If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I love to read erotica. I must confess I’m actually into it for the laughs usually, so knock me down with a (silky) feather when I discovered @MaraLeighAuthor‘s Fantasies Unleashed series! Check out my review of Surrender, HERE. Now, over to Mistress Mara …
Want to try your hand at erotic fiction? Beware. With the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, the Kindle store is chock full of some downright cringe-worthy erotica.
Here are 8 things to avoid to keep your stories lusty, not laughable:
1) Use corny euphemisms
Nothing pulls me out of a steamy story like reading about a man’s love pump or a woman’s sacred channel. We’re grown ups and it’s the twenty-first century, people.
SO: Kill the purple prose! MORE: 8 Ways To Jump Start Your Novel’s Description
2) Use dirty words for the sake of dirt
Erotica needn’t be a string of dirty words. Sure, erotic fiction is one place where writers are allowed to—nay encouraged—to talk dirty, but the language should suit your characters and their story.
SO: Have your characters use words they’d actually use in real life and with the frequency they’d use them. MORE: F*ck Off, You C*nts: All About Swearing
3) Use overly clinical language
This one might seem to go against the two earlier points—if I can’t use euphemisms, dirty words or clinical language, what’s left?—but really it’s about striking a balance between these three.
SO: While readers don’t want ridiculous euphemisms or an overabundance of dirty words, they don’t want a medical textbook, either. MORE: 6 Reasons Dialogue Is Your Enemy
4) Get tied up in the choreography
Okay, you can literally tie up your characters if that’s their thing, but the more stage directions you dictate — he slid his index finger a centimeter to the right, while curling his left pinky to a forty-seven degree angle — the more the reader will be looking for errors or impossible moves. (No one can bend that way!)
On the other hand, the action shouldn’t be so sparse the reader gets confused. You don’t want your male lead to have six hands or three penises (unless it’s sci-fi/fantasy and he does? **Mara notes down story idea**)
SO: You want readers to be focused on the feelings, the heat, the fantasy—on the act, not the actions. MORE: A Little Less Description, A Little More Action Please
5) Make your men kidnappers, abusers or stalkers
Many readers like alpha males – powerful men who take charge, who know what they want and aggressively go after it. (Whether or not women who fantasise about such men would want one in real life is a whole other topic.)
Unless your story is about rape or dubious consent (and, um, well… that’s not my cup of tea), you need to find ways to show how badly your male character desires your heroine, and how aggressively he pursues her and wants to give her pleasure, without making him do things that are abusive and/or criminal.
The best romance fiction is about women going after and getting what they want, and often that translates into holding power over powerful men.
The same should be true in erotica. Let your heroines get what they want!
SO: Don’t assume that alpha is a synonym for asshole, or that powerful equals cruel. MORE: What Is A Hero?
6) Write about women you hate
I swear some erotica writers HATE their own female characters. Is this about writers feeling ashamed, or thinking they need to punish the heroines (and themselves) for thinking too much about sex? Maybe. I’m not a psychologist.
Sex is a normal part of the human experience, so don’t write characters who are clichéd versions of whores or bitches. Normal, everyday women love sex, and normal, everyday women have fantasies about kinky sex—fantasies that they like to explore via the safety of fiction. That’s what fantasies are for.
SO: Don’t use your story to subliminally punish or shame women for wanting sex. MORE: This Is A Call: More Sex, Please
7) Get lazy about the prose
Some badly-crafted erotica reads as if a ten-year-old learned a few dirty words and threw them down on paper: writing with tons of repetition, no variation in sentence structure, and no colour or rhythm to the language.
Erotic fiction should be easy to read (you don’t want readers stumbling over ridiculously complex sentences, or trying to decipher obscure metaphors), but at the same time you don’t want your prose sounding like a primer aimed at someone learning to read. (See Dick’s dick? Look! Jane licks Dick’s dick. Naughty Jane. Lucky Dick.)
SO: Most readers aren’t buying erotica for the poetic sentences or clever turns of phrase, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your prose. MORE: Creative Ways To Edit Outside The Box
8) Write with your mum on your shoulder!
If you want to write erotic fiction, DON’T self-censor or worry about who might read your stories.
SO: Don’t stifle your imagination. And if you want to keep your identity a secret: use a pseudonym. I do. MORE: 5 MORE Tips For Editing Your Work
BIO: @MaraLeighAuthor tossed aside her life as a finance executive to let her creative side roam free. She’s obsessed with films, good TV and great shoes, and lives in Toronto, Canada where she attends the TIFF every year. Mara also writes young adult sci-fi/fantasy and contemporary women’s fiction under the name Maureen McGowan.