As you may well know, one of our most favorite things to do while celebrating the release of a brand new anthology is to offer up a few #WriterlyWisdoms and #SexySnippets. Whether you are a long-time writer or an aspiring one, a KMQ #LuridListener or a brand new fan of Erotica, we at S.F. Productions always like to share helpful inside looks at the Art & Craft of Erotica. Not only do we hope to provide writers with something valuable to add to their writer tool boxes, we also thoroughly love introducing a few of our talented contributing authors while highlighting samples of their wonderful stories, so that readers get an idea of what to expect. Because, of course, everybody can use a super hot #SexySnippet.
No matter its style, when written well, an erotic story should affect our minds and our bodies. Today, we welcome returning author, Malin James to briefly discuss a little bit of what it takes to write a story that’s designed to engage the reader/listener on a much deeper and more satisfying level so that they come back for more.
*Continue reading after Malin’s #WriterlyWisdom! We’re featuring our very first #SexySnippet to celebrate the new release of our latest publication, The Sexy Librarian’s Dirty 30, Vol.2.
(Purchase The Sexy Librarian’s Dirty 30, Vol.2 Ebook here.)
Fair warning, this post doesn’t distinguish between erotica and porn. It also doesn’t distinguish between erotic fiction, “literary” porn and smut. It doesn’t even distinguish between literature and sex writing. Those distinctions are too subjective and market-driven to help when it comes to craft. Good writing is good writing, regardless of market conventions, and that standard applies to all genres, including genres that focus on sex.
So, how do you make sex writing “good” writing? A lot of that depends on why you’re writing the story. Good sex that’s intended to turn the reader on is different than good sex that confronts, explores, or seeks to understand, but there is one set of tools you can apply to sex in all writing, regardless of intent.
The biggest mistake people make when they start writing erotica is to put all of the emphasis on scene and kink. Sure, they’re important, but if you want an m/f/m story to get a rise (heh) out of someone who hates threesomes, you have to go beyond that, to specificity and characterization. Those are the tools to bank on.
People read porn because they want to be affected. Erotica is like horror in that way, except that instead of wanting to be terrified, the reader wants to be turned on. Arousal is a visceral response, just like fear is. The one quality all good sex writing has, regardless of kink, scene or label, is that it gets a visceral response out of the reader. How / where the characters fuck is mechanics. Why the characters fuck is visceral.
Here’s what I mean.
“He fucked her on the table.”
They could be people, sloths or sentient dust bunnies—it doesn’t matter, so long as the tab goes into the slot. There’s nothing wrong with that, there just isn’t much for readers to get lost in.
“He fucked her after the funeral—bone cracking, angry fucking, with her legs wrapped tight around his waist.”
That is visceral and specific. A guy fucking a woman who embraces his anger. It’s not about the fact that they’re fucking, it’s about the anger and humanity that underpin the sex.
Important note: For all its specificity, that sentence isn’t “literary”. Sure, the sex could be about guilt or mortality, but the story could also just be about two people having angry sex after a funeral. Either way, the hot, visceral goodness is in the people, not in kink or scene.
So, if you want to write good porn (or erotica, or sex in general), avoid tabs and slots. Put people in your porn. Complicate your characters. Use meaningful details—a tear in her stocking, dirt under his nails—to get under the reader’s skin. Erotica, literature, porn…the label doesn’t matter. Make your characters specific, and the reader will care. If they care, you’ll get that visceral response. Get that response and they’re yours.
That is how you make them come back for more.
Simon studied my face. “I need you naked…if you don’t mind.” The lines around his mouth tensed as if he expected me to laugh.
I didn’t laugh. I nodded and turned around before unbuttoning my shirt.
Simon didn’t move.
For one delicious moment, I wondered if he was going to watch.
Then, he muttered something under his breath and started to leave the room. “I’ll come back when you’re done. There’s a robe on the chair.”
My hands shook as I shrugged off my shirt. I was much more nervous than I’d have liked as I wrapped myself up in the robe, deliciously aware that I was naked underneath. It was huge and threadbare, obviously his, and I wondered how often he wore it and who had given it to him, and who had worn it last—useless questions, all of them, but my brain wouldn’t stop.
