense novel I’m working on. I have a lot of work to do on it yet, but I have confidence I can finish it in a month or two. Then I submit that book to agents and a few very good top notch indie publishers. I’m very proud of this book and I have great hope for it.

I think I’m off to a good start. A handful of short story submissions and two books. As these works get published, I’ll write to tell my readers where you may find them. Keeping my fingers crossed I’ll have more good publishing news very soon.

A Cheeky Way To Improve Any Story

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and her three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page. 

Her m/m erotic medical thriller Roughing It is out! This book is a sexy cross between The X Files, The Andromeda Strain, and Outbreak. Read her short erotic story Babes in Begging For It, published by Cleis Press. You will also find her new novel No Restraint at Amazon. Enjoy a good, sexy read today.


Opening a novel or short story can be a bitch. Elmore Leonard, author of Get Shorty and other novels, had advised writers to avoid prologues and to refrain from opening a story talking about the weather. Marc Laidlaw, an author who also helped develop the game Half Life, once tweeted the following advice about opening paragraphs of fiction works: The first line of almost any story can be improved by making sure the second line is, “And then the murders began.”

Normally, a writer would not begin a sentence with the word “and”. Laidlaw purposefully included that word because it “gives my use of the phrase an extra florid, self-important note that puffs it up just enough to be suitable for narrative frivolity.” My husband and I had argued about the title for my erotic romance novel Don’t Call Me Baby. He thought I should call it And Don’t Call Me Baby. I didn’t want to partly because that word dangled and irritated me and for the same reason Laidlaw laid out. It ended up not mattering since the book didn’t sell and it’s now out of print, so there’s that. I’d always done much better with my erotic fairy tales, and I’m working on a short story collection of them right now. One of my best-sellers, Climbing Her Tower (erotic Rapunzel), lends itself very well to this exercise.


Climbing Her Tower by Elizabeth Black

The warmth of the sun glowed on Rapunzel’s face as she stood before her window, awaiting Mother’s instructions. And then the murders began.


I also write horror. This exercise doesn’t work as well with that genre because it’s dark and bleak to begin with. However, when coupled with romance novels, the fun begins. Here are some examples of best-selling romance novels with that particular sentence added to them.


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.  And then the murders began.

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught up by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. And then the murders began.

True Believer by Nicholas Sparks

Jeremy Marsh sat with the rest of the live studio audience, feeling unusually conspicuous. And then the murders began.

Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 1) by J. R. Ward

Darius looked around the club, taking in the teeming, half-naked bodies on the dance floor. And then the murders began.

50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James

I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. And then the murders began.

Bared To You (Crossfire Book 1) by Sylvia Day

“We should head to a bar and celebrate”. And then the murders began.

Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard

The poet stood next to the bridge and watched as the young woman approached. And then the murders began.


You may see the point behind this exercise by now. Many writers, in particular fledging ones, have difficulties with exposition and telling instead of showing when beginning their stories. They ramble about the weather or describing backgrounds or pontificating about a character’s history or inner thoughts without providing a hook for the reader. Without a hook, your reader won’t continue reading. She will get bored and toss your book aside like so much garbage. You need to grab the reader in the first paragraph – nay, in the first sentence. That’s why agents and publishers often ask for the first chapter or first five pages of your manuscript when you submit to them. They want to see your hook. If you don’t have one or if it is weak, that is one reason you likely won’t get that joyous letter offering representation or a publishing contract. You need action and vibrancy to pique someone’s attention.

Sometimes, a writer’s story doesn’t really begin until the third or fourth page. If that’s the case with your story, delete the first few pages and begin your story where the action begins. Not only must you engage the reader from the onset, you must keep that reader engaged throughout every chapter of your book. Books are like fractals. There should be a hook at the beginning and end of each chapter as well as at the beginning of the book. The beginning hook holds the reader’s attention and the end-of-chapter hook encourages that eager reader to continue reading into the next chapter. Clayton Purdom described Laidlaw’s exercise in his article for A. V. Club when he wrote “the sudden introduction of murder provides a contrast with tone-setting exposition or an unexpected development to its more direct action.”

