Nov 302014
 
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By Mistress Lorelei Powers

You’ve carefully described your protagonists: their degree of youth, beauty, and desirable physique. You’ve choreographed the placement of arms, legs, mouths, and genitalia in various positions for maximum satisfaction and ease of description. Maybe you’ve even tested those positions with a willing volunteer to make sure a kneeling submissive of a given height really can reach quite that far with a tongue.

But have you considered how the scene fits into the flow of the narrative? What purpose it serves in the plot?

“But it’s erotica! The whole point of the story is the sex!”

Well, yes and no. The sex is essential, but it isn’t sufficient. Submissions guidelines generally emphasize phrases like “complex plotting” and “storytelling as well-crafted as the sex is hot.” So if you wish to publish your story in an anthology or have your novel accepted for publication, you need to understand how to time a sex scene to make it effective—and incidentally increase your chances of getting the reader and even the editor aroused.


The Role of Sex in Genre

One way to look at the question of how soon and how often is to look at the standards of the particular form you have chosen. Clearly, in a short story, you can’t postpone the first sex scene for 10,000 words, but in a literary novel you just may want to. Pure erotica often has a faster pace than the “erotica plus” genres: erotic romance, erotic suspense, erotic mystery, erotic horror. Old-fashioned pulp porn generally featured a new sexual combination every other chapter.

Many traditional erotic romance novels (AKA bodice-rippers) brought the hero and heroine together about a quarter of the way into the novel, again at the halfway point, and one final triumphant time toward the end. The ones driven by rape plots generally started the action earlier, sometimes in the first half-dozen pages.

In order to get the feel of a form, you must read widely in it. Read the classics of the genre, but also read plenty of contemporary fiction.


The Motives for Sex

Another way to decide where your sex scenes fit into the story is to ask yourself why your protagonists are going to bed. There are innumerable reasons people have sex of any kind. Here are a few:

·    A simple desire for touch

·    Love

·    Wanting children

·    Wanting to establish a relationship

·    Basic horniness

·    To manipulate someone or gain someone’s favor

·    Revenge (usually on someone other than the new partner)

·    Fear

·    Sorrow (grieving people can have incredibly hot sex)

·    Wanting to forget troubles

·    Compulsion by inner demons

·    Boredom

·    Loneliness

·    Curiosity

·    Competition with an established love object or a new flame

·    Hot make-up sex to rebuild a damaged relationship

Think about these motives. They’re not unitary. Each partner may have several motives, some subconscious. Furthermore, the participants may have conflicting motives—a conflict that can drive plot in any of a number of different directions. Most of the noir genre is based on such mismatches, but then so are most romantic comedies.

The motivations for having sex help dictate where the scene should go. If you are working on a story that emphasizes why or how your protagonists get together, the sex should be placed later in the story—as the climax. If a sex scene is the happy ending you have been promising the reader all along, you should place one of them in the final pages to serve as a symbol of happily ever after or at least happily this afternoon.

If your story arises from the complications of the relationship, the first sex scene must appear earlier. In either case, the sex should change things for your protagonists.


The Consequences of Sex

Once your protagonists have gotten together, they have to face the consequences of that sexual act. Complications are the bone and blood of plot, and sex can create a lot of complications.

The desire for sexual fulfillment, whether plain vanilla or a specific kink, is one of the most powerful of all drives. I’ve seen good sex (not to mention failed sex) radically change people’s lives by:

·    Helping them find new confidence and a powerful new sexual/social identity

·    Beginning and ending marriages, creating and rupturing families, causing long-distance moves, resulting in career changes

·    Shifting the balance of power in a love triangle, ultimately dissolving the triangle and severing several relationships

·    Beginning a number of friendships and ending a few

·    Signaling to one party that they were now in a relationship—an assumption the other party didn’t share

·    Serving as glue for a long-term relationship that was otherwise deteriorating

·    Causing a breach between my date and his hyper-religious mother, who threw him out of the house when he refused to stop seeing me

·    Causing pregnancy—a result that can be joyful, disastrous, or anything in between

·    Prompting one party to have a crisis of faith

·    Triggering unexpected memories and feelings (of love, anger, terror, despair, giggling)  in one or both parties

·    Ending with an intervention by the cops

And that doesn’t even go into the matter of the enraged house-sitter waving a machete, who didn’t realize that the homeowners had given us a key and permission to meet there. Can you see the plot possibilities here?

To be effective, sex needs to be woven in and through your story. The urge to have sex or to frustrate someone else’s desires can set your protagonists and the other characters in motion. Once sex has occurred, it can be the catalyst for unexpected changes. Keep on following the trail of desire, frustration, and fulfillment, and you have a plot in which the sex isn’t gratuitous, but essential for the story. And that’s the kind of story that readers—and editors—love.

***

Lorelei Powers, also known as Mistress Lorelei (pronounced LOR-eh-lye, and named for Germany’s famous siren of the Rhine River whose seductive music lured sailors to their doom), is the author of the BDSM how-to classics The Mistress Manual and A Charm School for Sissy Maids, as well as the short story collection On Display. She is a bisexual, polyamorous sadist and lifestyle Domme. She has started using her surname to avoid confusion with her respected colleagues, Lorelei Lee or Lorelei of BedroomBondage.com.

By profession, Lorelei Powers is a writer and editor. Under various other names she has published a number of books, articles, and stories. She also teaches writing classes, gives workshops and presentations on BDSM technique, and offers private coaching sessions by phone or in person for Dom/mes and submissives.

