Writing Sex: Making Readers Feel It
I write erotic romance with BDSM and spanking. I’ve been doing it for a long time, since well before Ellora’s Cave was born. I was doing it so long ago that my first sales were to some of the many small press erotic publications common before the advent of the Internet and the World Wide Web, and at the time I’d never even talked to another author writing erotic romance. In fact, other than the writers in those magazines, I didn’t know of any others. I had no critique groups or partners and I pretty much taught myself how to do it. I learned mostly by imitating others.
Since then, I’ve sold a lot more stories and read a lot of erotic romance stories for contests and on free sites. Many of them didn’t really work for me and usually for the same reasons. Here are three of the most common mistakes I’ve run into.
– Describing the action with no emotion. Spanking and bondage stories lend themselves to this shortcut and I see it quite a bit. After a nice bit of dialogue to build up to the scene, one character begins spanking the other. How does the author describe the action? “Smack. Smack. Smack. Smack.” Or “Spank, spank, spank, SPANK, spank, etc.” And the spankee shrieks “Ouch, ouch, ouch.” And that’s it until the spanking is over. Other than sort of describing the sound, this really shows me nothing. What I really want to know is what it feels like—either to the spanker or the spankee or, preferably to me, both. I’ll bet you’ve read some of those bondage stories that lovingly describe every twist and turn of the rope, every knot, but not what it feels like to be so bound, to be helpless and at someone else’s mercy.
– Describing just the physical sensation. Yes, I want to know how it feels. I want the author to make me experience the burn of a spanking as well as the heat and arousal, the glorious pleasure when the beloved touches you just there, the helplessness when your movement is restricted by loving bonds. But I also want to know what’s going on in the characters’ heads as well as their bodies. I want to know why they’re in this position, why they’re letting the other do this to them, what they’re risking, and what they want from it.
– Detailing a sex scene that doesn’t change anything between the main characters. In an erotic romance, every scene, including every sex scene, has to serve the plot and the development of the characters. It’s all about the story. Even when the story is super-sexy, if there’s no plot, no emotion, no risk, no danger, nothing to make us care about the characters or worry about what will happen to them, then it doesn’t work as a romance or even as good fiction.
The principles of good story-telling apply even to erotic romance. Show, don’t tell. Give us interesting characters and make us care about them. Build the tension between the characters. Don’t make it easy on them. Make them earn their happily ever after or at least their happily for now. And most of all entertain the reader. Grab her attention and keep it until the very last word.
Bio: As the author of more than a dozen novels, novellas and short stories for Ellora’s Cave and other publishers, Katherine Kingston makes her characters work hard for their happily-ever-afters. She writes erotic romances in a variety of genres including contemporary, medieval historical, fantasy, futuristic and paranormal. Most of her stories include kinky elements, especially BDSM and spanking. She invites you to visit her home on the web at http://www.katherinekingston.com.
Secret Santa Sir: When Maggie gets a note from a very unofficial Secret Santa during the office’s holiday gift exchange, she’s surprised to be tempted by it. This Secret Santa offers to help fulfill her wilder sexual fantasies, those fantasies she’s never admitted to anyone else. Normally the very professional, uptight Maggie wouldn’t consider doing anything so risky. She wants a husband and family, but she also has kinky sexual fantasies and no man has ever moved her. Maggie agrees to Santa’s proposal, and her first few anonymous encounters with him are a revelation, showing her levels of sensuality she’s never experienced before. But when she meets the man behind the gifts and the glorious kisses, her life gets seriously complicated. As Maggie begins to fall in love with him, she faces two choices—longing for husband and family, and continuing a relationship that fulfills her in ways she never believed possible.
Kyle’s Bargain: In a desperate attempt to save the small strip shopping center that houses her own bookstore and a few other small retailers, Meg Travis tries to blackmail developer Kyle Harrison into going with her to talk to the people his project is about to displace. He offers her a bargain. He’ll give her two hours of his time if she’ll agree to spend a night with him in his bed, and he won’t press charges if she’ll accept the punishment he proposes. He refuses to tell her what that penalty would be. Both honor their promises, but neither is prepared for the attraction that blazes between them in the process, turning duty into joy and punishment into pleasure.