Here’s part one of an article series about writing erotica. Since erotica is so popular, and the only place we get advice in this fandom is at cons, I thought I’d toss some long winded blabber online for those who can’t make it to a con, parked in a space that I can cover EVERYTHING I WANT MWAHA. Now normally these things are started with “Why write porn” or “Why you shouldn’t be ashamed of erotica”. You likely already know your answers to those questions, so let’s jump ahead.
But before we start, know that I will use the word porn, and that’s not a judgment call; I have stories in this gallery I consider porn, and I have ones I consider erotica. I’ll show you how I categorize them, because I differentiate them based on the story’s purpose. Porn has its place and that’s great.
The Sex Scene and Your Story
The reason this is article #1 is how pivotal it is to the discussion. You know those “What’s the difference between erotica and porn?” questions? Here’s the answer: how important the sex is to the story.
Try this exercise: Take any story with any sexual content. Replace the content with “scene break, next scene the characters wake up next to each other”.
Now, how has the story changed? If zero has changed, then the sex wasn’t important at all and nothing is lost – many, many movies have the fade to black moment, merely estabishing these characters had sex without showing anything. Because let’s face it, some movies/stories have sex scenes that add nothing to the story.
If your story suddenly is missing a plot point, or at least there’s been a sudden change when the characters wake up, then the sex scene is relevant, and you either have a full story where a plot point appears during sex, or erotica, where the sex is both plot centric and yet there’s still a story there.
And if all you have left is a pair of characters being introduced, then waking up and the story ends, then you know you’re writing porn – the sex is the whole point of your story.
So when you sit down to write erotica or porn, ask yourself “What does this scene do for the story?” (Because you should be doing that for every scene of a story anyways). If you’re writing a porn story, then the sex is the point. If it’s erotica, then the scene is likely very important to your story, but it should be about sex AND something else.
What else can a sex scene be about? Anything that any other scene in a story can be about. For instance it’s easy to conceptualize coming of age stories, where sex is really about exploration and discovery, either of what sex is, and/or sex with another person, or discovering an identity, like coming out stories. In “Missed” the sex scene is all about the promise of sex that doesn’t happen; I use sex in Downward Spiral stories to express a desperate cry for help, an aching need for acceptance; in “Binding the Heart” it’s a means for a character to achieve a goal. It may help to think of sex like fighting. When you get down to it, a sex scene is just an action scene (albeit one where usually the characters like each other). Anything a fight scene can do for your story is something a sex scene can do as well.
Characters: It can introduce characters, as well as provide an opportunity to flesh out your character, demonstrating some of who they are; are they aggressive, delicate, hesitant? We can see flaws: in Handcuffs & Lace, one of the sex scenes actually stops because a nerve is hit, exposing a character’s insecurity. Sex between two characters is an expression of their relationship, so you can show us what these characters are to one antoher – how intimate are they? How does their sexual dynamic work? And sex is ripe for character development – that’s what coming of age/sex exploration is all about, but the character changing as they have sex.
One big facet of this is emotion. Sex can be a window into what the character is feeling at this time – a scene where they need to blow off steam, or they need to be consoled, or they are so distracted they can’t have sex. Several books/movies have soldiers having sex the night before a big battle. Many books have sexual tension that builds between characters, and thus a sex scene is the release valve for that, the reward for all that buildup.
Conflict, from introducing, to contributing, to resolving, is a great place for sex. I have a lot to say on conflict and sex in another article.
You can resolve the story here. For instance, if the story is about a character trying to have sex (for the first time, for the first time with another character), this is where that would take place. It is also in the ‘they have sex after that whole ordeal’, reaffirming they’re alive or reassuring how they stand in their relationship (makeup sex). It could be goodbye sex.
Whether porn or erotica, your sex scene is important. You can use that importance in many different ways. Hopefully this has helped you find some new ones.