stroke fiction

Jekyll and Hyde

When I started in this business, more than twenty years ago, I wrote mostly literary erotica. Despite the sometimes extreme sexual situations in my tales, I tried for a sense of realism. My early novels spent a lot of time setting the scene and conveying atmosphere. They offered fairly complicated plots with a myriad of characters. In penning my short stories, I focused on original premises, character development and conflict. Given all the poetry I’d written before I started publishing prose, I guess it’s not surprising that I was very aware of linguistic choices, rhythm and prosody, connotations and allusions.

These days, I still write literary erotica – some of the time. I like to think that my Asian Adventures series, my speculative fiction (The Last Amanuensis, The Antidote) and my paranormal work (Underground, Fourth World) all offer some measure of “redeeming social value”.

Sometimes, though, I have the urge to write pure smut – stories where people get involved in all sorts of outrageous carnal activities, with only the most minimal motivation or conflict. My stroke stories make no pretense of realism. The male characters are capable of astounding numbers of erections. The multi-orgasmic females never get tired or sore. Nobody uses condoms. Nobody gets pregnant.

I offer only the faintest nod to social convention; it’s not at all unusual to find my characters getting it on with one another within five minutes of meeting. In public, even! Also, the people in my more pornographic works are incredibly open-minded, from a sexual perspective. They’re willing to try anything – partner swaps, multiple partners, same-sex encounters (both MM and FF), sex toys, spanking, dominance, submission, gang bangs, pegging, you name it. (Sometimes all in the same story!) To be honest, after writing inside the rigid box of traditional erotic romance, I love their experimental, gender-bending ways.

So I’ll spend a few weeks or months indulging myself, penning some absolutely filthy story that nobody could call “literary” (though I do try for readability and correct grammar). Then I start to feel embarrassed, even guilty. I’m pulled back to write something more traditional, something I wouldn’t be ashamed to show my real world friends (though most of them don’t know Lisabet Sarai exists).

Before long, though, I have get the itch again, the rampant, ungoverned Mr. Hyde of my imagination taking over, forcing the more refined and craft-conscious Dr. Jekyll into the shadows.

For instance, about a month ago, I decided I wanted to publish a holiday story for my fans, most of whom are romance readers. Cherry Pie and Mistletoe was the result, a sweet, hot, painfully realistic tale about the attraction between two sexagenarians.

No sooner had that book hit the virtual shelves, though, then Mr. Hyde reared his head. I got an idea for a stroke story entitled Santa, Baby!, about a nerdy young guy who’s hired by a dominant older woman to play Santa at a very naughty holiday party.

I hope to finish Santa, Baby! this weekend. (I’d better, because Christmas is next week!) But Mr. Hyde keeps pouring out the smut. The story’s already over 10K. I might not even announce it to my usual readers; they might find it too raw. That actually doesn’t seem to matter; my stroke fiction seems to sell much better than my more literary efforts.

Maybe after the book’s out, Mr. Hyde will fade back into the shadows.

But maybe not.

Meanwhile, this dual identity is a major marketing pain. I mean, what’s my brand? Exquisitely crafted, poetic prose that tugs at your emotions? Or wildly over-the-top fucking and sucking?

I’ve heard that readers like consistency. They want to know what to expect when they pick up a book from one of their favorite authors.

With me, you never know. Will it be Jekyll, or Hyde? I guess what I really need is to find the readers who enjoy both my alter-egos.

Raising the Stakes

Hook your reader. Keep her riveted to your story, so engrossed that she forgets to eat or drink—while tempting her to indulge in other cravings. Leave her feeling totally satisfied, or better yet with a powerful desire to go read something else you’ve written.

This is the dream of every erotic author, indeed every writer whatever the genre. Alas, grabbing and holding the reader’s attention is far from easy, especially in a longer work. What’s the secret to writing this sort of what-happens-next, can’t-put-it-down tale?

Of course, there’s no one foolproof method for keeping readers engaged. Plot, characters and style all contribute. In erotic fiction, there’s also the question of how well the sexual situations and activities match the reader’s personal interests or kinks. One technique that I use, though, is deliberate escalation.

Escalation means holding back at first, starting gradually, then building up the tension (both narrative and sexual) as the book continues. The idea is related to the concept of rising action in the so-called narrative arc. The early part of the story—the exposition—introduces the characters and the conflicts that will drive the plot. Then events occur that make things progressively more difficult, complex or challenging for the protagonists. Effectively written, the rising action portion of the arc will cause readers to becoming emotionally invested in the characters, so that when the climax and resolution occur, the reader experiences a pleasurable catharsis along with them.

