NSFW: writing erotica and creative exercises

02/06/2014 21:04

This is your advance warning: don’t read this if you’re at work, in an environment that doesn’t cope well with swearing or erotica, or you don’t want to read about it. I’m not going to discuss personal experience but I might be using some of the words – so please leave now if you’re going to have problems later!

So! Let’s talk sex scenes.

I don’t usually write erotica. I don’t have a problem writing or reading it – in fact I usually appreciate written erotica more than images, in common with most women. I read enough to know when something’s really good: one of my most admired writers of erotica is Remittance Girl, whose exceptionally wide range means not everything appeals to everyone, but I would argue that every single story is an absolutely fantastic piece of writing.

I have also written some erotica, but I mostly find that it doesn’t fit into my stories. It’s not that the characters don’t have sex or that it doesn’t have a place in my books, but simply that I don’t usually see the need. The scene doesn’t add anything to the story; it simply showcases another side of a relationship that can be shown as easily by a lead-up to that scene, and then the reader can have fun imagining the rest. I’m a firm believer in less-is-more approach, and I have to admit I hate gratuitous sex scenes (Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you…)

The only ‘proper’ sex scene I’ve written so far is actually one that will never go into any book, as the relationship of the characters at that point is entirely wrong (or at least, the fact that they end up having sex would derail what I need to happen later). However, it works: the scene’s good, and it does serve a purpose for the plot and their character development. As an aside, they also talk during it, which is a huge bugbear of mine with most books – I mean, seriously, do people not actually talk during sex? So why do people in books not? And also why does nothing ever go wrong? People in real life do end up hopping around the bedroom trying to take one sock off; I swear that everyone’s experienced strange noises and awkward moments and just plain “you have to laugh” incidents – so why do they not go into books? Sex is as funny and stupid and awkward as it is hot and sweaty and fun! *end rant*

I admit I also hate a lot of the writing and conventions of standard erotica and sex scenes. I find it incredibly awkward to write “cumming” without wanting to either cackle with laughter or wince, and the standard choice of words used to describe a penis is just…weird, to be honest. I find the gap between reality and the imagined world a very large jump when reading a lot of sex scenes, which I think removes a lot of the enjoyment, and it’s even worse when you add in the tendency of bad fantasy writers to add in pages of description that really just makes me want to yawn.

It’s also an interesting point that writing erotica is much less exciting than people tend to imagine. I can’t currently find the cartoon, but either Jess Fink or Kate Or Die did a wonderful one about how people imagine drawing sexy comics is the artist going “tee hee, I’m really horny!” and actually it’s all rage because their leg is bent weirdly and how on earth does their anatomy even work? Writing sex scenes is sort of like that: it’s much more plotting and characters, even when you’re writing sex, because you are writing action. It’s like writing a battle: things are going on, and you have to make sure you put in the links and the descriptions, because otherwise someone’s head just got chopped off and the last time you saw them, they were half a mile away and wearing inch-thick armour, so how on earth did they suddenly appear in the middle of a battle? And won’t someone fall over their head if they leave it there?

 

Anyway, back to the sort-of-point. I don’t usually write sex, and particularly no-context-erotica, but I got badly derailed today by four little words that a friend of mine handed to me: “my hands, your hair”.

It’s actually a fun creative exercise. How many sex-themed scenarios can you come up with that involve your hands in someone’s hair? (Six sensible ones in my case, as I’m not including wild BDSM or fantasy, which I’m sure could provide a lot more ideas.) And then how do you write those so that they are short, to-the-point, and yet still convey exactly what you want them to? In addition, they all need to be as unspecific as possible to allow for the widest inclusion of readers (so no skin colours, for example) and all different, yet in this context they needed to be similar enough that they could form a short piece.

I was aiming for urgency, so each of the six are about 50 words long; I haven’t added many descriptive words; and the writing is short, brief, sharp sentences. The persons are “I” and “you” to allow for inclusion, and it adds a fun bit of creativity to the challenge to try not to name any specifics; for example, I ended up changing “hand on your cock” to “fumbling with your jeans” – and can you see how it makes it that bit less specific, but still produces the right image?

I finished each of the stories with  dash to allow for the continuation of thought without having to actually end each scene. They’re also in the same tense and format, so they are very similar despite the actual content being different, and it brings them together as one piece. It adds up, I hope, to a flurry of quick and simple ideas that get themselves into your head, which is exactly what a) flash fiction, and b) erotica should do.

I’m not going to put the finished piece here, or for that matter anywhere: even the original friend isn’t going to see it. But it was a very interesting creative exercise, and one that I definately recommend trying if you’re wondering about writing sex or have gotten bored of the traditional formats.

 

I will now return you to your regularly scheduled dose of Sloths and book names.