“And then the murders began” is a funny and effective way to get the point across. Watch your reader jump out of her seat with excitement over your works. Don’t let her sigh and become bored with exposition. That way, you’ll both attract and hold readers.

Writing Great Sex

What makes a really great sex scene?

Many authors will tell you it’s description—all the senses, touch, taste, feel, smell, sight, hearing. But it isn’t. The secret to great sex writing—are you ready? Wait for it… the secret to great sex writing is…


That’s it. Make your reader feel. That’s all you need to do.

How, you ask? Here are a few guidelines. 


Your characters are alive and they are not the sum of their parts. They aren’t measurements or hair color or penis size. I’ve done sex scenes without mentioning any of the above. Don’t ask, “What would my character do in this situation?” Let them act. Let them decide. Let them speak. Let them feel. Especially let them feel.


If you’re bored writing a sex scene, your readers will be bored. If you’re turned on, your reader will be turned on. The emotion you are feeling will be conveyed on paper. It’s a natural law of the writer universe. (This applies to any scene, not just sex ones, by the way. If it moves you to tears, it will move the reader as well).


If you’re turned on during a sex scene, really getting into it, your fingers flying over the keyboard, unless the house is on fire or we’re under nuclear attack, DON’T STOP. Never, ever stop in the middle of a sex scene. (This rule also applies well to actual sex). You will lose your momentum, and it won’t be the same when you come back to it. Your mood will have shifted, and the reader will feel it.


Human beings want. Our entire culture and economy is based on desire. We lust after the things we want. We dream about them. We fantasize about them. We want. And we want. And we want some more. Our bodies and our brains are hardwired for desire. We don’t just eat once and then we’re done. We don’t just have one orgasm and then it’s all over. We continue to crave what we want. Our emotions rule us, especially when it comes to sex. They’re naturally going to rule your sex scene, too. We don’t insert tab A into slot B because we’re following a blueprint manual. There’s a reason behind our physical responses, and that reason is always, always tied to emotion. Remember that. Use it.

Desire is what makes the sex hot. Make your readers wait for it. Foreplay begins with seduction, not with sex acts. It begins with eye contact. Flirting. Innuendo. It progresses, but slowly. Tease your readers. Tease yourself. Draw it out. Make it a long, slow burn. The best orgasms are the ones we wait a long time for. It’s no different when writing sex than it is doing it, really.


Don’t be afraid of the sex. Don’t be afraid of the fluids, the flesh, the human expression of our bodies. It is what it is. Some writers will tell you not to ever speak of bodily fluids. They’re above all that messy stuff. Thankfully, erotica and erotic romance have come a long way, baby. We can use the words cock and pussy now, and I would encourage you to do so. I wouldn’t suggest using the medical terms, however (i.e. penis and vagina) or euphemisms like “member” or “sheath.” Cock and Pussy are good. Think of them like peas and carrots. They go together. A few (and I mean a FEW) other words can work for a little variety. Prick or dick for example. Or cunt. No, don’t be afraid of the words we use during sex. It’s okay to talk dirty. “Please,” or “Now,” or “Suck me,” or “Lick me,” or “Harder. There. More.” These are words we’ve all spoken (I hope!) They naturally arouse. That’s a good thing. I’m not afraid of cum – I’m not even afraid of spelling it “wrong.” You shouldn’t be either.


Once you reach the point of no return, you’ve built up to the sex, you’ve teased your readers (and your poor characters) enough, now it’s time to give them what they want. This is not the time to skimp. You can’t gloss over the orgasm. (Or orgasmS). We all (hopefully!) know what an orgasm feels like. Description doesn’t have to be technical here. There are spasms and contractions, there is throbbing and trembling, gasps, moans—the combinations are endless. You can and should include those, but don’t be afraid to move into the realm of metaphor. Sex can be like flying. It can be like falling. It can be like dying. This is the culmination of everything, the point you’ve been waiting for, working toward. Let your imagination go as wild as you would during an actual orgasm. Let yourself free.


On a practical note – your characters shouldn’t defy the laws of physics. Women cannot take twelve inches of hot man meat down their throats. An average vagina is only eight inches deep. 44DD breasts cannot defy gravity. And if you’re using any of the above descriptions in your sex scenes, you need a basic writing course, not a primer on sex scenes. Also, don’t let your character’s clothes go missing. She can’t be wearing pantyhose one second and be taking it from behind the next. The clothes have to come off and be accounted for somehow. Trust me, your readers will notice if they aren’t.

