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.