Of all the posts I’ve written in this series, this is perhaps the one least likely to be of any use to anyone else. Writers draw their inspiration from about as many different sources as there have been people who have put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. But this is an issue that needs to be addressed at some point—not all muses are created equal.
Those of you who have read my earlier stuff will have noticed a particular female archetype—short, impish, naturally blonde, naturally busty—showing up repeatedly (those of you who haven’t will have to wait a bit longer). That’s a certain woman in my life, or at least elements of her. Even when I didn’t pull that archetype from the casting couch, I have frequently drawn on my love life in writing my erotica. Quite a bit of the first half of Faith, Hope & Charity—in a literal sense—as well as a lot of The Needle and the Dungeon—in a (somewhat more) metaphorical sense—is patterned after things I’ve done.
All that being said, almost nothing I’ve written could be called a roman à clef. That simply isn’t what I do.
What’s the distinction? It’s not altogether different from how you put together realistic, believable characters for your fiction. I don’t sit down and transcribe my episodes of lovemaking. I’m not interested in inviting you into my bedroom any more that you really want to stand there watching me. What I do, however, is break apart the things I’ve experienced into distinct, interesting chunks. Then, like Legos, I put them back together, mixing in other things I’ve thought about or read about or watched (porn or otherwise), in order to create something that seems like it might be objectively arousing for other people.
There’s a lot of erotica out there that seems to fall into one of two categories: Here Is What I Do With My Significant Other, or, Here Is What I’d Really Like to Do With My Significant Other if S/he Shared My Kinks/Sex Drive. Both of these, unless the author is really, really talented, have always struck me as more pathetic than arousing.
Some people do enjoy this sort of thing, and if you do, don’t let me stop you from getting off on it (see the opening paragraph). But as my goal in this series is talking about how to be an objectively better writer of erotica, I want to point out here that getting turned on with your writing is not the same as turning your readers on. What you want out of your sex life isn’t necessarily going to entertain anyone else.
Good writers take reality, break it down, and create something new. If all you’re doing is repeating reality (actual or imagined), you’re not really a writer. You’re just a stenographer.