Selena Kitt
Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget
LATEST RELEASE: Step Beast and Highland Wolf Pact Boxed Set

Common Tropes Editors Wish Would Curl Up And Die

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica,
erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her
husband, son, and three cats. Visit her web
, her Facebook page, and her Amazon
Author Page


Let’s play a game. You’ve written what you think is The Most Unique And
Exciting Story In The World, and you want to send it to a magazine or an
anthology submission call. You do exactly that and wait eager – and anxiously –
for over a month to get either an acceptance or a rejection. An acceptance will
be met with many congratulations and toasts with champagne – and pinches to
make sure you’re really awake.

A rejection, which deep in the back of your mind you may actually suspect
you will get because you are a writer and you may thrive on disappointment, will
leave you devastated. Or you’ll shrug it off and send your magnum opus
elsewhere. It’s a toss-up.

Rinse and repeat.

While you play the “hurry up and wait” game, you may wonder
how unique your story really is? Chances are, its theme has been seen before in
many different incarnations. Editors run into the same old stories all the
time. They often talk of common tropes that leave them guessing the plot and
ending before they even finish reading your submission. There are some tropes
many editors wish would never cross their desks. Those tropes should be buried
and the ground sown with salt.

Here are some examples of those kinds of common and tired tropes. First
up, here is a list of subjects Bartleby
Snopes Literary Magazine managing editor Nathaniel Tower is tired of seeing in
lit magazine submissions

Death Endings – For the love of everything
that is sacred about literature, stop killing off characters in violent or
sentimental fashion in order to achieve an ending. Characters die in
approximately 12% of the submissions we receive. 99% of these deaths are
pointless and make the story worse. Character death is not a substitute for a
satisfactory conclusion.

Opening with sex or masturbation – Nothing
turns me off faster than a story that opens with a masturbation or sex scene.
I’m all about being thrown directly into a scene, but sometimes there needs to
be some literary foreplay. If there’s an erect penis in the opening line of the
story, I probably don’t want to read it. Interestingly enough, these stories
are almost never sexy.

Sentimental cancer stories – Yes, nearly
everyone has been affected in some way by cancer. I’ve had family members die
of cancer. It’s been at least five years since anyone said anything new with a
cancer story.

Stories that open with light streaming
through the window – How many stories can begin with some type of light
bursting forth through a hunk of glass? Apparently there is no limit. At least
15% of stories contain some type of light coming through something in the
opening paragraph. There are often dust motes thrown in there for good measure.
Please, no more dust motes.

Stories that begin with someone coming out of
a dream or end with someone realizing it was all a dream – You’d
think that all dream stories would have been banned from the universe by
now. It seems as if many writers haven’t gotten the memo. I’ll personally kill
the next character that wakes up from a dream at the beginning of a story. And
ending with a dream? Well, that’s even worse. You might as well just call the
story “Nothing Happened At All” and leave the rest of the document blank.

Alzheimer’s stories – Like cancer stories,
only worse. These writers all pretend they understand exactly what it’s like to
have Alzheimer’s. The worst offenders are those stories told in first person
from the point of view of the Alzheimer’s patient. If I could forget one thing,
it would be Alzheimer’s stories.

Cheating significant other stories – Whether
the cheater is a man or a woman, these stories generally pack as much punch as
an empty bottle of sugar-free Hawaiian Punch. There’s almost always a scene
where someone is packing a suitcase, as if we’re supposed to feel some sort of
relief at this newfound freedom from the tormented relationship. The only
relief is when the story ends.

Machinegun bonus – Here’s a quick list of
other things I’ve seen way too much of:

Devil/God stories

Bar/diner stories

References to Nietzsche

Abuse stories

Stories of thwarted creative genius

Bad things happening to trust fund kids

This is a portion of a list of stories seen too often by Strange
Horizons, an online speculative fiction
. It is helpful in that it can steer you away from what
you may not suspect are common tropes. Please visit this web page often since
the list is updated and changed on occasion. Also visit the page now anyway,
since this is a very long list. The examples below are only a small part of it.

