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Does it get you hot?
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Written by Amanda Gannon   
Monday, 12 September 2011 23:00
One of the questions I get asked occasionally is "Does writing erotica/porn arouse you?"

We're a two-horse team here, and I can only speak for myself, but for me the answer is a resounding "Sometimes."

Exciting, huh?

It isn't a stupid question, it's just a very obvious one.  And sort of personal.  Also, quite compelling.  Even I have been known to ask it.  But I'm never sure what people expect or want to hear when they ask me this.

I think some folks want to imbue the career of erotica/porn writer with a kind of glamour that it simply does not have.  Others may just like to think about happy pornographers putting in a hard day's work, and then masturbating furiously or running straight for the nearest sex partner.  I really don't know.  Some writers may very well do this, which would certainly be cool for them, but I personally don't.

Writing a sex scene is just as much work as writing any other kind of scene. If things are going well, it's a high that transcends horniness; I may very well be aroused but am so busy managing voice and psychic distance and viewpoint and blocking and detail that I don't have time to really think about the arousal or experience it in any conscious way, and if things are going poorly, I'm usually too busy banging my head into a brick wall to even think about getting off.

There are exceptions to this, of course, and I treasure those exceptions, but for the most part, the writing itself doesn't get me excited.  I have to put the scene aside for a while and come back to it once it's cooled off, and that is when I read it over and decide it flips my switch and I give it the final stamp of approval, or decide that it needs more work and I start cutting it apart and sticking it back together.  Again.

Either way, porn that I write almost never has the same effect on me as porn that other people write.

There have been exceptions.

Sex Tokenism
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Written by Paul   
Thursday, 08 September 2011 01:26

Writing erotica, or porn (let's call it porn, I find the self-conscious term 'erotica' snobbish), you are always in a bit of a unique bind.  People read porn for pretty much one reason: they want something to stroke off to.  I mean, here we write smut that is very heavy on plot and character, so there is a lot more going on than just one-handed reading, but still.

This puts porn in the same category as other genres like comedy or horror - fiction intended above all to have a particular effect.  Comedy fails if it doesn't make you laugh, horror if it doesn't scare you, and porn fails if it doesn't get you turned on.  As a person who has written all three kinds of stories, I can tell you that the surest guide you have is your own reactions.  If you read a horror story, then you can be pretty sure that you are reading about what the author is scared of.  Comedy, same thing - the author wrote what he thought was funny.  We are, after all, only human, and we have little to go by besides what we ourselves find affecting. 

Porn presents special hurdles in this regard, as it does in many other ways.  After all, the best gauge of whether a scene is hot is your own arousal.  An author has to go by what gets them hot, and I frankly find it easier to write smut now I am older.  When I was younger I would get so worked up after a half-hour or so that I would have to stop and deploy the sea-monkeys, and as a guy, that kind of takes the wind out of your creative sails.  It would be hours before I was able to get back to it, and thus back then my porn was written in short spurts.  So to speak.

Leave it to the imagination.
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Written by Amanda Gannon   
Tuesday, 06 September 2011 01:24
If you're a writer, you're familiar with the enormous hurdle that is suspension of disbelief.  Basically, getting the audience to believe you.  You have to earn the audience's trust, and that trust can be broken at any time.

Getting your reader to trust you isn't enough, though . . . you have to trust your reader.

How does this work?  Let's start by looking at the first part of that equation, getting readers to trust you, because the key and the lock are both in there.  The problem and the solution.

A writer builds reader trust by offering them credible worlds full of "authenticating detail."  These are carefully chosen details that ring true, but are not so true that they tell you nothing interesting at all.  Let's visit a familiar place that almost everyone has experience with and strong feelings about: the hospital.

Mentioning the smell of antiseptic and latex rubber, the dull shine of stainless steel, the harsh lighting, appeals to the senses, and these are things that people in a hospital do notice, but these aren't necessarily convincing details, even though they are accurate.  They are not specific enough.  At this point, the reader is poking along, hoping for more.

Mentioning the chipped plastic room number plates and the cracked vinyl on the hard foam chairs is better.  Now we have some concrete details, and the setting starts acquiring some character.  The reader starts seeing not just a hospital, but this hospital.  It's becoming a unique place: old, and maybe not so lovingly kept.

Mentioning the cracks in the tile leading down to the drain in the floor and the fact that the doorways are all surprisingly narrow is better still.  Now we are starting to build not just a setting, but a scene, complete with a creepy and slightly claustrophobic atmosphere.  By now, hopefully, the reader isn't just imagining the hospital, they are having feelings about it.  Bad ones.  Using your details, they are putting themselves into the right headspace to read about the zombie plague or illegal mutant testing facility or just some really bad news.  They are becoming receptive.  You have their trust and because you have that, you have control.

See how that works?

Mentioning stuff the reader already knows is there is not as good as mentioning the thing they knew was there, but didn't know they knew.  In a feat of narrative bootstrap levitation, it validates their own internal vision, and pushes them further into the fictional dream.

So what's the problem?  Detail is good, right?

Well, yeah, to a point.  Authenticating detail is powerful because of well-chosen detail.  Throwing every detail there is at the reader and expecting them to make sense of it is not a very good approach.

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