The fourteenth episode of the Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast was released on 15th November 2010 and the content has never been released other than website links (on my website www.morgenbailey.com) so I hope you find this information useful. In the first thirteen episodes (see earlier blog posts), I covered ‘show not tell’, the five senses, repetition, points of view, tenses, dialogue, characters, crime, poetry, short stories, novels, writing for children, scriptwriting, comedy, romance and chick lit. This episode talked about erotica.
Hints & Tips
Erotic fiction is the name given to fiction that deals with sex or sexual themes, generally in a more literary or serious way than the fiction seen in pornographic magazines and sometimes including elements of satire or social criticism. Such works have frequently been banned by the authorities.
- ‘Black Lace’ has produced 100+ erotic novels, selling over 2 million copies. Virgin and Hodder Headline, publish 9 erotic titles monthly between them; smaller presses usually publish one a month. There is less competition in this market than romance or crime so more likelihood of having your erotic novel accepted!
- Guild of Erotic Writers’ website www.theguildoferoticartists.com lists just one writer of erotic fiction – Susan Van Scoyoc who is based in Essex but unfortunately clicking on the link to her page says that her website is currently unavailable. Apart from artists, other members include models, life models, photographers, sculptures, bodycasters and jewellers. You can keep up-to-date with their events page (www.theguildoferoticartists.com/index.php?a=la&i=diary).
Pamela Roachford’s ‘Writing Erotic Fiction’ (one of the ‘How to’ series) advises:
- Erotic writing has three main attributes: 1. The writing is heavily based around the senses; 2. The aim of the book or story is to make the reader feel turned on; 3. The scenes contain action which is sexually explicit. An erotic book for predominantly female or mixed audience is heavily based around the senses. This means that it should be richly textured in the way that things taste and smell and sound, as well as in descriptions of how things look and feel. It’s important that your audience feels as though they’re experiencing exactly what your lead characters experience, and can identify with your characters. Because the whole point of the erotic novel is to make the reader feel turned on, your goal is to contain sexually explicit scenes, written and structured in a way that makes them part of the plot. The erotic writing steers clear of three things – crudeness, coyness in the sex scenes and overuse of humorous interludes.
- It’s often said that romantic and erotic novels are written to a formula. Romantic novels: boy meets girl, the attraction is mutual (whether they admit it or not at the start), something comes between them (e.g. another character or their jobs), the conflict is resolved, and they live happily ever after. Erotic novels: boy meets girl, they have lots of sex with each other and different people, and everyone is happy.
- Always use the past tense – he did etc. – and third person narrative (he and she, rather than I or we).
- An erotic novel must be a good read, which arouses the reader through scenes of explicit sexual action. Your editor will expect around 50% of the action in your erotic novel to be sexually explicit, and to the first sex scene to start within the first 10 or so pages, by the end of the first chapter at the latest. That’s not to say that you can’t have plot: just that the plot has to be it inextricably linked to an erotic theme.
- What should you include in a sex scene? The golden rule is to write about things you enjoy, that way your enjoyment is likely to be transmitted to the reader, who will in turn enjoy reading what you’ve written.
- You’re writing an explicit sex scene. Talk about your characters bodily parts, including their genital areas and erogenous zones. How does the texture and colour of their skin change, depending on which area is being touched and how aroused are your characters? What about body temperature? What is the interplay of muscles under the skin look like? How do they touch each other, and what kind of rhythm and pressure do they use? Unless you’re an expert or gynaecologist, it is advisable to buy a good anatomy book or sex manual. ‘The Joy of Sex’ by Alex Comfort is particularly good for source material and has been around for years, or there’s the Kama Sutra!
- As well as describing the physical actions in the sex scene, describe what one of your characters is thinking and feeling. Again, use only one person’s viewpoint. Don’t forget taste and sense of hearing as well as touch and sight. What about the feel of clothing or the surface on which your characters are making love? Whether it’s silk sheets, Persian carpets, a lawn, beach, big pile of autumn leaves-what does it feel like? What does the surface sound like against the character’s skin? Are there any particular scents in the air?