Creative person is having trouble creating.

Weird things happen, but it turns out they’re
not real, like in a dream. (There’s that dream thing again.)

Technology and/or modern life turn out to be

A place is described, with no plot or

A “surprise” twist ending occurs.
The “surprise” is often predictable, hence no longer a

A princess has been raped or molested by her
father (or stepfather), the king.

The narrator and/or male characters in the
story are bewildered about women, believing them to conform to any of the
standard stereotypes about women: that they’re mysterious, wacky, confusing,
unpredictable, changeable, temptresses, etc.

Teen’s family doesn’t understand them.

Twee little fairies with wings fly around
being twee.

Christine Morgan has written horror, fantasy, erotica, and thrillers.
She has also edited numerous anthologies, including “Fossil Lake”,
“Teeming Terrors” and “Grimm Black”, “Grimm Red”,
and “Grimm White”. Her list includes some other common tropes:

Child characters that do not behave/sound
like kids! I’ve seen too many otherwise good authors present a child character
as if they’ve never even been around children in their lives.

The above can also apply to animals, or any
other different/differing perspective. In fantasy or sci fi, urban fantasy,
horror, whatever; if you’re going to give me a non-human race, then that’s what
I want to see played up, the differences, the exoticness; don’t just make ’em
humans with special effects makeup.

Any of the overdone sexism tropes: fridging,
smurfette syndrome, automatic love interest, passive prize women, etc. That
should go without saying but the fact it still so often needs to be said is
almost more annoying.

Fridging (I
think the term came from crime dramas and thrillers, where the body was found
in a fridge or freezer or something) is what they call it when someone, usually
a female character, is killed to motivate the male character … most recent
example that pissed me off was when I watched Thor: Dark World, when the easiest way to get Thor and Loki to work
together was to kill Frigga.

Syndrome is what I’ve heard it when you’ve got your group of characters, each
of whom is characterized by some trope or type … the jock, the nerd, the
weirdo … and the girl … because that alone is enough of an identifying
quality, right?

love interest is when a female character is added to the cast or in the story
and the main focus is only to be which guy gets her. My own beloved Gargoyles did some of that with Angela,
when, the moment she appeared, all that mattered was who she’d end up with. It’s
related to the passive prize woman thing, where the primary purpose of having a
female character at all is so the hero has something to win or gets the girl at
the end, whether anything else in the story had led up to it or not.

Radclyffe is an American author of lesbian romance, paranormal romance,
erotica, and mystery. She has authored multiple short stories, fan fiction, and
edited numerous anthologies. Here are a few themes/character notes/plot-lines
that seem overused in submissions she has seen:

who are relationship-phobic because they were cheated on. While this may be
crushing at the time, most people do not swear off love and/or sex forever
because of an unfaithful gf/bf/spouse etc. 

who are unavailable because they are mourning a dead spouse (while tragic in
real life, and I’ve used this storyline myself :), it’s getting to be

YA’s – along
those lines: dying teens as main characters

main characters (snarky, petty, narcissistic) – not the same as
arrogant, confident, alpha

International settings no one
would want to visit on a good day

Fantasy/sci-fi characters with
incomprehensible names

veiled morality tales (or social/political polemics). Write an essay or op ed

Fault in Our Stars clones

where one character dies (might be a great story, but it’s not a

BDSM novels
with no BDSM scenes (seen the movie?)

where the villain is declared insane and justice is NOT served

So there you have
it. Now you are armed with examples of what to not submit. Expand your mind,
avoid those kinds of tropes, and create something that may truly be The Most
Unique And Exciting Story In The World.


Author’s Note: My
story Infection appears in the
aforementioned TeemingTerrors. My story Black As Ebony,
White As Snow
shall soon appear in Grimm
. Both books are edited by Christine Morgan. My short erotic story Like A Breath Of Ocean Blue shall soon
appear in Best Lesbian Romance 2015,
edited by Radclyffe.

