Tuesday 19 February 2013

Structuring Sexy Serials

I once heard of an erotica publisher who would read through the first three chapters of a prospective novel, and if there was no sex to be found by that point, it went in the trash.

But what's a good amount of sex in an erotic serial? One of the biggest challenges for me in writing His Darkest Desire, and Wild Instincts has been to find a balance between sex and story that feels organic. It's a tricky one, because I feel obliged to have at least one fleshed out sex scene in every chapter, but I doubt even the smuttiest of novels have that much sex in them. At times it can feel like the sex is contrived or shoe-horned, at least to me. But it's got to be there. If someone buys a chapter of an erotic serial and finds it completely sexless, I'd fully expect them to ask for a refund.

This is proving especially tricky for me in my werewolf eRom. Even though I've set up a convenient plot device whereby sex is a pretty mandatory part of everyday life for the heroine, it still feels weird for me to throw her into erotic encounters in every single chapter. So I've been trying to differentiate a bit. Sex doesn't necessarily have to be sex, and there are plenty of erotic situations that can occur without tab A having to be inserted into slot B. I'm going to play with things like erotic dreams (the perfect excuse for sexy sex without needing any justification for it in the plot - and a handy way of exploring a character as well!), observations of other characters having sex, and less conventional sexual encounters in general.

I think this'll be an important skill to learn if I can pull it off well. Variety is the spice of life, after all, and repeating the same sort of bedroom scene over and over -- even if it's a super-hot one -- isn't going to have the same impact as building up to it with a different series of sexual situations.

Longer chapters are also helpful for spreading out the sex and giving characters time to breathe. The ~7000 word length I'm working with now definitely allows room for both, whereas with shorter stories I often found myself having to cut scenes or break a chapter into two.

Some day (hopefully soon!) I'll get out my first proper erotic novel, then I won't have to worry so much about sex in every chapter.
I mean, don't get me wrong, there'll still be a lot of sex, it just won't be pouring from every orifice.

That was a pleasant mental image.

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