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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Feb 062014
 
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By Elizabeth Coldwell

One of the first pieces of advice given to aspiring authors is “write what you know”. This maxim implies that if you base your writing on your own personal experiences or areas of expertise, it will give the work an air of authority and authenticity. For erotic writing, sticking to What You Know has an additional purpose: it helps you avoid mistakes in setting and detail that might turn a reader off, dragging them out of the moment you’ve worked hard to create. And then there’s basic sex-ed knowledge—if a writer lacks it when they first enter the field of erotica, they’d do well to catch themselves up as quickly as possible. Having had letters submitted to Forum from readers who seemed to believe that the penis can physically enter the womb, it seems sex education is sadly lacking in some areas.

That said, so much of erotica is based in fantasy that if we all followed this principle to the letter, a significant portion (and purpose!) of that work would disappear, much to the deep disappointment of a vast number of readers. There would be no paranormal or fantasy erotica, and the only books featuring serial murderers would be written from behind bars.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with writing from personal knowledge. When I receive a story set in, say, the theatre or the music industry, I can often tell without having to read an accompanying bio that the author has spent time in that profession. Equally, when I’ve put out a call for submissions for an anthology of historical erotica, it quickly becomes obvious that some writers have a deep love for a specific time period. Whether you’re writing about American football or the gods of Ancient Rome, you need to know enough about the game, mythology or whatever else to be convincing.

Setting your stories in a time, place or professional background which you know like the back of your hand is usually a wise move; your knowledge of these settings will impart richness, believability and fascinating detail to the rest of the story. But there are a couple of caveats: first of all, if you are writing about a subject that’s very familiar to you, it’s always important to try to avoid using too much jargon. Readers will usually know less about the setting than you do, and you want to make sure they’re along for the ride throughout your story or book. Second, if there’s so much focus on the background that the sex and characterisation become incidental to the loving description of a last-minute touchdown or the braking system of a specific kind of truck, however, then your story needs a rethink.

If you decide to write about unfamiliar subjects or places, then you’re going to need to put in some research, and there are plenty of tools that can be used to help you. You don’t have to go quite so far as Michael Shilling who, for his book about a band falling apart during a disastrous European tour, Rock Bottom, actually walked the streets of Amsterdam to see whether his characters could get from one part of the city to another in a certain amount of time. And you probably won’t be able to do the kind of research author KD Grace joked about conducting for the third book in her voyeurism and BDSM-themed Mount Trilogy series, From Rome With Lust, when she said with a theatrical sigh, “I suppose that means I’ll just have to take a holiday in Rome…”

Thanks to the internet, you don’t need to go any further than your couch or desk to find the information you need for colorful, believable settings and characters—resources like Google Maps enable you to write about a city you may never have visited, as a 360-degree panorama of almost every street in the world is now available with a click of your mouse. Libraries are also an important research tool, as they can provide a good variety of encyclopaedias and more academic or obscure reference works than you can easily (or cheaply) find online. And don’t forget TV: thanks to the many and varied documentary series available on almost every channel, you can gain insight into the lifestyles of people who do unusual jobs. Fancy making your hot, alpha hero a ghost hunter, an antiques restorer or a man who tickles catfish for a living? Then tune in, take notes and, most importantly, have fun with your writing…

 

Elizabeth Coldwell is Editor-in-chief at Xcite Books, where the titles she has edited  include the National Leather Award-winning anthology, Lipstick Lovers. As an author, she has 25 years’ experience in the field of erotica, having been published by Black Lace, Cleis Press, Sizzler Editions, Total-e-bound and Xcite Books among many others. She can be found blogging at The (Really) Naughty Corner – elizabethcoldwell.wordpress.com.

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Sep 252013
 
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By Jean Roberta

During the Feminist Sex Wars of the 1980s, someone (I can’t remember who) claimed that for women, sex is more emotional than physical, implying that sex is an emotionless form of exercise for men. Regardless of whether you believe this, or which of your characters experience sex in what ways, actual sex is a physical activity for anyone who takes part in it.

At its best, sex is accompanied by intense physical sensations as well as a whole spectrum of emotions from ecstatic love to performance anxiety to ambivalence to relief to gratitude to pride to fear. Sex can actually express and elicit any emotion we can imagine. The one general statement anyone can make about whatever we call “sex” (and definitions vary), however, is that it is a physical activity. In effect, sex is a dance (and it doesn’t have to be horizontal. It can be done standing up, underwater or while flying through the air.)

Writing about any activity—as distinct from describing settings or characters, or outlining a character’s thoughts—carries its own set of challenges. Choreographing a sex scene is much like choreographing a swordfight or a joust in a historical novel, or a dance scene in any era. The interaction of two or more bodies requires a certain amount of strategy on the page, just as it usually does in real life.

Erotica and erotic romance are often considered so different from other genres of fiction that even we (writers of sex scenes) tend to forget that all fiction has certain elements in common. We all have to position our characters so that they move through space (their physical setting) and time (a period of hours, days, weeks or years). Likewise, a sexual encounter needs to begin with a first move (he kisses her, she reaches for his hand, they embrace, Person A deliberately presses against Person B) and progress to the next move, which will usually seem more intimate than the first move, both to the readers and the characters. From those initial moves to the end of the scene, the sexual activities you describe need to make enough sense that your readers can immerse themselves fully in the eroticism of the story.

I have sometimes flinched while rereading a first draft of a sex scene I’ve written. In the throes of writing, it’s sometimes too easy to slap down lines like this: “Their eyes locked from across the room, and they quickly pulled each other’s clothes off.” A reader is likely to wonder: how long were their arms? If the sequence of events is impossible to visualize without a loud guffaw, the reader is likely to be pulled out of the mood.

Other gaffes in unedited sex scenes can include a character who seems to have three arms (or three of anything that most folks only have two of), a sex toy that enters an orifice and never comes out (and even the horniest character is likely to want the dildo or the buttplug to be removed at some point), extreme floggings that leave no marks, bondage that defies the laws of physics and/or medical science, clothes that mysteriously vanish and then reappear on bodies, completely buttoned and zipped.

If you remember nothing else from this post, remember two things: one, that even the most elaborate orgy on Planet X must be plausible enough for the reader to imagine it, and two, that safe sex for a sex writer includes proofreading.

 

Jean Roberta writes in several genres. Approximately 100 of her erotic stories, including every orientation she can think of, have appeared in print anthologies, plus three single-author collections, including The Princess and the Outlaw: Tales of the Torrid Past (Lethe Press, 2013. ). www.jean-roberta.livejournal.com

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