And Then She Kissed Me: Plotting Erotic Fiction


In the last column, we looked at ways to come up with exciting erotic story ideas. But once you have a notebook (or a head) full of ideas, what do you do with them? Now you have to figure out how to turn the idea into the plot of the story.

There are many ways to create plot: some authors outline their entire story before they begin to write it. Others prefer flying by the seat of their pants, sitting down and seeing what flows out of the keyboard next. And still others feel comfortable creating a character first and then seeing what that character does on the page.

All of these ways of plotting work for erotic fiction. I’ve used all of them at one time or another. In fact, I’ve often started writing a story with one type of plot plan in mind, and then switched halfway when I ran into trouble. Knowing how to plot in a number of ways gives you more tools in your erotic toolbox and allows you to choose the one that will work best for you and your particular story.

One key to keep in mind about erotic plotting: unlike in other short fiction, in erotica the sexuality of the characters almost always plays a pivotal role in the plot.

A Planned Plot
If you don’t typically plan your plot ahead of time, or if you are stuck in the middle of the story, you might consider trying this method. A traditional plot sequence goes something like this:

Problem or conflict
Action related to problem

you’ve probably seen a variation of this list at least a million times. I know I did. Maybe even a million and one. But for the longest time, I didn’t really understand it. And then I started thinking about that word climax, right in the middle, and something came clear: creating a plot, especially an erotic plot, was just like having sex! Okay, that sounds odd, so let me explain.

First, my character has a problem: say she wants to have an orgasm, but she can’t. Why not? Maybe she’s single or her partner’s away or she’s staying at a friend’s house with no privacy.

Now, my character is going to take some action to fix her problem: find a hot guy, call her partner for some phone sex, or take a long, slow drive wearing just a sundress and no undies. Of course, it can’t be that easy: maybe her partner’s in the middle of a work meeting and she has to talk him into it, or maybe she gets busted by a cop while she’s got her skirt hiked up around her waist.

Then, comes the climax. Uh, do I need to explain this one? Okay I guess I do. This is the resolution to the problem. In erotica, it’s often the sex and orgasm scene. Maybe my character and her partner engage in text-message sex or the nice cop doesn’t mind helping a lady in distress.

The great thing about the resolution is that it’s just like real-life after-sex moments: short and sweet. Or short and awkward. Or short and ‘zzzz’. One way or another, it’s a quick wrap-up, a little bit of spooning to help readers transition from your characters’ (and hopefully their) climaxes back into the real world.

Granted, this is an over-simplified way to look at plot, and not all plots follow this straight-forward pattern, but most plots have some variation of these elements. So, take a look at that story you’re starting or struggling with. Does it have all of these pieces? What’s missing? Add it in and see where it takes your story.

Character-Driven Plots
Most often, this is the way that I write stories. I come up with a character, ask them what they want, and I’m on my way. It’s also a great way to jump-start a stalled plot.

To try it, pick a character who’s been languishing in her fictional bed, just waiting for you to come to her rescue. Now ask her, “What do you want?”

In erotica, the answer will almost always be sexual: “I want to screw that big stud over there” or “I want to have my first orgasm” are great wants for a sexual story. However, your characters’ goals don’t have to be simplistic or purely sexual. “I want to find someone who fulfills me sexually and emotionally,” is the basis of many erotic stories, as is, “I want someone who will accept me unconditionally, no matter what my sexual desires.” In fact, is it these larger desires that often take a story out of the stroke category and move them into literary erotica. Check out any of the The Best American Erotica anthologies and you’ll see characters who desire more than just a screw.

In some stories, when a character is forthright, you can even have them state their desire in the story. My story, “Amy’s Tattoo,” (Heat Wave; Cleis Press) begins with the narrator saying, “I want to lick it.” As the writer, I had to ask myself. “What does she want to lick and why can’t she do it?” The benefit is that readers will be asking the same things — and they won’t be able to put the story down until they have answers.

Once you know your character’s burning desire, you can ask other questions. Two that are closely linked are: “What’s the worst thing that could happen to you?” and “What will you do to get what you want?” These questions further explore your character’s desire, and can help you set up conflict and scenes.

I often write my character-driven plot out on a piece of paper so I can consult it as I write. My character wishes her boyfriend would spank her [want] but she’s afraid he’ll reject her [worst thing that can happen]. She decides to ask him anyway [what she’ll do to get what she wants].

Putting your plot like this makes it easy to see the conflict. Will he reject her or decide to spank her? What will be the result?

Or, maybe your character has the same want, but a different “worst thing.” Watch how that changes your plot: My character wishes her boyfriend would spank her [want] but she’s too afraid to ask him [worst thing that can happen]. She decides to visit a SM club instead [what she’ll do to get what she wants].

Now we have a different conflict entirely: Will she find what she wants at the club? Will her boyfriend find out? What then?

By letting the desires of your characters lead the story, you give your readers the joy of living vicariously through your fiction — which is why so many people read erotica in the first place.

Having the ability to plot in more than one way means you’ll always have a way to plan a new story or break a piece out of a slump. Once you have your sexy and stellar plot in hand, be sure to come back next month, where I offer tips on creating real-life characters who talk dirty, wear cherry-printed panties and have the cutest dimples when they give blow jobs.

Other Places to Improve Your Plot:

Don’t miss my next column, “Naked Men and Sultry Women: Creating characters that live, breathe and come.”

Shanna Germain
December/January 2007

“Sexy on the Page” © 2006 Shanna Germain. All rights reserved.

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