Friday, May 13, 2011

X is for X-rated: Writing Erotic Fiction

 We continue the Writer's Alphabet with the letter X. I welcome erotica writer Lori Witt to talk about writing sex in fiction.

A lot of people turn up their noses at sex in fiction. For some, it’s highly offensive (I won’t go off on my “why is sex worse than violence?” rant this time, but believe me, I have one). For others, it’s just not their thing. To each their own, of course.

Some readers, though, don’t believe it can possibly add anything to any story, so why bother? I’ve heard everything from “sex should be used absolutely sparingly and with as little detail as possible” to “sex has no place in fiction. It’s all gratuitous.”

And it is there I must disagree. Fiction involves humans, and humans have sex. But still, why on earth do some of us choose to write about that aspect of life? Is it really that big of a deal?

You’ll probably get a different answer out of any writer. We all have our reasons for writing it or not writing it. I can’t speak for anyone else, but here’s why this erotica author chooses to write copious amounts of sex.

My answer is, yes, sex really is that big of a deal. Big enough that it absolutely has its place in some fiction. The fact is, sex affects people. On countless levels, in countless ways, sex runs much deeper than just physical pleasure. After all, look at the lengths people go to in the pursuit of sex.

In my career, I’ve written sex between friends, exes, adversaries, strangers, longtime lovers, spouses, couples on the verge of breaking up, Dominants/submissives, you name it. Angry sex. Comfort sex. Sex to connect or reconnect. Sex to blow off steam. The possibilities are endless, and in certain situations with certain characters, sex can be the most powerful way to demonstrate the dynamic between those characters. It can change relationships for better or worse. It can show cracks in a relationship or help solidify a shaky foundation. Sometimes it’s a temporary escape from the bad things in life—a way to feel better, if only for a short time, when the rest of the world is falling down around them. The sky’s the limit, really.

If a couple is going through a difficult period, and can’t quite find the words to solve it, sometimes a little physical intimacy can go a long way toward getting back on the same page. As an example, this is a quote from Out of Focus, one of my upcoming books:

“I inched closer until his skin warmed my chest. Dropping a light kiss on his shoulder, I moved my hand down his arm to his hand, and just as I’d hoped, he splayed his fingers to let mine slip between. Squeezing his hand gently, I kissed the back of his neck, and his sharp intake of breath gave me a little more hope that he wouldn’t push me away.

I wanted to ask if he was okay. I wanted to whisper “I love you”. But words didn’t feel right. There was so much we needed to discuss, but at least for the moment, I just needed to know he was still here.”

On the other end of the spectrum, in my BDSM novel, Reconstructing Meredith, the title character is a traumatized submissive and a rape survivor. She has a great deal of psychological damage tied directly to sex, but she wants to take her sexuality back from her abuser, and that’s why she’s approached Scott. He’s an experienced Dominant, as well as a trusted friend and former lover. Little by little, he eases her back into being able to enjoy physical intimacy again, and believe me, it’s a bumpy road. Without showing the sex, I don’t believe the progression of her recovery or her relationship with Scott would have had quite the emotional impact.

In another of my own books, Between Brothers, Marisa is frustrated with the lackluster sex she’s experienced, but she also lacks confidence in all aspects of her life. The more she learns to be assertive in bed, the more she learns to be the same way outside the bedroom.

Sex is more than just two people getting sweaty between the sheets. Oh, it’s certainly hot, and not every sex scene needs to have a deeper emotional meaning, but the fact is, sex changes people. It changes relationships.

In short, while it most definitely does not have its place in every story, sex absolutely does have a very valid place in fiction.

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Lori Witt is an erotica writer who is said to be living in Okinawa, Japan, with her husband and two incredibly spoiled cats. There is some speculation that she is once again on the run from the Polynesian Mafia in the mountains of Bhutan, but she’s also been sighted recently in the jungles of Brazil, on a beach in Spain, and in a back alley in Detroit with some shifty-eyed toaster salesmen. Though her whereabouts are unknown, it is known that she writes hetero erotic romance under the pseudonym Lauren Gallagher and gay erotic romance as L. A. Witt.


Professional blog:

Personal blog:

Twitter: GallagherWitt


Lori W. said...

Thanks for having me!


Misa Buckley said...

Until humans become asexual creatures that reproduce by osmosis, sex is not just good but damn important.

So, yes, sex deserves a place in fiction, rather than under the carpet.

Ethan said...

Lori- I totally agree with what you've said here. I've had some complaints that there is too much sex in my books. But, if asked, I could point out the scenes that were needed to move the story along. Some people talk. Some people have sex.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Excellent post, Lori - I don't read erotica but you've convinced me why it has an important place in fiction. Maybe time to spice up some of my own writing!

Holly Hunt said...

We had this same discussion in my Lit Studies class a couple of weeks ago. The room was almost split - the nay-sayers on one side, the 'yeah, it's alright' guys on the other. I sat in the middle, trying hard to bite my tongue. I'd let slip about my own erotica novels and they were all having it out around me. Mostly, I bit my lip and tried not to laugh.

That being said, the tutor eventually just decided to end the class before a punch-up started - I could see it coming too. So even within the realmof academics, this is a hot topic.

Nice to read your views on it, Lori!

Lori W. said...

Misa - Amen!!

Ethan - I've run into the same thing. There's a lot of sex in my books, but removing any one scene would take away from the story and character development.

Rosemary - Thanks! Erotica's not for everyone, so no worries. :)

Holly - Not surprising. People can get really wound up about this topic, and it's always interesting how divided they can be.


Amy Lane said...

ABsolutely. The romantic relationship is one of the four basic human relationships--it's the only one with a physical taboo and that physical act is a PART of the progress of the relationship. It's VERY necessary in some stories. Nice post!

Linda Rettstatt said...

I find it's always a challenge to strike the right balance when writing a sex scene. Enough to make the scene believable, but not gratuitous or too over the top. Does it fit with the scene and the progression of the relationship between characters?

I write women's fiction and contemporary romance. I write about people, characters I try to make real. Sex is a real part of human relationships.

I think it's also important to distinguish between erotic romance or erotic fiction and pornography that degrades the person. And, yes, sex in fiction isn't for everyone's taste.

Thanks, Lori, for your post. You managed to address a sometimes sensitive topic in clear and tasteful manner.


Angelica Hart and Zi said...

Excellent blog, Lori. You said it well, erotica isn't for everyone, but you can't ignore sex, it's all around us and it isn't going away. For goodness sake, how does anyone think we all got here. We personally take it all in stride, that's what happens when ya get old. You either learn to lighten up, or prune up. Neither of us like prunes. :)

Fiona McGier said...

Very well-said, Lori! I write contemporary erotic romance, and sex is very important to showing how the hero and heroine fall in love. (yes, I'm too "vanilla" to write menage or m/m romances. My cross to bear.)

And to those who denigrate romance novels, I point out the amount of sex in many works considered classics, but written by men, and ask why it is literature when men write it, but a nasty joke when women do? Hypocritical much?

Lori W. said...

Amy - Exactly. The physical act is part of the relationship, and HOW that physical act manifests can affect things on many levels. It's not "just sex."

Linda - The balance is definitely a challenge.

Angelica - hehe yes, don't prune up lol

Fiona - Interesting point about classic literature!

Thanks again to everyone for stopping by and commenting! :)