Needing to move, I drifted around the apartment inhaling the robe’s clovey scent and loving the way the worn, plaid flannel brushed against my skin. One canvas, in particular—a smaller one that was propped on an easel—stood out. It was soft and lush, like velvet, and full of coiling shapes. It looked like a nautilus or the inside of a mouth. The layers pulled at me, making demands. My fingers itched to touch.
“I just finished that one. Do you like it?”
Every nerve in me jumped, but my gaze stayed on the painting.
“I think it would swallow me if it could.”
“You’d have to let it first.”
I looked at him, dizzy and exposed as the space between us narrowed, compressing ten years. I was so wet, so swollen, so absolutely drenched that I wouldn’t be able to hide it once the robe came off, but I didn’t care. It took everything I had not to kiss the curve of his jaw.
“Where do you want me?” I asked.
Simon cleared his throat. “On the couch-thing.”
He glanced at the futon. I nodded and crossed the room.
My fingers were cool as I untied the belt, but they were trembling—tiny tremors in the tips that only I could see. The robe slipped off my shoulders and pooled at my feet. I bent to pick it up.
“Leave it,” he said. He was right behind me. “I didn’t know you were inked.”
Simon didn’t touch me, but he didn’t need to. I felt his fingertips floating just above my skin as he followed the vines that coiled around my waist.
“It’s not who I am anymore,” I murmured.
His breathing went slightly ragged, hot on my too-flushed skin.
I leaned back into his whiskey-like warmth and subtly shifted my hips. “Should I sit?”
I turned around and sat, overly aware of everything—his height, his hands, the crinkle in his brow.
His eyes met mine, and he knelt at my feet. “I thought so,” he murmured, taking me in from the angle of my neck to the flexible bend of my toes. Then, he plucked the glasses from his collar and put them on as if it would help him think. “Can I touch you?” he asked. “To move you, I mean.”
“Yes. Of course,” I said.
My voice was cool and steady. My voice was a lie. I wanted him to touch me. I always had. The second he did, I was lost in a lick of heat.
His hand brushed my arm, and then wrapped around my wrist.
Beneath the skin, my nerves jumped, shaking off dust and years of remembering until I felt like a bundle of live wires. I was hungry and hot, sitting on that couch, steeped in the pleasure of wanting him.
Slowly, almost reluctantly, he placed my hand on my knee. Then, he covered my hand with his and gently parted my legs.
My clit throbbed. I was so wet it was obscene. I needed him to touch me. Not respectfully or thoughtfully. I needed him to bruise my skin.
I straightened my spine, displaying my breasts, nipples hard and aching to be sucked.
Simon’s snake-charmer eyes met mine as he skimmed my thigh with his thumb before settling on my waist.
The need to kiss him filled my mouth, but before I could even part my lips, his mouth was hard on mine.
He tastes like cloves and whiskey—that was my last coherent thought before he grabbed my hips and pulled me against his chest. I spread my legs and pressed my cunt against the bulge in his jeans, but it wasn’t enough, not even close—not after ten years.
Desperate, I ground my hips against him and snatched at his clothes. The button of his fly rubbed against my clit, sending ripples of pleasure down through the balls of my feet. Arching into him, I wrapped my legs around his waist.
He gripped my ass and lifted me as he stood. Simon walked us backwards, kissing and licking and nipping at my lips.
I was mindlessly turned on. It wasn’t until I was lying on my back, with Simon between my legs, that I noticed I was in the middle of the canvas he’d prepared.
“So, this is how you paint,” I said. My voice sounded porny as hell. It was laughable, but I didn’t care. I felt fucking porny with him kneeling over me like that.
“Not always,” he replied, yanking off his shirt.
Malin James is an essayist, blogger, and short story writer. Her work has appeared in Electric Literature, Bust, MUTHA, Queen Mob’s Tea House and Medium, as well as in podcasts and anthologies for Cleis Press, Sweetmeats Press and Stupid Fish Productions. Her first collection, Roadhouse Blues, is now out with Go Deeper Press.
The Sexy Librarian’s Dirty 30 Vol.2
Print & Audiobook & KMQ Special Episodes #ComingSoon!
Subscribe to the KMQ Erotica Podcast so you don’t miss new episodes!