Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Erotic vs. Erotica - More than just Sex

-----Original Message-----
"...I don't think erotica can support an entire novel by itself, but I think it can be a very effective element in larger works. -- N

This just begs the question: Why not?

Why do you think Erotica
Can't support an Entire Novel?
-----Original Message-----
"... The main reason that erotica can't sustain an entire novel is the same reason that action or description or any other element can't sustain an entire novel. People want some buildup, they want rising tension and denouement and resolution and all those other fancy literary things. There has to be something more than just a related series of sex scenes. The sex scenes can be strung together like pearls on a necklace, but there still has to be a thread to hold it together." -- N

Ah, I think I understand. You're saying:
'A string of sex scenes does Not a novel make'. 

If so, then I agree.

Erotica is Not defined by
how many sex scenes a story has.

However, from what I can surmise, you see 'erotica' as merely "an element", something that decorates a story, and/or flavors it. Rather like an exotic spice added to plain chicken soup, or frosting added to a cake.

This leads me to think that you build your stories first and then add erotic elements where they suit the story-line. Sex is the Results of your scenes, actions and character interactions. This also means that you could quite easily remove all the sex and still have a viable story.

That may make an erotic story -- but Not Erotica.

"If you can remove the Sex from your Erotic Fiction and still have a viable story in another genre -- then you did it WRONG."
-- Edo Van Belkom
To make Erotica, the "erotic" should be the thread that holds the pearls of action, setting, and character together. Rather than being the Result of action, setting, and character, the Erotic should be the Motivation, the WHY all those actions, settings, and characters happen.

In Erotica, Sex is the driving force that makes the story happen -- not something tossed in as flavoring.

Don't add Sex to the story,
Add Story to make the sex happen.

Sex and Plot

People talk about 'forwarding the plot' or 'intrinsic to the plot', but not a whole lot of people talk about what those actually mean.
  • "Forwarding the plot" means: Motivational Force, nothing happens without this reason to push events into happening. 
  • "Intrinsic to the plot" means: Element, the story needs this to fulfill its plot.
They are Not the same thing. 

The statue 'The Maltese Falcon' is intrinsic to that story's plot. 

This statue is absolutely necessary to fulfill that story, but it's not what makes the plot happen. You could pull out that statue and replace it with just about any other object and the story wouldn't even flinch. (The interchangeble object is commonly known as a macguffin.)

The Pursuit of this object is what forwards the plot -- not the object itself.

An element 'intrinsic to the plot' can be REPLACED.
Something that 'Forwards the Plot' can NOT.

This is why I say:
A story with sex in it is Erotic -- but Not Erotica.

It's not just Sex --
It's what the Sex Does.

If you can take out your sex scenes and replace them with another action, such as a single kiss or even an act of violence - it's 'intrinsic to the plot', but not something that 'forwards the plot'.

For example:
 -- If we make the Maltese Falcon a Maltese Dildo and every single person in possession of said object has sex with it, the story become erotic, but it still wouldn't be Erotica.

Why not?

Because the Pursuit of the Object is still the motivational factor. The plot would not actually need to change. In fact, you can still leave out the sex completely with no harm to the story's plotline what-so-ever.

On the other hand, CHANGE the Motivational Factor to the "Pursuit of the Ultimate Sexual Experience" with this object as the key to said experience, and the plot Would change, and so would ALL of the main characters -- into nymphomaniacs.

SEX becomes the Reason to chase the Maltese Dildo. In addition, the main characters would have to have sex more than once to discover that the object was the key to the "ultimate sexual experience", instantly making Sex Scenes absolutely necessary for the plot to move forward -- making the story Erotica.

You can STILL swap out the Maltese Dildo with any other object your heart desires, but as long as the reason you want it remains SEX -- it's Erotica.

In Conclusion...

Coming up with a viable reason to make sex important to a story's plot can be a tough challenge. 

Most stories tend to be goal-driven toward an accomplishment (save the world, save my family, escape the bad-guys...) or toward a prize, (if I do this I get the kingdom, I get the girl, I get the Maltese Falcon...)

Making sex part of a story's plot is MUCH harder. 

An easy way is to make sex necessary to get to their goal. However, the Best way is by making Sex the CAUSE or the RESULT of everything that happens in the story.

Morgan Hawke