Let’s get the biggie out of the way first (as it were): I love writing sex. Yes, I admit it. It’s one of the high points of my writing life. Even when I’m not writing about sex, I’m thinking about writing it. It’s part of all my novels, and most of my short stories. Even when no sex takes place.
At heart, you see, I believe being erotic is simply part of being human. We’re all physical and sexual (or at least with the capacity for being sexual) people, and including that aspect of our lives within literature is a celebration of being alive and of being who we are.
Neither is erotica the same as erotic romance, though both are wonderful genres and I fully support and regularly read work from either category. Love and romance is a fantastic part of life, whether it’s something where we have personal experience or not. On the other hand, we’re all born with bodies which are responsive and which are an integral part of our characters and how we develop. We can all relate to erotic writing, whether or not we can relate to romance writing.
More to the point, when it comes to erotica writing, the best stories are actually those – wait for it!… – which don’t use the sex scenes as the be-all-and-end-all of a story. Yes, that might seem counter-intuitive, but actually if you’re reading a sex scene and the only thing you’re getting from it is the sex itself, then it’s not erotica. It’s porn. Which is all perfectly fine, if that’s what you were expecting.
Erotica, however, should take you somewhere different. Yes, the sex is hot – or should be! – but good erotica should actually be showing you more about the characters involved and giving you an intimate insight into their lives and what drives them. Erotica is all about character – and character is what should make a book sing. Good erotic writing reminds us at a very deep level just how human we all are, in the body, under the skin. It reminds us we’re not all about minds and hearts, but about flesh and blood too.
If sex, therefore, is doing its job properly, it should reveal character and the real, physical relationship between characters in a way that nothing else can. It should also move the storyline along as part of that deepening understanding of character. TIP to my fellow writers: If something else at that point can reveal your character better than a sex scene, then DON’T WRITE THE SEX SCENE – write the “something else”. Good sex writing shows the people you’re writing about being themselves most clearly and most closely – and that kind of intimacy with a character is what the reader – and the writer – wants.
Erotica can also take us to places in our lives we hadn’t realised we felt quite so strongly about, and can therefore be both exciting and challenging, as well as deeply revealing. And that’s whether you’re a reader or a writer. When I started to write my erotic story The Beginning of Knowledge, I wasn’t expecting my main character, Alan, to be so very quietly angry and desperate about important aspects of his life, and for him to express these darker emotions quite so passionately through his sexual relationship with his younger colleague, Luke.
Luke brings out something in Alan – something both delightful and dangerous – that he’s never acknowledged before. It is a revelation to him, and was also one to me too. Quite honestly, writing this story scared me – partly because though I’ve always known I do carry quite a lot of anger around with me, I hadn’t realised how deeply it goes, and partly because I’d never before acknowledged the link in my mind between sex and the dangerous vulnerability of being known by someone else. Goodness, there’s something for my counsellor to get her head round, if I ever have the courage to discuss it!…
So, if you’ve not read any erotica before or you think it’s maybe not for you, then don’t dismiss it without giving the best erotic writing a chance. Because, at its best, erotic writing is about life, character and the world & bodies we live in. At its very best, it’s all about ourselves.
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