- What should you avoid in the sex scene? The golden rule is very similar to that of what to include. Don’t write about anything that you find personally distasteful, because your reader will be turned off. But today the area is common to all the major publishers: under age sex, non consensual sex, libel (by all means say that your character looks like a famous actor, but don’t say that your character is the actor, and enjoys being tied up and ravished in the middle of Harrods!), incest, bestiality etc.
- Sometimes there’s a titillating shock value in having your characters use crude language. However, if one of your characters continually uses a crude expression, it’s boring, rather than erotic. Make sure you are (pleasantly) rude, but not crude.
- Read! Notice how other writers describe their characters’ sexual actions/feelings, then use that as a starting point of your own work (without plagiarising; keep to your own style).
- Although Jake Arnott (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jake_Arnott) – who I met at March’s Oundle Literary Festival – writes thrillers, he was ranked one of Britain’s 100 most influential gay and lesbian people in 2005. His first novel ‘The Long Firm’ was published in 1999 and tells of Harry Starks, a homosexual East End gangster in the 1960s based on the Kray twins. A notable feature is that the story is told from five different points of view. It was later serialised on BBC television starring Derek Jacobi, Phil Daniels and Mark Strong, and broadcast in July 2004.
- Gay pulp fiction refers to printed works, primarily fiction, that include references to male homosexuality, specifically male gay sex, and that are cheaply produced, typically in paperback books made of wood pulp paper; lesbian pulp fiction is similar work about women (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesbian_pulp_fiction). People often use the term to refer to the “classic” gay pulps that were produced before about 1970, but it may also be used to refer to more recent gay erotica or pornography in book or magazine form.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesbian_literature – again I make reference to Wikipedia. It’s a great site (updated by the public) which has pretty much everything on everything! This page details the history behind lesbian fiction including such works as ‘Orlando: a biography’ by Virginia Woolf, Patricia Highsmith’s (under the penname of Clare Morgan) ‘Price of salt’ and the 1998 novel ‘Tipping the velvet’ by Sarah Waters (made into a BBC three-episode drama in 2002 starring ‘Ashes to Ashes’ actress Keeley Hawes).
- ‘The Burning Pen’ by M. Christian is a book about sex writers on sex writing. It says that from the beginning of time, erotic art has played an enormous role in how history views cultures and societies. Unfortunately, scant attention has been paid to the artists themselves, leaving a hole in the study of how erotica reflects the society on which it is created. In this groundbreaking work, contemporary writers of erotica, reflect on how their work originates, how their sexuality shaped their words, and how their words have affected their sexuality. ‘The burning pen’ is an exploration of writers’ souls, sexuality, and sensual creativity. The book includes a dozen essays on the art of erotic writing by renowned authors. Each essay is accompanied by the writer’s favourite erotic story – used to highlight his or her unique style and voice as well as demonstrated wildly diverse approaches to sexuality and language.
- ‘The joy of writing sex – a guide fiction writers’ by Elizabeth Benedict is a guide to writing convincing sex scenes and its lessons teach the craft of writing fiction as a whole. Elizabeth Benedict explores issues of the first time, married sex, adultery and more. This book takes into account the changes in sexual attitude in recent years and there are examples of the best contemporary fiction and interviews with some of the most acclaimed young writers including Jeanette Winterson!
- Melcher Media publish a series of waterproof books including their ‘Aqua erotica’ range, usually containing a dozen or so stories, designed to be read whilst in the bath, on the beach or by the pool. I have three.
- There is also a section on erotica in Sue Moorcroft’s how-to-guide ‘Love writing’ – I interviewed Sue recently (released as a 2-part special episode podcast) and again links to her website are on mine.
