A guide to writing erotic fiction

Everyone knows the porn industry’s plot lines absolutely suck (literally). Enter the plumber or pizza delivery guy and we all know what’ll happen next! That’s simply because porn doesn’t need those intricate plot lines with strong characters, and it’s all because it’s visual. People don’t watch porn for the storyline – in fact, the vast majority of people skip the storyline to get straight to the action. That’s not quite the same for erotic fiction. With writing, you are trying to paint a picture in the reader’s head, so building tension and sexual suspense is crucial to successful erotica. As a matter of fact, if you’ve been watching porn (and who hasn’t?) and decided that you want to give this a shot then please forget everything you know and have seen in pornos. Instead, give this beauty a skim read and you’ll be releasing the next ’50 Shades’ (but with higher ratings!).

So How do you Write Erotic Fiction That Appeals to Readers?

Step One – Create flawed and sexy characters

So the pizza delivery guy or the plumber introduced at the beginning of this blog is so one dimensional that the poor bloke doesn’t even have a name. This is an absolute no-go for erotic fiction. Building realistic characters with clear flaws is essential to strengthen the relationship between character and reader. If a reader doesn’t give a flying fuck about the characters, then they will not give a flying fuck about their journey throughout the story. And why does the character need to be flawed? I hear you ask. Well, we, as the human race, aren’t exactly perfect (unless you’re Beyonce – in which case you’re the definition of perfection), and characters must be relatable. Think about any decent TV show you’ve watched – the character you’re mad for has considerable flaws, right? I know that for me, I tend to fall for the selfish, egotistical guy with anger problems (although I’m not sure what that says about me as a human being but hey ho!). If you’re stuck with this, create a list with the characteristics that you find most entertaining, and make sure they have some sort of common flaw. Think about the seven deadly sins if you’re struggling with a flaw. Your characters could convey one or more of the following:

  • Lust : your character could have problems keeping it in their pants. This could create some sort of love triangle which we know sells!
  • Gluttony : this could revolve around drinking problems (though I’d steer clear of eating issues).
  • Greed : does your character indulge in the finer things in life a little (or a lot) too much? Could your other protagonist balance this out?
  • Sloth : laziness is fairly uncommon in erotic novels, but there could be a way to make it work.
  • Wrath : probably the most common flaw within the genre of erotica. Being over protective of a partner seems to be a character flaw that is interpreted with a racing heart by the reader. It’s also extremely eye opening that a character could convey their power and anger to the world, and have that one person who they couldn’t hurt. It speaks volumes.
  • Envy : This links to wrath, really. The two go hand in hand, and jealousy is such a common sentiment around the human race that it’s highly relatable. Don’t overplay this one, though, as slight hints toward jealousy is endearing, while too much will put a distance between the character and your readers.
  • Pride : this character flaw seems to be all the rage. People like characters who are proud to be a dick – cocky, arrogant and always I’m excited just thinking about it!

Consider the following: when you were a little girl, you desperately wanted Prince Charming to sweep you off your feet and ride horse-back toward your happily ever after, right? Then suddenly you’re 18 and you find yourself attracted to anyone who shows a bit of ‘bad-guy’ spirit. It all goes back to this – flaws are realistic. Prince Charming is not. There’s a reason why we only meet Prince Charming at the end of the story and he only has a few lines – it’s because he’s unbelievably boring. The naughty ones are always more entertaining, and evidently, more attractive.

 Step Two – Consider the perspective you’re writing from

Erotic fiction is always best when it’s written in first person (“I” rather than “he/she”). If we can’t physically see it, it depends on our imagination, and by plonking us into the story through the eyes of your main character, the image is clearer by a long shot. There are so many benefits of writing in first person: it develops the relationship between your protagonist and your reader, it allows us to understand the way certain dialogue is taken between your characters as we can see their emotional response, it makes your reader feel as though they were the character themselves – I could go on. But that doesn’t make it easy. In order to write from first person, you have to know your character. Think carefully about the way they see the world and go from there – your character should be unique and realistic, meaning that they are going to be individual in the way they tackle problems, their backstory will be different and their tone and voice will be different, which means that you have to pay particular attention to your language use. When writing from their point of view, always think: would they say this, or would I? It’s also interesting to note that most readers prefer erotica from the female’s point of view (unless of course you’re writing a man on man piece). Of course, you could switch perspectives, but unless you’re an experienced writer, I wouldn’t suggest it. It can get very confusing, and it’s difficult to switch voices as a writer because your characters interpret life differently. More still, switching decreases the sense of mystery in your other characters. Mystery creates sexual suspense (but I’ll get to that later!).

