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'07 Authors Insider Tips

by Louisa Burton
Formatting Your Manuscript
Scams / Choosing an Agent
Pitching Your Novel...
From The Call to Published...

Hard Business
From Greg Herren
Who Is Telling This Story?
Itís Work, Not A Hobby
Where Ideas Come From

Sexy on the Page
With Shanna Germain
Plotting Erotic Fiction
Seducing Your Muse
Creating Characters...
Description, Action & Dialogue
Fucking on Paper
Ten No-Nos of Erotic Fiction
Climactic Moments: First Draft
Critique Groups
Revising Your Erotic Story
Finding the Perfect Markets...
Just Submit Already
Rejections and Acceptances

Two Girls Kissing
With Amie M. Evans
Verb Tense Confusion
Coming Up with Story Ideas
Attend a Writersí Conference
The Fundamentals of POV
Should I Sign That?
Etiquette for Authors
Erotica is Serious Work
No Body Writes for Free...
Shameless Self Promotions
The Myth of Writer's Block

The Write Stuff
From Ashley Lister
The Time is Write
The Beautiful People
A Book by Any Other...
Synopsis: the Necessary Evil
Erotica or Porn?
Feedback Whine

2007 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
What's it like being a writer?
An Apology to Salespeople

Get All Worked Up
With J.T. Benjamin
About Secrets
The Perfect Fuck
About Choices
The Age of Consent
The Kingmaker
Kids and Sex
The Price of Beauty
The G.O.P.
All Worked Up About Hate
Real Men

Pondering Porn
With Ann Regentin
Good Sex: A Physics Lesson
Meet Frankenstein
Thoughts on the Orgasm Gap
The Very Bloody Marys
The Doomsday Erection
Online Threesome Porn

Sexy on the Page
by Shanna Germain

The Rest of the Sex Story:
Writing Description, Action and Dialogue

Shanna GermainWeíve come a long way in this column: plotting erotica, creating realistic characters and writing provocative sex scenes. Now itís time to look at what I think are three important factors in spectacular sex writing: description, action and dialogue.

While erotica is mostly about sex, itís also a story about where the sex takes place, what happens between the sex scenes and what the characters say to each other before and after they get out of bed. When used correctly, these elements help deepen the story, illustrate character and echo the theme.

I thought Iíd use a recent story of mine to illustrate this point. In "Finding My Feet," two long-time friends meet up after a time apart. The narrator has a crush on her friend, Sun, but has never been able to express it. Sun has just returned from Singapore and asks to henna the narratorís feet. As you might imagine, it gets hotter from thereÖ


At its most basic, description helps your reader see the physical space that the characters occupy. But done right, description can also help your reader see the mental space that the characters occupy.

Hereís an example, from the opening of "Finding My Feet."

I was looking at the tapestries on Sunís walls, the fabrics sheíd brought back from Singapore. I moved around her dining room, touching a red and orange fabric, a green and gold. A blue one that matched my eyes. I dared to imagine her there in the bazaar, touching the blue and buying it, thinking of me.

So, in this small section of description, we get a clear view of the important physical part of this roomónamely, the part thatís changed since last time the narrator was here. We also learn the narratorís eye color in a way thatís so subtle I almost missed it myself the first time around!

We also come to understand the mental landscape of the story: where Sun has been, what she brought back, how comfortable the narrator is moving around this space andómost importantlyówe get a glimpse of the narratorís longing for her friend. The tapestries come back in later as well, when Sun gives the narrator a gift from the bazaar thatís even better than the blue tapestry.

Compare that with a description that focuses solely on the exterior: I looked at the tapestries on Sunís walls. I touched a red and orange fabric, a green and gold. A blue one.

Itís easy to see that with just a few additional words, you can paint a more complex interior and exterior landscape for the reader. Thus, I try to make sure that my descriptionsófrom the weather and the room temperature to the objects and the charactersódo double-duty.


When I say action here, I donít just mean sex action. I mean any kind of movement, whether itís getting your characters from one place to another or rearranging their bodies on the bed. Imagine theyíre bendable dolls in a dollhouseóanytime you need to reach in and rearrange their arms or make them kiss each other or fall onto the floor in a heap, thatís action.

To me, the purpose of action is two-fold. First, it creates a mental picture in the readerís mind. And second, it shows us something additional about the characters or their situation.

Hereís an example from the story. Sun has made herself vulnerable by showing the narrator the henna kit and asking if she can henna her feet. The narrator laughs, not at the request, but at the absurdity of the situation. Hereís Sunís reaction, with the explanation in parentheses.

Sun pulled her hands out from under mine, leaving only cold air. She put the bottle back on the silver tray. (This is Sunís retreat from the narratorís laughter. She takes away her hands and her henna kit, leaving the narrator "cold."

