1. Liz K
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    Liz K New Member

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    Erotic fiction -- how can I go about the conflict stage of plot development?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Liz K, Mar 26, 2016.

    Hi everyone. This forum looks amazing, so I'm very happy to be a new member!

    I should preface this by making it clear that I am a COMPLETELY new writer -- I haven't even begun yet.
    I'm interested in learning how to write good-quality erotica (short stories) -- I have got a couple of books on the subject, and am immersing myself in different erotic genres.

    I've got a few ideas that are starting to emerge, and I've started to run with one of them. But basic fiction writing elements such as character development, plot writing, etc. are obviously all totally new to me.

    Can anyone help me work out how to go about getting a good source of conflict in erotica? Obviously this probably depends on the sub-genre, but I just don't know where to start. I saw an interesting point: that plot stages basically represent orgasm -- you know, largely building up to a climax, and all that! But yes, I'm struggling.

    Is it wisest to make the conflict about the dynamic between the characters involved? For example a power imbalance, or similar? I know I need to have realistic characters with real lives, so I guess anything goes. But, with writing short stories, I know it's best to keep the time-scale to a day or two. So considering that, and the fact that sex is the main thing here -- it makes it a bit more complicated for me to suss out. If anyone could give me some suggestions that'd be brilliant.

    Thank you :)

    Liz
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2016
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  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Depends on a few things. How short are you talking when you say short stories? Who's your audience? E.g. free erotic story sites, self-publishing, magazines...
     
  3. Liz K
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    Liz K New Member

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    I haven't even got that far to be honest -- I'm just thinking about learning to write. Maybe 3000--5000 words? As for my audience, I suppose free erotic story sites would be a sensible place to start? Thanks for replying.
     
  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does erotica necessarily have a conflict? I can see how it could have a conflict, but does it need one? Can just "wanting to get off" be enough of a plot driver?

    I mean, I think a power imbalance could definitely create a conflict, but creating a realistic conflict, resolving it, and adding enough characterization and mood and setting and action all in 3K - 5K seems tricky.

    Maybe do some reading? Find stories that work for you, that you'd like to emulate, and break them down and see how they work.
     
  5. Liz K
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    Liz K New Member

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    Thanks for your reply. :) Well, I think erotica is essentially structured the same as any fiction is: the story shouldn't have to suffer. Yes, I guess reading is always the best way to understand it better. I'll do a lot more reading and try out different things -- there are some pretty good exercises in one of the "How to" books I have, so I'll keep on with those.
     
  6. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    If there is a decent amount of story to it, being erotica and not outright porn I'm presuming it does, then there are some characters doing stuff outside sex. There should be. And if they do stuff, they face obstacles or opposition from each other. There doesn't even strictly need to be any antagonist figures; protagonists can antagonize each other even if they usually get along and they end up resolving it later.
     
  7. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    A few different conflicts I've seen in erotica:

    * An outside force wants to break up the lovers. This ranges from disapproving parents to a jealous romantic rival to the bigoted rules of an entire society.
    * One or both characters are unsure whether they're really in love. Common for first-time stories, used to be common for gay and lesbian stories.
    * One or both characters are unsure whether the other really loves them.
    * The lovers are experiencing a life change, like one preparing to move to a different country, and are unsure their relationship will last.
    * One character is dying. This is usually Japanese and incredibly depressing.
    * The source of sexual pleasure is a dangerous corrupting force that various characters try to resist. Depending on subgenre, either the villainous corrupter or one of the innocents at risk of being corrupted can be the protagonist and central viewpoint.
    * One or both characters have serious psychological issues that the other character helps them cope with.
    * Epic adventure with sex along the way. Innocent lads or lasses are rescued and seduced, villains are tempted and bedded to reform, and it all leads up to a happy ending. This can cross over with a wide variety of styles and genres.

    Mix and match as you see fit. Eroticism can fit into a very wide variety of plots.
     
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  8. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Exactly. There are erotic thrillers and erotic fantasy and erotic comedies. Do whatever you'd do with any situation to add sufficient drama. However much drama you want, you can pretty much just stick it straight in there, don't worry.
     
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  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Here's the definition of Erotica, as given in the online Merriam Webster dictionary:


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



    Full definition of EROTICA
    1) literary or artistic works having an erotic theme or quality
    2) depictions of things erotic

    Okay, here's the thing as I see it. There IS a difference between writing good, immersive sex scenes to fit in to any genre, and writing erotica. Erotica exists to depict sex and cause sexual feelings in the reader.

    I reckon most people who buy erotica are looking for that sort of release—and it can be really a good way to have fun or learn about sex or experience it vicariously. If they want a thriller, mystery, romance, fantasy, whatever, they'll buy that genre instead. If there is good sex in these books, all the better (or not, depending on personal preference)—but the reader buys these other genre books because they like the genre, not because of sexual content that may be included.

