Feb 142015
 
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by Suz deMello

For many of us who write erotica, the paranormal sub-(sub-)genre is the most enticing one of all, with its many ways to increase sexual tension. World-building allows us to create our own erotic settings, invent sexier creatures than those who exist on our planet, traipse through time to find or lose lovers…we can bend reality any way we choose. We can invent supernatural beings both virtuous and villainous; we can invest the corners of our new world with quirks, setting up the thrills and spills that make a great read.

Really, though, the paranormal encompasses so many sub-sub-genres! These include, but are not limited to: futuristic, including science fiction; steampunk; time travel; fantasy, which encompasses “creature” stories with vampires, weres, the fae, dragons, zombies and the like, as well as magic and witchcraft. All of these can be mixed into any story brew you please.

Take the basic elements of any book and consider how they could be made paranormal, i.e., beyond the normal.

Characters and conflicts

There’s a natural tension in a romance between a paranormal entity and a human, and you can exploit this to your advantage and to the betterment of your book. Vampires are a great example. How can there be a “happily ever after” in a romance between an immortal, virtually invulnerable being and someone who will, inevitably, die? Would any sensible vampire dare to open his or her heart to a fragile human?

And how can a human trust in the love of an immortal? We who age must fear the loss of an immortal’s love.

Vampires, being denizens of the night, are intrinsically mysterious. As powerful predators, vamps step easily into villainous roles, but lately we’ve been reading about heroic vampires as well; with their extraordinary senses, vampires can make extraordinary heroes. The vampire lovers in my short story Blood is Thicker… are a case in point. One’s a detective and the other a private investigator.

There’s also natural tension in a relationship between different supernatural beings. Werewolves and vampires are both dominating creatures with their own alpha males and females figuring into many an erotic romance. What happens when territories overlap? Clashes are inevitable, and the sex is awesome.

Many writers have created supernatural beings whose abilities amplify each other’s. For example, Jayne Castle (Jayne Ann Krentz) created different types of psychics in what I call her flower trilogy (Amaryllis, Orchid, and Zinnia); their differing talents need each other in order to focus and operate powerfully. Thus, they have to work together in dyads to solve the mystery and trap the villain. Often (but not always) in a heterosexual pairing, the psychics experience sexual tension, emotional intimacy and conflict via this device with, say, one psychic wondering if the other loves her or if he’s simply invested in their complementary powers.

Other writers create creatures made for sex. Succubi and incubi, supernatural demons who use humans for sex and seed—these and so many others have all become quite popular. Some writers have invented aliens which can extrude body parts and insert them into their human subjects for pleasure and pain.

Setting

Setting is an often overlooked aspect of our novels. As an editor, I have read several stories with completely unspecified or only vaguely sketched-out settings. As a reader, I like to be grounded in a story. I like to know where and when the story’s taking place. As a writer, I let the reader know where and when the story’s taking place, even if the both are completely imaginary, e.g., “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

In a paranormal story, it is fatal to overlook setting. The more richness and depth you can impart to your story’s world within the constraints of wordcount, the better—in fact, some settings are so compelling that they will earn your book a spot on many a reader’s “keeper” shelf. Fans return again and again to the Harry Potter books and to Tolkien not only because of the intriguing characters, compelling conflicts and universal themes, but because they want to spend more time at Hogwarts or exploring Middle Earth. Orson Scott Card calls fiction dependent upon a particular setting milieu fiction, and gives Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy as an example.

Of course you may create any setting that compels you, but when you do so, consider how it will facilitate or block mystery and romance.

When world-building for a paranormal erotic romance, I like to include elements that will facilitate sexy situations. In Queen’s Quest, a paranormal erotic thriller, I postulated a planet with an extremely low birthrate. Babies were rare and prized. Thus, sex was encouraged—including public sex—which enabled me to include numerous erotic scenes, while the dearth of normal births encouraged the characters to find other reproductive methods. These added to the suspense subplot (I don’t want to say more without providing a spoiler alert) as well.

Settings need not be exotic and magic need not be arcane, invented from whole cloth. You can use what you already know. I drew upon my teenage interests in Tarot reading and Wicca to write Gypsy Witch, an erotic short story set in my hometown of Sacramento, California during the dog days of late summer. A character used witchcraft to bring to life the stone statues of knights set at the doorway of the downtown Masonic Temple, bringing magic to an otherwise mundane setting. The romantic conflict ended in a ménage—a different kind of magic.

Theme

Theme is also overlooked, and unfortunately so; it’s intrinsic to our stories, as much so as words themselves. Many paranormals feature the clash of good against evil, often employing mythical and/or religious figures such as goddesses and gods, angels, devils, demons and the like. They will inevitably dabble in moral questions that the author may or may not have intended to raise—but it’s no wonder they make their way into our books; these questions are older than Faust, older even than the Bible.