Okay, this all sounds convincingly literary, but how does it apply to erotica, which usually offers many climaxes? Most readers who open an erotic book don’t want to wait until the end for satisfaction. You’ve got to create some arousal early in the tale, or they’ll just move on to something more explicit. One of the traditional recommendations for writing erotica suggests you need a sex scene in every chapter. While I don’t believe in slavishly following this sort of rule, it accurately reflects the typical reader’s impatience, especially with a “stroke” story. (Literary erotica can perhaps afford to delay the physical gratification of its characters, but even so, must provide some measure of erotic tension to justify the genre label.)

Hence, stroke fiction often starts out with a “bang”—sex in the very first chapter, maybe even on the first page. This creates potential problems, though. What do you do for an encore? Even the most dedicated consumer of erotica can get bored with a tale that’s just one sex scene after another. Without some sort of rising action, some progressive increase in emotional intensity, it will be difficult to keep the reader hooked.

Most of my erotic novels offer sexual situations within the first chapter. However, I carefully design these initial scenes to be less complete, less intense or less transgressive than scenes I plan for later. For instance, I might begin with the protagonist observing someone else having sex and feeling vicariously aroused. Or I might start with a sexual interaction that’s exciting but does not lead to full-out intercourse. As the book continues, I gradually raise the sexual stakes—adding multiple partners, taboo elements, or scenes that fulfill a character’s more extreme fantasies. I also play with the characters’ emotions. Early in the book, sex is more likely to be casual. Later, it becomes more serious, with more psychological impact on the characters.

For example, my most recent release, More Brides in Vegas, has the following structure of sexual elements in each chapter:

Chapter 1 – Public nudity, fetish clothing and BDSM references, FF cunnilingus
Chapter 2 – Skinny dipping, fingering to orgasm
Chapter 3 – Private penetrative sex between bride and groom
Chapter 4 – Public FF cunnilingus, FF strap-on penetration
Chapter 5 – Best man gets blow job from mother of the groom; public fingering to orgasm
Chapter 6 – Mother of the groom gets it on with brother of the bride
Chapter 7 – Private spanking role play between married couple (Laura and Steve, friends of bride and groom)
Chapter 8 – Public fingering to orgasm, spanking threats
Chapter 9 – Erotic musical chairs
Chapter 10 – Public Dom/sub lesbian penetration of the bride
Chapter 11 – Lesbian orgy
Chapter 12 – Spanking threesome with Laura and Steve plus the brother of the bride
Chapter 13 – Private masturbation, tit-fucking, multiple penetration scene between best man and mother of the groom
Chapter 14 – Voyeurism; Laura has multi-partner DP sex with husband and friends
Chapter 15 – Sex between the bride and the best man
Chapter 16 – Public lesbian BDSM strap-on sex
Chapter 17 – Gang bang where Laura takes on an entire rugby team
Chapter 18 – Female voyeur watching MM anal sex, also watching bride with the voyeur’s husband
Chapter 19 – Four-way partner swapping sex (bride and groom, best man and his wife); DP and lesbian interactions
Chapter 20 – Conclusion – the wedding – public orgasm – references to future adventures.

This book has many characters. The escalation is most pronounced for Laura, who starts out with a not-very-visible orgasm in the swimming pool and ends up taking on the Glasgow Gladiators rugby team. Between these two extremes, she fantasizes with her husband about being spanked and fucked by the bride’s brother, then makes this fantasy a reality, then further explores her inner slut with a few more friends.

Other characters have their own arcs of escalation. In addition to being more extreme or intense, the sex scenes later in the book mean more to the characters than the earlier ones. For instance, the partner swap in Chapter 19 fulfills long-held but never admitted desires for all four participants.

This book definitely falls into the stroke category (as if you couldn’t guess). However, I tend to use the same strategy when I write erotic romance or literary erotica. For instance, my first novel Raw Silk, which is really a romance, begins with a dreamily remembered sexual encounter and ends with a wild sexual contest in which each of Kate’s three lovers tries to convince her to choose him over the other two.

In short, if you’re looking for a technique to keep your readers interested, consider escalation. Don’t pull out all the stops in the beginning. Start slow, build the action, and make every scene more intense than the last.

Your readers will thank you.

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


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