Saturday, April 02, 2005

Erotica without Sex?

Is Erotic Tension EROTIC Enough?
-----Original Message-----
"Can a story still, be considered erotic without lots of sex? Can the sexual tension throughout the story make it erotic?"
- Eve

YES! A story can be VERY erotic without actually having sex.
The point of eroticism is to excite the Reader, and I'm sorry to say even graphic sex is not always exciting.

If you label a story Erotic
-- Readers are going to Expect Sex.

My publishers want stories with graphic sex, but they also expect a compelling story. In fact, many of them will take a good story with lousy or very little sex over a wall-to-wall sex extravaganza. However, they Do expect at least some sexual content because that's what their READERS are shopping for.

If you don't want people to expect sex in your story, don't use the word Erotic to describe it. Many authors that don't write detailed love scenes, but do have a lot of sexual tension use the word Sensual to describe their work.

Making it EROTIC

The trick to Eroticism is ANTICIPATION.
-- The Catch is DELIVERY.
If you build expectation, (whether you're writing erotica, romance, horror, or suspense,) you had better deliver too. If you don't - you will Pay Dearly!

Think: Hate Mail. This of course comes after your book has been thrown across the room by a frustrated reader, and already hit the wall.

Lack of Delivery is like being on a roller coaster that has this HUGE climb and then drops about three feet - and stops. The riders look at each other and say: "What happened? I thought I was in for this big swooping, falling Whoosh of a ride? Where’s the whoosh?"

Seriously, if you are going to have a huge climb, you better have a huge WHOOSH to match it, to diffuse all that lovely tension.

Erotic build-up must have a corresponding action sequence to diffuse the tension generated by anticipation.

This is true in any genre that uses anticipation, whether it's erotica, romance, horror or suspense. No matter what you write, the anticipation must lead to a scene explosive enough to match – and diffuse - the build-up.

Untapped Anticipation
= Monumental FRUSTRATION.

Frustration is BAD. Anticipation needs RELEASE and that means an action scene strong enough to invoke a visceral and / or emotional response in the reader Equal to the amount of tension built up.

Action doesn't always mean SEX!
There ARE other ways to deliver Whoosh!

The problem with releasing sexual tension (and / or balancing out the sex scenes) is that Sex is an ACTION, so only another high-tension Physical Action will do.

Each releasing Action must possess the SAME level of Sensory and Emotional detail to keep the story level.
But it doesn't have to be the Same Kind of Action!
  • Dramatic Dialogue (funny, angry, terribly poignant...)
  • Fight Scenes (swords, guns, knives, fists...)
  • Chases (cars, horses, on foot through the forest...)
  • Pratfalls (Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplain anyone?)
  • Graphic Violence (blood, gore, etc...)
Mary Janice Davidson uses seriously snappy dialogue exchanges and lots silly situational comedy. Angela Knight delivers perfectly balanced Whoosh by using a blend of rip-roaring Adventure Action, in addition to snappy dialogue and roasty-toasty sex! (And a twisty plot too!)

The key is to a sufficient Release in Tension is...
In your story, what Emotion is also being invoked with your rising Tension? Fear, Love, Hate, Anger...? Whatever emotion that tension invokes MUST be Present and Countered along with the Action to inact a sufficient release.

For example, if your heroine is physically attracted (sexual tension) to someone she Doesn't like, (anger) then an angry kiss that turns tender would diffuse that tension -- as would an angry sex scene that becomes tender.

"Can a story still, be considered erotic without lots of sex? Can the sexual tension throughout the story make it erotic?"
Yes! You can have an amazingly erotic story that has no sex in it.

Anne Rice is a master at sex-less erotica. She uses graphic violence to diffuse her sexual tension. Most horror stories are erotic in nature and they ALL use graphic violence to diffuse their sexual tension.

BUT ~ Anne Rice is NOT labelled as Erotica! Neither is Laurell K Hamilton! And LKH has LOTS of sex - as well as violence - in her later books.

The problem is not the STORY.
It's the Publishers and the Readers.

If you label a story EROTIC, they EXPECT SEX.
If you don't plan to have a lot of sex in your story, you can get around this by NOT calling it EROTICA. But don't worry, all that lovely Erotic tension will get noticed just the same! (Reviewers are funny that way.)

Erotica & PROFANITY?
Vocabulary Issues
-----Original Message-----
Is it necessary to use profanity when writing love scenes in erotic romance? Like the measure of how graphic the sex should be, is profanity in love scenes a publisher requirement? I realize each publisher has different requirements, but I'm, talking about a general accepted, EXPECTED format for the genre in question.

How much Profanity should go in your Erotica?

However much it takes to tell the story from THAT character’s POV.
This is where we get into the controversial subject of VOICE. My opinion (and that of ALL of my editors’,) is that text should always reflect the current POV character’s Voice, PERIOD. Anything else is AUTHOR INTRUSION.

The publishers expect the level of profanity used in dialogue and to describe the actions of a sex scene to be in direct correlation to the POV characters involved.

A nice girl is not going to use profanity in her dialogue or in her descriptive thoughts. It would not be unusual for her to refer to a guy’s dick as a thing or thingie, or a penis.

However, a Marine refers to his penis as a dick - never a penis. Penis is considered a girly-word. Someone’ else’s penis is a ‘prick’ and he calls his penis a 'cock' when he’s actively engaged is using it. And a Marine fucks, he does not make love. Only wimps, pansies and limp-wristed mommas’ boys ‘make love’.

If the Nice Girl is the POV character, the descriptive text will not be all that profane as the entire story is being told from her view – however, the Marine’s dialogue will still have profanity peppered throughout it. Profanity is a guy thing – especially if they are Military or work outdoors.

I have NO Respect for an erotica writer that wimps out and uses – HUMP, Penis and Vagina in their fiction. We’re adults writing for ADULTS; let's have some Realistically Adult Language!

If you have problems writing profanity:
DON’T use a POV character that would use profanity.

It’s that simple.

Morgan Hawke

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