Coming of age stories are also common, and (if the characters are old enough to consent freely) can be particularly enthralling in an erotic context. In erotica, we often read the induction of a virgin into the pleasures of sex. One of my erotic short stories, First and Last, was about an arranged marriage on a lunar colony. Similarly, another popular theme is the BDSM newbie learning about the joy of kink.

The message? Erotica isn’t only about sex, and paranormal content is an exciting and infinitely fertile way to engage the reader. Write a good story and weave in explicit sex and you’ll have a really good story. Put it on another planet and you’ll have a great story.

***

About the Author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written nineteen books in several genres, including nonfiction, memoir, erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms Totally Bound, Liquid Silver Books and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

–Find her books at http://www.suzdemello.com

–For editing services, email her at suzdemello@gmail.com

–Befriend her on Facebook, and visit her group page.

–She tweets @Suzdemello

–and posts to Pinterest

–and Goodreads.

–Her current blog is TheVelvetLair.com

 

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Jun 202014
 
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By Colin

A number of years ago, when I was just starting to seriously write fiction, I showed a new story to my girlfriend of the time.  She read it as carefully as she read all my work, and afterwards said, “I didn’t like the main character.”

At the time, her response surprised me—and not because I disagreed with her. The protagonist was, basically, kind of a whiny, selfish perpetual adolescent, using his desire for a lover to mask all those tiresome elements of his personality. That was actually the point of the story, and at that phase in my development as a writer I thought it justified making my leading man into a twerp.

The reason I was surprised by my girlfriend’s critique was that it was basically an emotional response to one character. Normally she focused on internal logic or the strength/weakness of my writing itself—in other words, things that could be critiqued rationally,  described objectively and fixed. How could I address a reader’s subjective, gut-level response?

Years later, the answer has come through to me: I dunno, but you’d damn well better try.

If you read through reader reviews of erotica—not those by professional critics, but the kind of emotionally engaged feedback that readers post on Amazon and Goodreads when they’ve just finished the story and absolutely must let the world know what they love or hate about it—you’ll see the question of likability comes up quite a bit, especially when the reader’s response is negative. And I don’t just mean they’ve panned the characters and judged the rest of the story on its various merits, but that the whole story has fallen flat for them because they didn’t like the characters. It’s phrased in different ways: I couldn’t relate to Rosalyn; I couldn’t stand Derek; I didn’t really have any strong feelings about Mitzi; I didn’t connect with the cougar shifter; I didn’t exactly hate Razglord, but I just didn’t like him

It’s true that—at first glance, certainly—a great many famous characters in fiction aren’t “likable” as such. Sherlock Holmes, for instance, isn’t terribly likable; he’s fascinating, certainly—who among us wouldn’t love to sit down and have a real conversation with a mind like that? But he doesn’t inspire much in the way of warm fuzzies.

On the other hand, Dr. Watson is quite thoroughly likeable. He’s warm, loyal, relatable, and generally seems like a great guy to go out and have a drink with. He’s an excellent counterpoint to Holmes’ slightly chilly charisma; it may be that the balance of, and tension between, their personalities is the reason so many people love the Holmes stories.

Love—as I’ve said in at least one other column—is a key word here. People have an emotional response to stories and characters in stories, just as they do to real people. Give them a character that evokes a strong positive response, and they’ll likely love that person, whether it’s Dr. Watson or Sam Gamgee or Harry Potter or whoever. They’ll read and re-read the books, recommend them to friends, start blogs about them and write their own fan fiction about the characters. This seems particularly important in erotica and romance, where so much of the stories’ subject matter is about pleasure.

The story I gave to my old girlfriend all those years ago had nothing in the way of a likable character. Now sure, not all stories have to evoke warm fuzzies in their readers. Some very worthwhile stories are basically dark, and some important characters are basically bastards. But my character didn’t have much in the way of redeeming characteristics—be they heroic, interestingly villainous or relatably human. He wasn’t even rotten to the core, he was basically just a sophomoric jerk. If you met him in real life, you wouldn’t even hate him, you’d just think, “Poor screwed-up kid,” and do your best to avoid him in social situations.

Compare that kind of character to the narrator of Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground, who’s very similar in a way: immature, socially awkward, not terribly pleasant to be around. The difference is that Dostoyevsky’s guy has a certain self-awareness; he knows he’s a twerp, and part of the point of the story is that we come to feel something for him, and understand that we ourselves might not be utter paragons. Or look at Wuthering Heights—sure, it’s impossible to imagine that book without Heathcliff, but without Catherine it’s even worse: just a book about a sadistic schmuck out on a farm somewhere.

