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Sex-And-Shopping Novels

April 29th, 2016

maestra-blogIf you’ve been reading my blog posts for a while you may already be familiar with my views on 50 Shades of Grey. I found the first book not particularly well written, not particularly interesting and not particularly erotic – and soon decided that life was too short to read the sequels or watch the film. So why, you might ask, have I now downloaded the latest heavily publicised erotic thriller Maestra, by L S Hilton. The truth is, I couldn’t resist the hype in the Guardian and The Sunday Times.

I’m now half way through and so far I can report that it goes along at a cracking pace with a reasonably interesting plot. It’s well written and isn’t all about sex – but where it does crop up I suspect the terms used to describe it would certainly make Anastasia Steele’s ‘Inner Goddess’ blush. The main negative:  I’m finding the constant lists of what the ‘heroine’, Judith, buys and the designer name-dropping incredibly irritating. At the end of the day, it’s a glorified sex-and-shopping novel and I suspect I won’t be panting to read the proposed sequel.

But I thought it might be interesting to compare how it’s written to the tips we usually give students about how to write erotica. So here goes…

1.  Don’t confuse erotica with pornography.  The latter usually provides graphic descriptions of the nuts and bolts of sex.  Erotica, on the other hand, is much more cerebral, dealing with the magic of sexual passion. (So far, I’ve come across plenty of nuts and bolts but not much magic.)

2.  You can’t get by with just a series of sexual encounters.  You need to come up with a proper, gripping plot.  It’s just as important as in any other genre if you are to keep your reader hooked. (Tick!)

3.  You need a proper balance between fantasy and credibility.  Are a couple – however infatuated – going to rip off their clothes in the fruit and veg section of the supermarket in the middle of the afternoon?  Is a middle-aged, over-weight, balding librarian really going to be a babe-magnet, fighting women off at every turn?  (Tick!)

4.  You need the right setting – a sexually charged location.  It has to be exotic, intriguing or glamorous – penthouse apartments, a millionaire’s yacht or a Victorian boudoir.  Avoid squalor – the majority of readers are not turned on by public toilets. (Definitely tick!)

5.  Power is an aphrodisiac.  Can there be any other reason why so many women seem to be attracted to ugly politicians and statesmen?  Alternatively, think about the dynamic where one character has absolute power over another – the willing sex slave. (Tick!)

6.  Get the mood right and take especial care with the language you use when describing behaviour and body parts.  If you are too polite the story will sound twee; if you are too graphic it will be seedy.  Try to strike a balance.  And remember, a good erotic tale doesn’t need swearing and sexual insults. (The jury’s still out on this one.)

7.  Writing erotica isn’t an easy option.  In fact, it’s one of the most demanding genres.  You need to be able to creative atmosphere, tension and sexual frisson to make it work. (Tick!)

8.  This is one of the few areas where using a pen-name is acceptable.  Many well-known authors write erotica under a pseudonym. (Tick – L S Hilton writes academic non-fiction under the name of Lisa Hilton.)

9.  And finally… know the taboos.  Most outlets for erotica are fairly liberal but you must do your market research as thoroughly as you would for any other genre.  Most magazines/ezines will have guidelines and many will not countenance incest, under-age sex, bestiality, necrophilia or extreme violence.  Novels are slightly different but, as usual you must consider the market segment you are aiming for. (As I haven’t got to the end yet, I’m still waiting to find out just how far the heroine, Judith, will go… but there don’t seem many taboos at the moment.)

As you can see, if the success of Maestra is anything to go by, it looks as though our advice is pretty sound.  So, if you feel you’ve got what it takes to write the perfect erotic novel, the world’s your oyster (sorry, just couldn’t get my mind off all those super-yachts and aphrodisiac food)!

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