Step Three – Be brave and stand out

Erotica has been around for a very, very long time. As a result, many storylines have been used already, which means that a lot of them can sound repetitive and dull. One way to avoid this is through your characters, as stated above. Another way, and probably the most effective way, is through your plot. Think about the genre you are writing – yes, erotica, but there will be a sub-genre there. Is it crime? Fantasy? Sci-fi? Use that sub-genre to your advantage. If you’re writing about sexy aliens then what can they do that is unique? Just like anything, people like things that they haven’t seen (or read) before. That’s probably why, as I stated before, people skip the storyline within pornos, (well, that and how shockingly awful they are)! You could also do this through mixed sexuality. While lots of readers enjoy straight erotica, focusing on their sexuality (and perhaps the journey of this) is a way to appeal to your target readers, and will make your writing stand out. Find your unique selling point before you begin writing. This should take place in your planning process and you should dedicate a large chunk of time to it – it will make writing it a lot easier, and it will also allow you to approach your story with confidence.

Step Four – Build sexual suspense in layers

What successful relationship has been formed within the first chapter of a book? Absolutely none. As a result, you should think of creating tension like brick laying. Put time into building sexual suspense through dialogue, description and little hints within your plot. As in real life, sex is always better when there’s built up sexual suspense, and when it finally happens you’ll feel the same release as your characters. That ‘oh, finally!’ feeling. And a side note (though it’s crucial): don’t forget the foreplay. Again, mimicking reality, foreplay will heighten the sexual tension between your characters and give your reader a little taste of what’s in store, making that climax (both physically and in a literary sense) more satisfying. Suspense keeps your readers turning the pages – without it you’re left with a stale relationship between your characters, and an unimpressed reader.

Step Five – erotica isn’t all about sex

If you are looking for something that is one dimensional and focuses on sex: watch a porno. An erotic novel revolves around well-established characters and a strong plot. The sex plays a part, of course, but it’s not the main element within your story. Your readers want to travel with your characters on their journey. They want to escape to another world, another life. Writing sex scenes three times in one chapter will actually result in boredom. As I said before, layer the sexual suspense and allow it to be secondary to your plot, rather than your plot being secondary to your sex scenes.

Step Six – your ending needs to be satisfying (now where have I heard that before?)

The ending of your erotic novella needs to be satisfying. Now that doesn’t mean that everything has to be hunky dory and your characters are whisked away to a castle to rule the kingdom. In fact, your characters don’t even have to end up together. Saying that, it is important to give your readers closure. If they don’t end up together, then there has to be a reason why, and there should be a silver lining to it too. Don’t leave your readers hanging, or disappointed with your ending. If you’re leaving it on a cliff-hanger, there still needs to be some sort of resolution. There are so many times that I have reached the end of a book and could cry because there was no resolution to the journey the character has made. Don’t make the same mistake, and plan how your story will end before you start writing it!

And now you’re all set! By taking these six pieces of advice with you, you can begin planning your erotic story. It’s a highly rewarding experience and a perfect form of escapism for both the writer and the reader. If it’s something you’ve always been interested in but you’ve never had the time, you’re not sure where to start, you’ve never been hit by inspiration to sit down and get going, or you just haven’t had the confidence to do it, perhaps 2019 will be the year where you give it a shot. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? Grab a coffee, sit down with a notebook and pen, and start scribbling down some ideas. Good luck, and I look forward to seeing your copy of the most revolutionary erotic novel known to woman-kind on the best-sellers list!

Oh! And please avoid calling a cock a ‘penis’. There’s never a good enough reason to call it that. #thatgoesfor’penetrate’too.