Reading erotica can be a profound sensory experience. A good piece of erotica will leave you breathless, aroused and satisfied on emotional and physical levels. Writing erotica is much the same way. It is the yin to reading’s yang. If you write well, the very process of creating the story will take you through the gamut of sensory emotions.
Here’s the kicker. Read enough erotica and you begin to the see the formula. A female who has unfulfilled desires. That one, perfect man who can satisfy them … or vice versa. If, as a writer, you read erotica exclusively long enough, you become susceptible to becoming formulaic and falling into the “erotica flow.” That unifying language and rhythm that abounds within the genre. A florid, over-the-top way of describing things that undermines the credibility of the story if the author isn’t careful.
As I got deeper into my current work in progress, the follow up to Awakening, I began to see traces of that flow in my story. I went and re-read Awakening and saw seeds of it there. In both stories, the male lead was the “most gorgeous” man ever. In other places, the language was rife with hyperbole.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with this, but I don’t like to write stories that merely blend in with the genre. I like to write things that have a different take on a familiar topic. Awakening is like that. Rather than a traditional BDSM tale focusing on the sexual aspect, Awakening focuses on the emotional and psychological impetus of Dominance and submission.
The deeper I went in my new story, the more frustrated I became. Erotica is its own flavor to be sure, but it deserves good writing technique, characterization and plotting just as much as the next Tom Clancy thriller. As much as I love erotica, these hallmarks of quality writing are not always found in your average tale.
So, late one night after deleting the 2,000 words I just written in disgust, I decided to stop reading erotica for a while. I spent the next several months reading mysteries, thrillers, narrative non-fiction, basically anything that was not erotica. It was like recharging my writerly batteries and getting a fresh perspective to bring to my new work.
My writing flowed again and I, once more, felt confident that I was providing a great story, not just a good sex. There was one unexpected side-effect of my sabbatical, however. I struggled through writing the first sex scene after my return! Mainstream fiction shies away from sex. The best, most believable and sense-drenched love scenes are found in one place only … erotica. Like that, I was home. Back to my favorites: Cherise Sinclair, Eliza Gayle, Brynn Paulin and Dominique Adair.
The lesson learned for me was that to understand erotica you must read erotica, but don’t forget to keep your mind open and expose yourself to other genres. It will only help your writing and give the reader a better, more layered story to read.