    So what I'm saying is this: while it's okay to include a so-called 'plot' in erotic fiction, I wouldn't make it too elaborate. I think it's a waste of your time, and gets in the way of the good sex. It's not why people buy erotica. I know myself, when I pick up a book that is supposed to be 'erotica,' I end up skimming through the thing, and just reading the parts containing sex. If they're well-written, I keep going, looking for more. If they aren't my thing, I usually put the book down. I don't give the rest of the plot more than just a cursory glance.

    I think what's important is good CHARACTERS in erotica, which is what sets it apart from porn (among other things.) It's not just who sticks what where and how big the bits are, there is emotion, humour, seriousness, playfulness, urgency, dreaminess, fulfillment, surprises... This all comes about because we relate to the characters. However, we are relating to the characters as they are having sex. We don't need (or want) a lot else going on in their lives when we read this genre.

    We just have to be 'there' with these people as they have sex. That means we need to identify with them, be attracted to their partners, enjoy the dynamic between them, etc. But if the mafia are on their tail or their parents have a lifelong feud that prevents them from marrying, or their daytime job is a pain, or whatever... These things can be mentioned, of course, but if you create chapters and chapters devoted to these plot developments in an erotic book before the principals get to have sex, or between sexual scenes, these chapters will likely be skimmed by the reader—who bought the book for another purpose entirely.

    I know there are lots of people out there who will see things differently from me, and fair enough. And of course there is nothing wrong with learning all the things you need to know to become a good writer of anything. This is just a caution—but if you're writing erotica and promoting what you write as erotica, don't forget that's what people think they will be reading when they pick up your book. If you clog up the sex with lots of other plot developments, they're just going to start skipping—and be slightly annoyed at having to wade through all the 'filler.'

    If you're writing erotica, maybe think of what you write as a story about sexual encounters. If your story is about other things and also contains sexual encounters, then maybe consider marketing it another way.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2016
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  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    This sounds more like a list of romance conflict, to me. Well, some of it seems like erotica (the last one, for example) but of a novel-length version.

    I'm not seeing a lot of opportunity to really deal with any of the listed conflicts plus write with enough characterization, mood and action to create sexual excitement in readers, in 3-5K words. I'm not saying it's impossible to do, but I'm not sure it's necessary to do, and for someone with absolutely no writing experience it seems to be setting the bar pretty damn high.

    OP, if you're determined to have a plot in your erotica, I'd give yourself more words. Alternatively, I'd use the shorter form and focus on the other elements. I think it's master-level stuff to try for more.
     
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  11. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with @BayView and @jannert.

    My rule is that a scene/chapter must have conflict OR tension. I write romance, not erotica, and even my sex scenes don't usually have conflict because, if I'm doing it right, there's plenty of tension - sexual tension.

    Some of them have additional tension from the sources @Feo Takahari listed (like in my second novel, a scene where the reader knows the non-POV partner is in love with the other and feeling hurt that the POV character doesn't reciprocate). But I have 80,000 words to play with. I wouldn't have that tension in a short story.
     
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  12. Liz K
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    Liz K New Member

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    Thanks so much for everyone's replies -- couldn't have asked for more. I'll reply properly asap.
     
  13. Liz K
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    Liz K New Member

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    Obviously I've got lots to think about! I'm attracted to short stories as a format, and I'm quite happy to base the stories solely around sexual encounters whilst playing around more with intriguing characters, an immersive sense of place and so on. I probably could never do epic erotic adventure novels. Remittance Girl (an erotic fiction writer who posts many of her short stories online) is one author I came across who got me really interested in having a go. I had one fleeting idea of a modern-day story loosely based on the Leda and the Swan myth -- but I'll probably leave that crazily lofty ambition for another time, ha.
     
  14. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    @Liz K: Is there any specific fetish you want to work with? In my experience, the erotic fiction with the least plot tends to be niche fetish fiction (though the reverse isn't always true.)
     
  15. Liz K
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    Liz K New Member

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    Hi Feo. Not particularly... I assume there must be an assortment of different erotic short stories out there, though. I'll just keep reading and try and things out -- I suppose that's all you can do when it comes down to it. Thanks again for your (and everyone else's) tips. :)
     
  16. TheRealStegblob
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    TheRealStegblob Active Member

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    My tip for writing characters in any super short story is to pretty much just give us a glimpse of them/any conflict they go through. It's pretty much impossible (as far as I know) to tell a fully structured story in as little as 5,000 words. So, don't do that. Just give us a taste of the characters and the conflict they're going through. Maybe it's just a slice of life instance between the characters, maybe it's the event that creates the conflict or maybe it's the event that resolves it. We won't get to know everything about their story, unless you bombard us with shoehorned exposition dumps, but we will get to sit in during a single chunk of it, and that's what a short story should really be all about.

    As long as you write in a way that makes the characters easy to relate to (or at least not completely alienating) and convey their personalities through their actions and behavior (just like any story of any length), we won't need to know "the whole thing", we don't even need to know how it began or how it ends. It's a short story, people will just be there for the ride.
     
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