Sympathetic characters speak to readers even when they’re not terribly likeable people. When a natural likability comes through in a character, readers respond even more powerfully; it can provide an all-important balance between characters, and make the difference between a flavorless, tiresome story and one readers will take to their hearts and cherish forever.

 

Colin is a fetish writer and the single most prolific professional author of tickling erotica working today, with dozens of books to his credit. www.gigglegasm.com and www.ticklingforum.com.

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Jun 022014
 
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One of the questions beginning writers ask us most often is: “How do you know if you have captured the love in your characters’ lovemaking, and aren’t just writing a run-of-the-mill sex scene?” To answer that question, twelve writers offer their own thoughts and advice in this unique WriteSex Author’s Roundtable. Each Monday a well-known romance author will discuss the difference between a sex scene and a love scene, and show us how to charge an erotic encounter with romance. Look for personal insights and how-to tips from our participants in this first ever WriteSex Authors’ Roundtable. —Ed.

***

By Sally Swanson

In the not-so-distant past, erotic stories favored male readers and relegated women to the role of Object of Desire, rather than characterizing them as sentient and sensual beings. The comparatively new genre of erotic romance, however, empowers women to be in control of their bodies, their hearts, and most importantly their desires.

Erotic romance is hot and graphic, letting instincts run over the conventions of polite society. This titillating variation on the time-honored romance novel intertwines sex with romance as a tool to advance the storyline. The style is provocative—what some would call naughty.  Initially, a reader who is not familiar with the genre could perceive the sex scenes as gratuitous, yet they are integral and meaningful to the story. A good erotic romance author will share their characters’ feelings and insights before, during, and after sexual encounters—sharing intimate knowledge of their most fiercely guarded secrets.

Today’s heroine has a career and daily challenges, and these common experiences resonate with the reader. She is independent and accepts her sexuality, whether she is with a man or another woman—and no matter how dominant, submissive or versatile she likes her partners, she’s willing to go out and find them if need be. She takes charge of her life, unlike the traditional swooning, gothic heroine found in many romance novels, waiting for her One True Love to come and rescue her. Erotic heroines don’t have time for that. Their lives are often hectic and overbooked—qualities which, for some characters, some in handy as excuses to avoid intimacy.

Having sex isn’t nearly as intimidating as falling in love, and the heroine shares her subversive emotions of insecurity and doubt. The pain of love lost, unrequited love or a past relationship gone wrong can sully her ability to trust a new love interest (or indeed anyone), and drive her behind a shield of indifference. However, true love is the strongest force known to humankind and energizes even the most jaded soul. Being in love makes her vulnerable and strong at the same time.

With a variety of characters, the reader can see themselves in the participants or be a voyeur; in either case, that connection creates a bond with the characters and keeps the reader engaged. Women and men can enjoy erotic romance, and a well-written novel shares a variety of their perspectives. Erotic romance blends hedonistic sex scenes with tender passion, and the combination sizzles on the page. The reader feels this heat right alongside the characters as their growing tension tightens into tingling awareness. Wanton hedonism takes charge, revealing the core of their carnal desire and tender emotions to the reader—and together, they experience ultimate satisfaction.

But erotic romance doesn’t end with an orgasm—sometimes it begins with one. The heroine continues to battle antagonistic forces until love triumphs. Sometimes the heroine and her lover will decide that their future is together; sometimes one of them will move on. Either way, love unearths the most hidden and vulnerable aspects of the heroine and allows her to grow stronger from the experience—a “happily ever after” ending in its own right. In the end, she emerges confident and courageous.

Erotic romance empowers women to be the heroines of their own lives.

***

Sally Swanson is the author of the Soul Desire trilogy and the Ghost Lovers series. When she was twelve, she started to write her life story and realized she needed to live life before launching a writing career. To that end, she’s lived in or visited 46 of the 50 states and learned to speak Spanish while living in Mexico City, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico. If you haven’t yet guessed, she loves to travel—and, while doing do, she discovers strange-yet-true stories to provide fuel for Ghost Lovers, her latest paranormal romance series. If you like ghosts and steamy sensuality, you will love Ghost Dreams and Ghost Emerald, now available in multiple e-book formats.

 

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Aug 252011
 
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This month we introduce our newest contributor to WriteSEX – Stella Price.  Stella is half the duo of Stella and Audra Price, award winning romance authors who construct characters, worlds and more that draw the reader in.  She’ll be joining us at DragonCON 2011 on Friday Night as we host the WriteSEX Pane l.  Her first article on world building follows.

