Erotica. The slutty, messy-haired friend of chic lit. The friend who wears unsuitable shoes and who always seems to have boys hanging round her. The friend who has more love bites you can shake a rampant rabbit at and whose tops are always slightly too low cut, her lipstick always slightly too red and just a teensy bit smudged. The kind of friend you hung out with because your mum hated her. The kind of friend you tutted at while secretly wanting to be her a little bit.
Everybody has an opinion about it. Lots of people look down on it and lots of people think they can write it. After all, it’s not proper writing is it? It’s just describing sex. There’s no art to it, it’s not like writing a literary masterpiece, you just have to know how to put one word after another. Readers of Erotica aren’t really interested in a story, they’re just skim reading until they get to the dirty bits, yes?
I’ve read, and edited, enough Erotica to know that no, not everybody can do it and yes, there is an art to it. One of my biggest problems is when writers charge headlong into a story, not caring about the details. We need details, details are important, whatever you’re writing about. We need to be able to picture it in our heads.
I once read a story in which a couple were having sex in the woman’s flat. In her bedroom to be precise. He had her up against the wall (something that surely happens in films more than it does in real life? Unless you’re both exactly the same height or carry around a little box to stand on, a bit like Tom Cruise with Katie whatsername). Anyway, there they were, up against the wall, when she wraps her leg around his waist. A bit more snogging and heavy breathing, then she puts her other leg on the bed. I admit to a tinge of scepticism here, but mainly out of bitterness because the only way I’d be able to do that, at the same time as having a leg round his waist, is if someone had set up some kind of complicated pulley system beforehand, complete with weights and ropes.
However, a few minutes later, she’s putting her other leg on the bedside table. Nobody had mentioned her third leg before. Where did it come from? Is it a euphemism? Have I got one and nobody’s told me about it? That can happen. It wasn’t that long ago that I found out that I didn’t have a prostate and I’m 40 and studied Biology at school.
So please, think about these things. It needs to be real, not Fifty Shades of Twister with someone in the background shouting ‘Right nipple, left hand’ while you sliver around on a spotty plastic sheet. Although if that is your ‘thing’, of course I fully support you.