Olfactory Voyeurism

By K D grace

My husband’s making toast. The smell
catapults me back to childhood days when my mother made me tea and toast for
breakfast before sending me off to school, and I can’t keep from salivating.
Toast is one of those scents that makes me want some even when I’m not hungry –
like popcorn and bread baking. Yesterday evening when I went out to water the
garden, I could smell the neighbors’ dinner cooking. I could pick up the scent
of something frying in fresh oil, probably chips. The ocean under-smell of fish,
told me that it was most likely fish and chips from the chippie picked up on
the way home for a quick dinner after a hard day’s work.

I’ve been very aware of scents these past
few weeks. My WIP is the story of a woman with a very gifted sense of smell.
I’ve always been intrigued by scents and the emotions and the memories they
elicit and by the little sneak peeks they offer us into the lives of those
around us. That’s why I decided to see what would happen if the story I chose
to tell was the story of sex and love and passion and all the emotions that are
a part of the package experienced chiefly through the sense of smell.  What does curiosity smell like? What does
anger smell like? How about fear?

Of course all of those things would be different
for everyone who smelled them. Fish and chips are easy, but a perfume that
smells gorgeous on someone else might smell like bug spray on me. The smell of
an unwashed human might smell like wet garbage to one person while that same
unwashed human may smell like sex on wheels to someone else. How does the scent
of two aroused individuals change when those two have sex? And does arousal
smell different from foreplay, intercourse, orgasm and the snuggle and snooze
that follows?

Since I was a child, I’ve never liked to
share a sleeping space with anyone. I still don’t want anyone but my husband in
my sleeping space and I’ve never wanted to invade anyone else’s – even when no
one is sleeping there. I find the smell of sleep both off-putting and arousing,
and most definitely intriguing. The scent of sleep is the scent of people with
their defenses down, the scent of people vulnerable, the scent of people
entering their unconscious, their dream space. That’s way too intimate to share
with strangers.

I’ve never made any bones about being a
voyeur at heart, and I’m happy to sneak a peek whenever I can. But writing from
an olfactory point of view is no less a voyeuristic experience, and in so many
ways much more evocative. Scent is much more intimate than sight. What I can
see with my eyes, I don’t have to actually take into myself. There’s a certain
distance, a certain sterility about a room with a view that just isn’t there
when the sense of smell is engaged.

Olfactory voyeurism is as intimate as the
breath we breathe. It’s literally in our face – inside our face, and beyond
that it even enters our lungs with the in and out of oxygen that keeps us alive.
There’s nothing sterile or sanitary about it. It can be a fresh-baked bread and
honey seduction or it can be a stale piss and garbage assault, but it can never
be something that happens through a telescope or behind glass.

I read once we humans actually have an
excellent sense of smell that we’ve simply forgotten how to

use. We’re mammals.
Mammals experience the world through their sense of smell. Granted we humans
have had lots of the lovely smells that would intrigue other mammals bathed,
sanitized and deodorized away from us. I think we do that because the assault
of scent is just so damned personal and intimate. No one wants to ‘smell.’
Maybe that’s because the way we smell unwashed, just up from the bed, just
after a sweaty fuck, says too much about who we are in a world where secrets
are much harder to keep and masks are much more important.

I’m certainly not advocating a moratorium
on bathing or perfume, but I can’t keep from wondering what else we might experience
if we made the effort to exercise our sense of smell a little more and build up
our olfactory muscles. Could we smell fear, curiosity, arousal, anger, contentment?
How much more information about the world around us could we pick up if we were
a little more attuned to our sense of smell? But then again, how would we cope
with the extra level of intimacy actually ‘smelling’ each other would give us
and with the level of vulnerability that would bring?


by Jean Roberta

My latest erotic story was written in response to a call for submissions, and it involves the kind of plot/situation that erotic editors often ask for: sex with a Bad Girl/vampire seductress/or Lone Wolf/outlaw dude. Exciting sex between a character with whom the (supposedly average) reader can identify and a mysterious, unsettling Other sounds like a marketable concept. Whether this plot is believable on any level depends on each reader’s level of skepticism.

