Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Erotica Safety Zone

by Donna George Storey 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write erotica? It’s a question I often get asked in interviews, and while my answers vary because I have so much to say on the topic, there is one suggestion that always tops my list: establish a safe space for your writing.

Of course, a writer of any genre requires quiet time alone at the keyboard to spin out those delicate stirrings of inspiration into juicy first drafts, but I believe erotica writers need an additional level of protection from the cultural messages that try to tell us how, when, why and with whom to be sexual. And good erotica, the kind that is satisfying to read and to write, always challenges the status quo—as Craig Sorensen’s post below, “Too Sexy or not to Sexy,” so eloquently illustrates.

Many assume that someone who is bold enough to write frankly about sexuality must be equally daring and outspoken in real life. Perhaps that is why when people learn that a mild-mannered mom like myself writes erotica, they invariably exclaim, “But you don’t look like an erotica writer!” Which again speaks to stereotypes about who gets to be sexual, but I only laugh. Because in my safe space--tucked away in my study, far away from any voices that tell me good girls who look like me never speak about what turns them on--I can do, say and imagine anything.

I still remember the first erotic story I wrote, called “Blinded.” I could hardly believe that I was typing out these sexually explicit words and scenes and images, and yet I’d never been more excited and transported by the act of writing. It wasn’t exactly a conscious decision to free myself from my image of the aspiring "literary" writer and simply follow the flow of my very sexy story, but I felt in my flesh that this was the right thing to do. I learned a lot about my own desires writing that story, and the result shocked and thrilled me. I’ve gotten a little more used to the process over the past decade or so, but even today I sometimes find myself blushing at something I’ve written—usually if I happen upon it when I’m not in my mental erotica-writing hideaway.

While the erotica safety zone frees a writer from the usual rules and taboos meant to keep us all behaving politely in public, I realized as I was writing this post that there’s a positive reason for it as well. For me, being in this special place enables me to feel an intimacy with my characters and my story. It’s very much like being in bed with a lover. And the closer you are to your characters, the more likely they are to spill their secrets, to surprise and seduce you and your reader.

So, to erotica writers new and veteran, go ahead and slip away to that place where no one is judging and no one watching (unless you’re into exhibitionism, and then you know the voyeurs are enjoying it).

Only pleasure awaits.

 Donna George Storey is the author of Amorous Woman (recently released as an ebook) and a new collection of short stories, Mammoth Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor

7 comments:

  1. Pen names work best i have found -- Lord Koga :)

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  2. That's definitely part of creating a safe space for a majority of erotica writers. I've chosen not to do that, but that's another post altogether!

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  3. I couldn't agree more.

    I had toyed with erotic themes for years. I always held back to some degree, then one day, I lifted away the little voice that had held me back. Best thing I ever did, both for writing erotica, and for writing in general.

    And a big part of that, then and now, is indeed having that safety zone.

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  4. For such a short post, Donna, this carries a great deal of depth. You touch on so many essential issues: social norms about who gets to address sexuality as a theme, misconceptions about morality, issues of age, sexual orientation and gender.

    But the bit that hit me at a gut level was this: "I felt in my flesh that this was the right thing to do"

    From a phenomenological perspective, this has a lot of significance for me, because I felt almost exactly the same when I wrote my first piece of erotic fiction. I was shocked at myself because I hadn't expected to write THAT, and yet, not repelled, or ashamed. It felt right in my bones. In my flesh. This, my body said, is what I am supposed to write.

    That accord, where my body leads my brain, is a rare thing for me. I'm essentially a cerebral person, and so that bodily sense of 'yes' was significant and very important to self-validation.

    P.S. On the subject of pen names... I chose the one I have because it was so obviously a 'this is not a real name' statement. I was paying homage to the erotic pioneers of the 18th and 19th century.

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  5. There may be a part of us that needs to 'let off steam' in some way. For a number of people it might be extreme sports or perhaps collecting bygones or possibly seemingly innocuous pastimes like growing leeks (I say seemingly because I believe the level of competition in leek growing can be fierce.)

    But steam we have and writing erotica is for me one of the ways to find the necessary safety valve.

    I find it curious that sometimes a story with an erotic bent if I can call it that writes itself faster than one with far less eroticism. I have written both but the energy that goes in erotica can be so much greater, but then perhaps that part of me has more steam to emit.

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  6. Funny, but I never stopped to think, Should I really be writing this? And I only began to worry whether I should censor myself when I started to publish.

    I started writing erotic fiction specifically because I wanted to explore fantasies I couldn't act out. The freedom to do so was intoxicating.

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  7. RG--thanks so much. It's interesting to hear that you also felt erotica was right. I identified with my head over the rest of me for about 35 years, but writing erotica has shown that the division between body and mind diminishes my power. With every story I heal myself a little more. I do appreciate the creativity of pen names and the messages they convey.

    Ms. Steele--I'm a big fan of leeks myself, so I'm glad the growers are aiming high! I also find that erotic stories take on a seductive momentum. For me they are just more fun to write.

    Lisabet--you were born to write erotica, no doubt about that :-). Actually, I think the world would be a better place if many, many people--whether they want to publish or not--would be willing to explore their desires and fantasies more deeply and writing them down whether as fiction or nonfiction, is one of the best ways to do that. But I've heard so many people say "I could never write a sex scene" probably because they do fear judgment. So whatever I can do to help....

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