"Youíre right," she said as she lifted the tray from the table. "Iím sorry, that was stupid. Letís just have our chai. You can tell me about the teaching, how thatís going." (This is a similar action to the first graph, but the semi-repetition works to slow the action down so that the narrator has time to act, if she chooses to. It also puts physical distance between the two women that echoes the emotional distance.).

"Sun, wait." I reached for Sunís hand, for her arm, but only caught the corner of the tray. Liquid splashed onto the silver, sending up the sweet scent of lemon and sugar between us. (Here, the narrator acts. Itís almost too late, which is a theme that runs through the story, and she makes a mess of it. And yet, thereís redemption in the end for her attempt: the sweet scent that arises and connects the two women).

It really is about the details you choose to show the reader. Imagine if Iíd written the scene with more general details:

Sun pulled her hands out from under mine and stepped away from the table.

"Youíre right," she said as she moved away.

"Sun, wait." I reached for Sunís hand, but missed.

It alters the focus slightly, doesnít it? Instead of focusing on the almost-missed opportunity for connection, it shifts the attention to the gulf between them and, without the henna kit, we lose a lot of sensory details.


Writing great dialogue is a tricky thingódialogue has to sound like real people talking while still doing a great deal of work.

For me, dialogue has to do one (or more) of the following:

1. Move the story forward

2. Show character

3. Create an emotion in the reader

I know there are a lot of "rules" out there about writing dialogue, such as youíre not supposed to include the "ums" or one person saying anotherís name. For me, those rules can be broken as long as my dialogue does one of the things above.

Hereís another example from the story. Sun has just hennaed the narratorís feet and theyíre hanging out together in her living room.

"Sun," I said. My eyes focused on my new feet. Sometimes you changed one thing and the whole world looked different. (Even though she only says Sunís name, this dialogue actually moves the story forward, because it asks the reader to pay attention in the same way the narrator is asking Sun to pay attention.)

"Hmm?" she said. (Sunís response, which shows her mental state. Sheís comfortable, sheís kind of paying attention, but not really. Sheís also the most talkative between the two, so it would be unusual for her not to say something).

"Have you ever, you know, liked a girl?" I wanted to stop talking as soon as I started, butówords, you can never take them back. (Tension, which always moves the story forward and often evokes an emotion for the reader. It also shows that the narratorís nervous and unsure.).

Sun was smarter than I was. Iíd known that for a long time. She didnít say anything. (Believe it or not, I consider this to be dialogue. Sun makes a choice not to respond, which moves the story forward and shows her character, especially since itís been established that sheís the talkative one).

Yes, itís true: the focus of good erotica is the sex. But without description, action and dialogue the story falls flat. By giving these three elements the attention they deserve you can give your stories the kind of depth that will make readers lust after your characters, and care about them too.

More Sources for the Rest of the Story

Coming next month: Ten Turn Offs: The Big No-Nos of Erotic Fiction.

Shanna Germain
April 2007

"Sexy on the Page" © 2007 Shanna Germain. All rights reserved.

About the Author: Shanna Germainís erotic stories have appeared or are scheduled to appear in dozens of publications and anthologies, including Absinthe Literary Review, Aqua Erotica 2, Best American Erotica, Best Bondage Erotica, Heat Wave and She is a fiction editor for Clean Sheets and 42Opus, as well as a poetry editor for the American Journal of Nursing. You can see more of her work, erotic and otherwise, on her website,

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'07 Book Reviews


A for Amour / B for Bondage
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Best Women's Erotica '07
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The Butcher, The Baker...
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C is for Coeds
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Cream: The Best of ERWA
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Cream: The Best of ERWA
Perceptions by Cervo

Coming Together for the Cure
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F is for Fetish
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Got a Minute?
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He's on Top
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Love on the Dark Side
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Lust: ...Fantasies for Women
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The Mammoth Book Vol 6
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Naughty Spanking Stories
Review by Ashley Lister

Quickies 1
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She's on Top
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Sixteen of the Best
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Amorous Woman
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The Boss
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Burning Bright
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Call Me By Your Name
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Dark Designs
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Equal Opportunities
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Gothic Blue
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Review by Ashley Liste

The Lords of Satyr: Nicholas
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Love Song of the Dominatrix
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Riding the Storm
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The Silver Collar
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Suite Seventeen
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Sweet as Sin
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Tiffany Twisted
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Top of Her Game
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Whalebone Strict
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Wife Swap
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Wings of Madness
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Historical Obsessions
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Homosex: 60 Years of Gay...
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Secrets of Porn Star Sex
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Touch Me There
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Daddy's Girl
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Dirt for Art's Sake
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Entangled Lives
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Impotence: A Cultural History
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