Article 1: So, what is Erotica?
There are many approaches to writing erotica.
At one end of the scale you find down-and-dirty porn that has one purpose:
to get the reader off. The material helps its user to toss off
and is then tossed aside, at least until the next time it's needed.
Then, there's the story that's written to be engaging in its own right,
as well as providing mental and physical arousal. Such stories usually
contain pornographic scenes and they can certainly be used to arouse sexual
response, but they're part of something bigger, something that the reader
continues to find engaging long after physical desire has been satisfied.
At the highbrow end, you find literary erotica that's as much about the
quality of writing, depth of character, and complexity of theme as it
is about having fun.
I'm most interested in the second kind of erotica.
All good fiction does a specific job. It takes readers away from their
everyday lives and invites them to explore a different world, a world
where they can experience physical events and emotional responses that
are otherwise unavailable to them.
When you write erotica, the prime response you're trying to elicit is
sexual. If you fail to arouse lust, you have failed in your duty to the
reader. In that respect, there's less difference than you might imagine
between smut and any other genre: the writers of science fiction, or romance,
or horror stories are all seeking to evoke specific feelings (of wonder,
or tenderness, or unease) in their audience. Genre readers come back for
more because they know they enjoy the experience on offer.
In other words: fiction is all about arousing a response - and in the
case of erotica, it's about simply arousing.
The debate about the difference between erotica and pornography is endless.
The question contains an implicit - and regrettable - value judgement,
because it's comes with the subtext of erotica is good; pornography
The truth is that both erotica and pornography have value to their creators
and their audience, and - as with all creative efforts - the classification
is entirely in the eye of the observer: what's pornography to a bishop
might be a thing of beauty to the intended consumer. Nowadays, fortunately,
juries contain more down-to-earth consumers than bishops.
Having said all that, this series of articles is about erotica and not
porn, and as the author I think it will be useful to make clear my own
attitude to what that means. These are rules of thumb, and there will
always be exceptions, but they'll give you an idea of where I'm coming
Subtle, romantic, elegant
Crude, to-the-point, functional
Stimulates erotic sensibilities
Can be appreciated over time
Set aside once its job is done
Consumed by the mind
Consumed by the body
One other interesting question that can be asked is: how much story is
there? At their most basic, both the crudest porn and the most literate
erotica can consist of one sexual encounter after another, unleavened
by plot, character, or dramatic conflict. That sort of tale certainly
has its place - as shown, for example, by the enormous success of
Anne Rice's Beauty series; the reviews on Amazon are well
worth reading if you're interested in the subject of erotica. Many
of the reviewers adore the Beauty books and rate them highly,
but there's a substantial minority who are bored to tears as they
wait for something to happen apart from another beating or
humiliation: for the plot to move, for Beauty to develop and grow
as a character. In fact, The
Claiming of Sleeping Beauty has attracted some of the most
vitriolic - and funniest - Amazon reviews I've ever read.
So, now you know where I stand - both as a reader and a writer of erotica.
I hope you'll stay for the rest of the articles in this series, and that
you'll spend some time checking out my fiction as well.
on this article are welcome (please don't change the email subject line!)