- Another series of books is the ‘how-to’ books. I have a few, including ‘Writing erotic fiction’ by Pamela Roachford. The book includes topics such as ‘getting started’, ‘putting it into words’, ‘structuring the novel’, ‘developing your characters’, ‘developing your setting’, ‘writing the sex scene’, ‘finding sources for ideas’, ‘submitting your manuscript’, ‘learning from experience’, ‘after acceptance – what now?’.
- The Observer newspaper has published a few thin non-fiction books on topics including Space, Art and the one I’m going to mention, ‘The Body’! Needless to say it’s useful when writing romance, and especially erotica, to know your way round the human body. I’ve heard a few podcast comments where someone has praised the story but highlighted inaccuracies with detail. In theory this is where your Editor would come in but really you’d want be professional and do as much of the groundwork yourself as you could or if you’re self-publishing you’re your own editor! I digress. The Observer Book of the Body is just 112 pages long but packed with fascinating information from the dissection (not literally!) of a sneeze, hiccup, yawn, laugh (apparently we laugh an average of 15 times per day and we use more facial muscles to frown than we do to smile or laugh so that’s a good excuse to be happy J) and blush (which was considered an attractive trait in the 18th and 19th centuries), old wives’ tales, major skeletal bone names and even how much a limb can be insured for! Ken Dodd’s teeth are insured for £4M while David Beckham’s legs and feet, at the time of publication, were worth a cool £33.6M! Appropriate sections from a writing point of view include:
- The Erotic Print Society (0207 736 5800, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org publish erotic literature and accept unsolicited manuscripts (synopsis and first chapter). See their website www.eroticprints.org for details.
- There are also plenty of same-sex novels (some mentioned above) and collections of short stories. These include ‘Penguin book of Lesbian Short Stories’ and ‘New Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories’. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_LGBT_publications lists gay mags available.
- Finally, I couldn’t cover erotica handout without mentioning Ann Summers. Apart from underwear, toys etc. Ann Summers sell books and I have one (bought from a car boot sale last month!) called ‘Uncovered – erotic confessions’ (picture on final page). Sub-headings include ‘tools of the trade’, ‘close encounters’, ‘les-be-friends’, ‘sex on the beach’ and ‘obey me’…not a book for the faint-hearted!
- ‘Body of evidence – a brief history of sex guides’ details ‘Ars Amatoria’ by Ovide (dated 2BC-2AD), the ‘Karma Sutra’ by Vatsyayana (c.100-199AD), ‘On sex’ and ‘On Unnatural sex’ by Thomas Aquinas from his Summa Theologica (1265-1274), ‘Sammy Tubbs the Boy Doctor, and Sponsie the Troublesome Monkey’ by Dr EB Foote (1874) – a children’s book which features detailed line drawings of the genitals and semi-explicit guide to sex and one of the first positive representations of an interracial kiss in literature! The next book mentioned is the famous ‘The Joy of Sex’ by Alex Comfort (1972). Although it was originally released as a parody on the existing ‘Joy of Cooking’ with its contents reading like a menu of positions, it was a no-holds-barred guide which paved the way for the proliferation of sex manuals produced thereafter.
- Body language expert Peter Collett explains the five telltale signs of flirting – expressive facial movements (men love women with an animated face; it sends two clear signals – she understands my feelings and she can manipulate her face with great skill and therefore she will skilfully look after the children!), spherical contours (men like a woman’s chest, backside, shoulders…no surprises there!), vulnerability (men like women who expose their neck and wrists – vulnerable parts where the blood flows!), childishness (men also need to be childish to show that they have some variability, that brings out the mother in the girl!) and smiling/joking (smiling men show they’re not threatening but tell jokes to show they are dominant)!
