[Zetta’s Reference Desk] – How to Write Erotic Fiction and Sex Scenes by Ashley Lister

how to write erotic fictionTitle: How to Write Erotic Fiction and Sex Scenes

Author(s): Ashley Lister

Year Published: 2013

Purchased: Amazon

Pages: 150

Ever wanted to write erotic stories or sex scenes but didn’t know what to do or how to do it? Perhaps you’re afraid about what Aunt Essie or some other family member or friend would think if you did.

Many people equate “erotica” with graphic sex, that is to say the “ins and outs” of having sex. But writing about sex doesn’t have to be graphic to be erotic.

According to good ol’ Merriam-Webster, the word “erotic” means:

Relating to sex; causing sexual feelings

1:  of, devoted to, or tending to arouse sexual love or desire <erotic art>

2:  strongly marked or affected by sexual desire

And the word “erotica” means:

works of art or literature that deal with sex and are meant to cause sexual feelings : erotic works

1:  literary or artistic works having an erotic theme or quality

2:  depictions of things erotic

 

Ashley Lister is a talented writer of erotica and teacher of creative writing. We publish two erotica anthologies (Spank! and Swing! Adventures in Swinging by Today’s Top Erotica Writers) that include his stories. When he published a book about writing erotica, I knew it had to be good—and I was right.

Basically, Lister has condensed a writing course into a book that focuses on erotica and writing sex scenes using lots of illustrative examples written by several contemporary erotica authors. If you’re not able to attend his lectures in the UK, this is perhaps the next best thing. He suggests as much.

“To make the best use of this book you’ll need a notepad and pen and a desire to write erotic fiction.”

In the preface, he says:

“There are various definitions of erotica. The one I’m most inclined to accept is:

Written literature or art intended to cause sexual arousal.”

He continues to provide his own opinion:

“…if the reader considers the work to be erotic, then it’s erotic. It doesn’t matter what label anyone else places on the piece.”

The book starts with a discussion about the differences between literary and genre erotic fiction, with a few words about personal fiction and fan fiction. Lister points out that literary erotica is “usually the most critically respected of the erotic genres.”

Lister asks you to list any erotic fiction or erotic scenes you’ve read and determine what it is you like and don’t like about them. To write erotic fiction effectively, the writer must  be comfortable with what they are writing about. Authors need to write stories that fit the characters they write about and the audience they intend to reach. There’s no point writing about sex if it makes you uncomfortable, so don’t force it upon yourself—or your reader.

If you’re going to write it, you need to read it—and watching it wouldn’t hurt, either.  Exercises found early in the book has you test your boundaries by listing what sexual activities and words you are comfortable and uncomfortable with—including words referring to genitalia. It all plays together to help you write something that is both arousing and authentic.

Next is a general overview about writing fiction that can apply to any genre. Things like point of view, character development, plot development, description, and dialogue. The teacher in him shines through with his inclusion of several exercises. Some won’t take you very long to complete, others will, and others will require you to build upon previous exercises.

When it comes to erotica and writing sex, Lister addresses a question writers who write sex can (and will) face:

“One  of the first questions writers of erotica get asked is, ‘Have you done all the things you’ve written about?’ It should be noted here that only authors of erotica get asked this question.

  • No one asks science fiction authors which planets they’ve visited.
  • No one asks children’s story writers if they’ve ever encountered a real hungry caterpillar, or a genuine talking bear.
  • No one asks the authors of murder mysteries if they’ve ever killed a person.

Yet, when an author writes an erotic scene, many readers assume the author is only capable of writing about sexual experience they’ve enjoyed…”

Lister gives his expert, well-reasoned advice. He also gives important tips on how to deal  with friends, family, co-workers and employers, and the public at large who may not be open minded with regard to your chosen style of writing.

But you can’t expect to play it safe all the time. The best writers are always learning and expanding their imaginations, if not their real-life experience. Lister encourages you to experiment not just with the content of your stories, but the form in which you write it: prose, poetry, articles, and essays.

Here’s a brief rundown of what you can find in the rest of the book:

  • Making Sex Talk Convincing
  • Multiple Partners: Who’s Doing What to Whom?
  • BDSM
  • Writing About Kink and Fetish
  • Straight Vanilla
  • Gay and Lesbian
  • Exploring Supernatural and Paranormal Erotica
  • Glossary of Terms

There are other subtopics addressed are just as important and helpful. Lister also gives practical advice when it comes to editing and finding a suitable publisher.

For such a short volume, Lister’s book is amazingly thorough and covers erotic writing from conception (of your idea) to publication. The exercises inside are thought-provoking and will spur you on in both your research and your writing.

 

©2015. Zetta Brown. All Rights Reserved.

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