World Building. Most think it’s just for epic fantasy, or even dark fantasy. As a paranormal romance author, world building is, as they say, 9/10 of the law. Without it, characters are not believable, nor is the story in general. In my coming posts we will talk about suspension of disbelief, character development, and building a world from the ground up, but for now I want to talk about the necessity of world building, in any story setting.

Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Historical, contemporary, BDSM… Name a genre and it’s quite possibly the most important element because this is what sets your stage, and what hooks your reader. Without a believable situation and background, it really isn’t a story.

In work, even if you’re working from a contemporary setting, it’s the details that matter in making your book believable and unique. You cannot write a story without details right? Well details are a major element of world building.

World building, when done correctly, and not half assed, makes your story richer, full of depth and allows the reader to be immersed in the story you created. As an author, you strive to engage your reader on a level deeper than a letter to penthouse, right? Without the connection you can be damn sure that next story you put out won’t be on the reader’s auto buy list.

There are levels to world building. Light world building, where the author uses already accepted places, subjects and morae’s to make the reader feel at ease, and just adds details to enrich the experience. Then there are those that do it with a more heavy hand, where they take ideas already in play and twist them into other things, be it alternate history or alternate universes, and then there is the extreme of building the world from roots to the sky. None of these are wrong, and all have their pros and cons.

Light world building is what you see a lot of in Para romance. They use the contemporary setting, and then focus on the characters and their societies to build up the mythology. Kresley Cole with her Immortals After Dark series and Gena Showalter with her Lords of the Underworld series are prime examples.

A more heavy hand twists to alternate history, or alternate universes, and focuses on the characters and Society like the lighter hand does, but puts emphasis on the background and events that brought about the current status quo. Allison Pang’s Brush of Darkness is a great example of this as well as Lia Habel’s forthcoming Ya Dearly Departed and Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas books. These books rocked alternate histories and timelines, to give the books depth and dimension.

Extreme world building, Like Gail Martin’s Summoner Series or Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series is the very top of the world building ladder. You see this most in High fantasy and Scifi, but it is slowly making its way into the mainstream of romantic fiction with series like Michele Armstrong’s Settler’s Mine series. I look forward to seeing others.

It’s your duty as the author to know what kind of world building you are capable of, so that you don’t short change your readers or your story. Getting into a groove with your writing is paramount and the sooner you realize where you sit in the world building arena the faster you will realize just how important it is to your work.

Stella Price
Award winning best selling author
www.stellaandaudra.com

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Apr 142011
 
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In the last blog post we talked about the four act structure for novels in general.  I promised I would cover how to write and use of the four acts in erotica/romance novels and how to apply it.  We’ll take one of my longer stories as an example writing tip.

To react is to behave negatively and BE CONTROLLED by the situation.  To respond is to behave positively and CONTROL the situation.

A reminder:

ACT ONE – INTRODUCTION
Here we meet the characters, get into the basics of our conflict

ACT TWO – CONFLICT
The main issue is slowly brought to light and dealt with using the characters old ways of being.

ACT THREE – THE REVERSAL
In this act we give the characters what they think they want, rather than what they need. We also make things more difficult in order to FORCE new behavior on our characters.

ACT FOUR – RESOLUTION
The characters learn lessons and change their ways of being to resolve the core issue.

 

First off, I used the words react and respond at the end of the previous post.  The plot arc covers this as our characters go from reacting to an event to responding.  The difference is simple.  When plot and character arc happen to the character, initially they react, meaning they let the situation control their feelings and emotions.  Behavior occurs with an old way of being.  In my Male POV workshop we cover this concept of being, extensively but for now understand that just like us, our characters have a predefined tape in their heads.  In our first act and throughout the story until we reach our black moment, our characters are going to react the way they normally would, despite having new information and a new way of being.  This, in conjunction with conflict will ramp up tension for the reader and make them continue to read.  This is especially true if we’re writing erotic romance where the plot has a strong focus on sex between the hero and heroine.  The sexual encounters are where passion is explored and where emotional conflict comes out as characters think their way through their previous actions, think for the future of any relationships and continue to react to events in the first and maybe second sex scene.

In the middle sex scenes, characters have experiences that maybe didn’t go as they planned or were used to.  They begin to question things and this is where the conflicts start to get heavier.  As more pressure is put on our characters in the middle of the second Act that drives us towards conflict, they start to see that their old ways of being no longer work with the same results and something new needs to be done.  But what?

This is where our black moment has the most impact.  Our characters are lost both emotionally (depending on plot) and perhaps physically. The arc we’ll explore in another post will discuss character development in greater detail but for now, understand that there should be a shift in behavior on both parties.  The point of view character starts looking at a new way of being to a situation.  Thus, responding should occur during the climax and resolution of Act Four.

My next post will focus more on the character arc.  Until then, stay tuned for Ralph Greco and our SEO adventures!

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