Persuasive character development depends on convincing the reader that this character would actually do that thing. Some writers, especially those who write first-time erotica (innocent youngish character loses his/her virginity in some sense by doing some sexual thing for the first time) try to pre-empt the reader’s skepticism by putting extreme ambivalence into the character’s consciousness. (“OMG! Did I really just accept the handsome stranger’s invitation to let him take me to his chateau alone? I can’t believe I’m doing this!”) The virginal character’s attempts to hang onto a clean and cautious image of herself (and usually this character is a her) ring false after awhile. Either she will or she won’t go to the home of a strange man. While there, either she will or she won’t take off all her clothes for him and let him tie her up. If she goes “all the way” (as it used to be called) and has incredible orgasms, then clearly she is the “kind of girl” who does that kind of thing. She can no longer honestly claim to be a virgin. Of course, she could still be a good person who treats others as she would like to be treated (and who harms none), but in that case, she needs to reject a shallow definition of “goodness” as sexual ignorance.

Erotica is often about transformations and epiphanies. Doing new things involves acquiring new knowledge, especially knowledge about oneself. This is part of the reason why character-driven erotica is interesting to read. However, critics will criticize a change that looks unbelievably extreme, OR a series of sexual adventures that leave a central character absolutely unchanged on the inside.

Writing plausible erotica is harder than it looks, especially since different readers have different thresholds for the suspension of disbelief.

Crits and complaints in ERWA Storytime and elsewhere often focus on whether Character A would really be attracted to Character B, and what action, threat or proposition can or should be regarded as a deal-breaker. If Character B (the handsome stranger) says, “A pretty girl like you should be stripped naked and tied up,” and if Character A (the ingénue) then falls into his arms, some readers will complain that she is Too Stupid to Live, and others will say that in real life, she would rush out the door and resolve never to return to the bar – and for good measure, she would stop speaking to the mutual friend who introduced them.

Some readers will ask, “But why would Character A (law-abiding citizen) be attracted to Character B (rake, seductress, criminal, spy, visitor from another planet) when they are so different?” (Obviously, opposites never attract in the real world, even on the rare occasions when they cross paths.)

Sexual identity is actually a slippery thing, but some readers expect clarity: Lance is a gay-male porn star who was performing in the nude since birth. Bob is less flamboyant, but he knows he is attracted to men, and this is made clear to the reader from the outset, even if he won’t admit it aloud. Bob could possibly be seduced by Lance, but Bob wouldn’t make the first move. Bob couldn’t be married with children, and he could never enter Lance’s profession.

Some feminist critics have commented on the general acceptability of female/female sex scenes in sexually-explicit writing – but only if at least one of the characters finds Mr. Right or stays happily married, because she is not really a lesbian. (The real ones always wear labels, or strap-ons.)

During the period of suspense between sending a story to an editor and getting a response, I worry about all the possible reasons why the story might be rejected. A perceived lack of plausibility is high on the list, even if the call-for-submissions asked for vampires, werewolves, zombies, or a Romeo-and-Juliet romance between members of different supernatural species. (But would any self-respecting bloodsucker really . . . ?)

If and when I write my memoirs, I expect them to be rejected by the first 36 publishers on grounds that 1) the story lacks continuity, and 2) it lacks plausibility. For one thing, even if the author/narrator really lost her virginity in her teens, this can’t be stated in print without possible legal repercussions. And would she really have been attracted to the older brother of her Mormon friend? Why did the attraction not develop into a relationship? The plot trajectory needs editing.

I suspect that a certain incoherence is actually typical of real-life narratives, especially if written while the subject is still alive. A fictional version of the story is likely to be pared-down and simplified rather than expanded. Embarrassing, unlikely or seemingly irrelevant events and characters need to be weeded out to give a story the coherence which would give a comforting impression of logical cause-and-effect. I can imagine an editor’s comments on the complete, unexpurgated, five-volume version of my life-story to date: What is the theme here? Where are you going with this?

So I’m waiting to hear what an editor has to say about my story about a passionate encounter between mismatched acquaintances, one of whom needs to escape from the police as well as from a criminal gang, while the other wants to experience the “wild side” just for a night, without taking any big risks. A safe apartment, a safe job and a safe income look almost unbearably desirable to one who never had them, but the one who takes them for granted can’t see it.

What is realistic and what is not? The longer I live, the harder it seems to write fiction with the unmistakable flavour of life, especially if it is based on reality that is stranger than fiction.


Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


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