- The ‘Sense and sensitivity’ pages explain how the five senses work. As mentioned in previous notes, try and consider all five senses when writing a story. By describing places and what someone looks like (just having the colour of something helps with the imagery) etc. you capture sight, what someone is eating and how it tastes (depending on whether the story is written from their first person or third person/omniscient viewpoints…I’ll be covering viewpoints in August) is obviously the sense of taste. Touch is vital for writing a romantic story. It is unlikely that two characters would be intimate without touching. For a good story to work, the reader must be able to imagine what is happening and describing how your character feels when they have their first kiss with a new partner is magic! Interesting fact from this section include…every cm2 of skin has c. 200 pain receptors, 15 pressure receptors and 6 for cold and one for warmth. The least sensitive part of the body is the middle of the back and the most sensitive are the hands (17,000 receptors in each hand!), lips (not surprisingly), face, neck, tongue, fingertips and feet. The tongue is very receptive to pain (which is why biting your tongue hurts) but not so good at sensing hot or cold. Human’s thermal pain threshold is 45oC. Smell is often described by fresh bread/coffee (popular with house viewings!), cut grass etc. but try and make the smell in your story unusual. Humans can detect seven primary odours – camphoric (mothballs), musky (perfume), roses (flowers), minty (chewing gum), ethereal (cleaning fluid), pungent (vinegar) and putrid (rotting eggs). All other smells are a combination of these and the average nose can distinguish up to 10,000 variations (wine experts’ noses may have more!). Our noses contain 40 million receptor cells, dogs have 1 billion (which is why they say that dogs prefer to smell you before hearing you…which is certainly true for mine…especially if I’ve been shopping!). Hearing is the final sense and is where dialogue comes in. Obviously there are other sounds such as the screeching of car brakes or slamming of doors. Again, be original where you can.
So, you don’t have to look far for inspiration!
Here I give you a couple of story ideas or ways to get new ideas then list seven sentence starts each one, if you’d like to use them, for a daily writing project.
- Write a romantic or scene between a woman and her new boss; and/or
- a romantic short story between two people of the same gender (or species!)
- then continue each story by writing an erotic scene as the characters get to know each other better.
And today’s sentence starts…
1. The mist enveloped Sophia like…
2. “Please, just stop crying.” Miss Denton pleaded…
3. Jill hadn’t accounted for gravity…
4. With only two days to go, Brian…
5. Jason felt for the gun in his pocket…
6. Boston had never looked so beautiful…
7. Lewis reeled from the paper cut…
On this day in history
This episode came out on 22nd November so I won’t list all the related events but one was:
- 1953 – John F Kennedy was shot in Dallas Texas. I’ve often heard of similaries between him and Abraham Lincoln and found a wonderful table on www.school-for-champions.com/history/lincolnjfk.htm.
|Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846||Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946|
|He was elected President in 1860||He was elected President in 1960|
|His wife lost a child while living in the White House||His wife lost a child while living in the White House|
|He was directly concerned with Civil Rights||He was directly concerned with Civil Rights|
|Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy who told him not to go to the theater||Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln who told him not to go to Dallas|
|Lincoln was shot in the back of the head in the presence of his wife||Kennedy was shot in the back of the head in the presence of his wife|
|Lincoln shot in the Ford Theatre||Kennedy shot in a Lincoln, made by Ford|
|He was shot on a Friday||He was shot on a Friday|
|The assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was known by three names, comprised of fifteen letters||The assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was known by three names, comprised of fifteen letters|
|Booth shot Lincoln in a theater and fled to a warehouse||Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and fled to a theater|
|Booth was killed before being brought to trial||Oswald was killed before being brought to trial|
|There were theories that Booth was part of a greater conspiracy||There were theories that Oswald was part of a greater conspiracy|
|Lincoln’s successor was Andrew Johnson, born in 1808||Kennedy’s successor was Lyndon Johnson, born in 1908|
The last item of each podcast is a piece of fiction – either flash or poetry and episode 14’s was a not exactly erotic 60-worder called ‘Jack of all trades’: Jack was a local superstar. He could do anything anyone wanted; plumbing, electrics, carpentry; you name it, he could turn his hand to it. But one day Ethel Miller caught him out. He’d worked for her often… before her mind started to go. Answering the door naked, there was nothing he was going to do for her that day!
I hope you enjoyed this episode and that some of the links will be useful for you. You can find other transcriptions of my podcast here.