She blogs about BDSM at The Mistress Manual and about sex, feminism, politics, and naked men in bondage at Gallery of Dangerous Women. Follow her Twitter feed at @MsLorelei.

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Oct 232014
 
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By Mistress Lorelei Powers

In no genre does the admonition Write what you know apply more powerfully than in writing about sex. The average reader of a police procedural will never be involved in a murder investigation, and thus their image of the process is likely to be formed by their books, as well as other media: movies, TV shows, newspaper and internet accounts of investigations. With the help of Google, a fluent writer may be able to fake a way through and produce a story this average reader finds plausible, but the work is likely to echo every cliché of the genre.

By contrast, almost everyone has some kind of sex, and people who practice specific kinks know the difference between fantasy and reality. When Anne Rice admitted she had written the Beauty series (originally published under the name A. N. Roquelaure), she claimed she didn’t actually practice BDSM herself. Every kinkster I knew believed her. There were too many problems with the books, and not just because she portrayed some unsafe practices.

You may have been fantasizing about a particular act or orientation for years, but fantasies are an unreliable guide. So are many stories. To hear some people talk about sex between women, scissoring is the be-all and end-all. In 35 years of sex with women, I have yet to scissor. I can’t even figure out the instructions.

Trying to write about an unfamiliar sexual subculture or practice has serious pitfalls. My personal favorite is a slash fan-fiction story in which one gay man “fisted” another’s cock. I had outrageous visions of one man plunging his whole hand into the other’s urethra. The author didn’t know about anal or vaginal fisting (the practice of slowly, gently inserting the whole well-lubricated hand inside your partner); she just wanted to say that her character grabbed a cock in his fist. Oops.

So does this mean you can never use your imagination, or that you have to limit yourself to writing your own experiences? Not at all. There is a place for research in erotica, as with any other fiction.

1. Read all about it. First, check out the how-to manuals and memoirs. In the past 20 years, there has been an explosion of useful and informative books about all kinds of sex. There are superb books on the theory and practice of same-sex love, just about every form of BDSM, erotic hypnotism, enema play, fisting (both vaginal and anal), and more forms of sensation play than I can name. Now that ebooks are so common, you can download anything in peace and privacy.

Check out reviews in places like Goodreads or specialty forums before you buy; not all books are created equal. Steer toward nonfiction; many fictional depictions are inaccurate or actively unsafe. Movies can show how things work physically, but most are insanely unrealistic about the culture and feelings of participants.

Then you may want to go to the library, preferably a university library. Your local library may allow interlibrary loan from nearby academic libraries. You would be amazed what you can find in scholarly books. There are serious psychological and philosophical studies of homosexuality, transgender, transvestism, sadomasochism, and other sexual variations. Books on queer studies and gender studies may be densely written, but they can also offer insights.

Learn about safety, culture, history, and terminology. Read enough to understand how various members of the subculture relate to their sexual practices and to others who share their orientation. You’ll discover that every subculture is a cluster of micro-cultures, some of them deadly foes and others allies. Practices that seem the same to the outsider may have entirely different meanings. A drag queen and a sissy maid both dress in feminine garb, but their aims and clothing are profoundly dissimilar. And both are different from a transgender woman. Know the distinctions, or you’ll piss everybody off—including your intended audience.

2. Make friends in the community. The Internet makes this a thousand times easier than it was twenty years ago. If you’re writing about people who take on animal personas, find an online forum for furries. (And learn the difference between furries and yiffing.) Lurk first. Reading forum threads and participating in group chats are excellent ways to understand a subculture. Approach individuals with respect. Remember, they are not here as zoo displays, nor are they obliged to answer intrusive questions.

You may also find in-person meet-ups where people gather to meet others who share their tastes. Some are informal, public events (sometimes called munches) where people dress in ordinary clothes and don’t do anything more surprising than drink diet soda. Others are parties or clubs where people go to play—a word that has a much broader meaning than you may be aware of. Look for events for newbies. Not everyone is lucky enough to live in an urban area where there are plenty of venues, but even rural areas have their gatherings. I used to drive 110 miles to go to BDSM parties in a neighboring state.

3. Practice, practice, practice. When you learn specific techniques from a book—for example, how to peg your partner with a strap-on—test it out in person with a willing volunteer. When I first started pegging, I was startled and impressed at the sense of power it gave me. I was also surprised that relatively small motions could create such an intense reaction. That’s something I wouldn’t have known without doing it myself.

Now excuse me. I have a naked woman in my bed, and we’re going to try to see if we can manage to scissor without falling off or breaking an ankle.

***

Lorelei Powers, also known as Mistress Lorelei (pronounced LOR-eh-lye, and named for Germany’s famous siren of the Rhine River whose seductive music lured sailors to their doom), is the author of the BDSM how-to classics The Mistress Manual and A Charm School for Sissy Maids, as well as the short story collection On Display. She is a bisexual, polyamorous sadist and lifestyle Domme. She has started using her surname to avoid confusion with her respected colleagues, Lorelei Lee or Lorelei of BedroomBondage.com.

By profession, Lorelei Powers is a writer and editor. Under various other names she has published a number of books, articles, and stories. She also teaches writing classes, gives workshops and presentations on BDSM technique, and offers private coaching sessions by phone or in person for Dom/mes and submissives.

She blogs about BDSM at The Mistress Manual and about sex, feminism, politics, and naked men in bondage at Gallery of Dangerous Women. Follow her Twitter feed at @MsLorelei

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