Seven Rules I have to re-teach myself every time I write
I want to thank the lovely and sexy Miss Tina Erotica, Christina Harding, for inviting me to post on her exquisite blog. I’ve often read posts that blow my mind and stay with me for days. All Christina’s guest bloggers are brutally charming and write like their cocks and pussies are on fire. I’m honored to be asked to write a guest post. I’m honored, but also scared.
You see, every time I write I know I’m a fraud. I cower in front of the keyboard and realize I have no idea what I’m doing. Worse, I’m a total sex addict. I was running a bar for the last five years in South Korea watching my life waste away with Captain Morgan and an endless supply of sexually-willing and increasingly-boring university student customers and part-time waitresses/bartenders. From the outside it looks like the male dream, but on the inside I was rotting away. I was once young, good-looking, and smart. I was nothing but potential. Smoking yellowed my teeth, drinking turned my six-pack abs into a six pack of beer, and meaningless sex left me emotionally empty. Now, twenty years later I’m nothing but potential. But potential is no longer enough. Each day my confidence dies and then I have to rebuild myself from scratch. I’m like a plane made of legos that my 3-year-old reduces to wreckage in moments. Every day I need to rebuild myself. Then I can write. I just wish that I came with a manual -- something as easy to follow as lego instructions. So this blog post is what would be in my manual if I ever got around to writing it. I won’t. When I manage to find some free time, I’m too busy looking at porn.
These tips may be obvious to you, and in that case good on you because you’re ahead of me. As I wrote down these ideas I was struck once again with the notion that I have no idea what I’m doing. Please take everything I say with a grain of salt, and if you feel strongly that you have a better way to do something by all means do it your way. The key thing for any writer is to be herself and to find her own voice. Voice supersedes all.
1. Your characters should charm. What makes a character charming? I find that I relate to characters that have a chip on their shoulder. That makes them interesting. And characters that are vulnerable. I always think of Walter White for this one. I’m not recommending that you have long sex scenes with Skyler and Heisenberg, or that you show Jesse’s parties with all the tripped out meth-heads in gangbangs, although that might be a bit of fun. I think Walter White is one of the most perfect characters written this decade. He has a chip on his shoulder because, although he’s a genius, he’s dead broke. Immediately he’s interesting and I’m rooting for him to get filthy rich in the drug trade. We empathize with him. He is vulnerable because he has cancer, but that isn’t the main thing the audience relates to. He is charming because he hasn’t learned to assert himself. He’s been living the “safe” life. He’s a coward and we watch him change into a man. Into Heisenberg. He’s vulnerable as a coward and that makes him lovable. When he becomes Heisenberg we feel proud of the accomplishment. If you give your characters something to be proud of and something that makes them weak, you have a stunning combination. Charm.
2. Plot is all about conflict, and conflict is all about denial. Know what your protagonist wants, and throw in obstacles that prevent him from attaining it. Without a sustainable conflict, a story becomes boring. If your protagonist wants a boyfriend, make sure nobody likes her and they’re all going for another girl close to her. Then there’s conflict and the reader will care about her. They will know what her goal is and relate to it. If all your male character wants is to jizz on her face, make sure she will do other amazing things (like lick his ass) while she won’t let him give her a facial. The tension is in the denial of a concrete goal.
3. Choose a story that interests you, not one that you create because you think it will sell. It’s obvious when an author has nothing invested in the plot. Doesn’t this seem obvious, especially to erotica authors who are not afraid of the taboo? Tell your story. Those who read my writing know that you’re getting hardcore literary porn. It’s not for the faint of heart. My stories and characters are up to all kinds of naughty, next-level shit. There are bukkakes, anal play, mind control, drug use, coercion, pressing of limits, race play, and much more. Some readers (including reviewers) hate this and just can’t get around it. For me, this is okay because I’m telling a story that interests me. Also, it’s quite therapeutic for me and I think it helps my marriage. I tell my wife all the time that writing for me is like taking the trash to the curb. All week (thanks to raging hormones) I get all pent up. Writing is like a great release. It’s like using two index fingers to work on that blemish and then finally getting it to pop pus all over the mirror. Ah, relief!
4. Let the plot unfold naturally –– that is, without the obvious hand of the author at work. One scene should logically lead to the next, even though chronologically the scenes may be out of order. A writer who tries to force the plot to satisfy his intellectual vision will usually fail. I use all kinds of crazy ways to come up with the organic unfolding of plot. If my plots were erections they’d be taking all kind of Viagra. I think you need to give your storyline an invisible boost with a good outline. I’m a big fan of Italo Calvino and picked up some of his techniques. Try writing all your characters names down and then circling and connecting them with lines in a mind map. You will discover relationships that you may not have seen otherwise. Try writing each idea down on flash cards that you shuffle and reorganize continually until you get the most logical order. Another trick I use is to put my themes and character’s names on something, like some blocks that my son is playing with, and then play with it for a while until I get a structure I like. Then I write the story in the order of the blocks. These ideas may not help everybody but they all are ways to outline a story. One way or another, I think an outline is essential
5. Each scene should complicate the conflict, and thus move the plot forward. If the conflict never changes, then the story becomes repetitive. I find this incredibly tough. I can write pretty easily but it is rarely relevant to the plot. For me, I need a constant reminder that there even is a plot. I often skip the salad and jump right to the meat and potatoes. That’s the way I eat. That’s the way I write. That said, there’s something deliciously fun about ruining the life of your characters and then further ruining it. This is where a good outline is really handy because you can keep ruining your characters while staying in the overall arc of the plot.
6. Your character’s actions should develop the plot. In other words their wants and desires and hang-ups should create more trouble for themselves and each other. Don’t let events happen to them. Make them the very reasons for conflict. Make them change events through their actions and personalities. Once your characters take an active role, the whole story becomes more vibrant. When a character’s actions result in her own demise, she is much more vulnerable and lovable.
7. Plot isn’t everything. Remember to make sure you have character, setting, and theme. Character is what brings a reader into your story. Setting adds richness and tangibility to your story. The setting itself can be a character like Shalimar, Virginia in Song of Solomon. And theme is the final piece. Theme stays with the reader after the eReader is nestled away and charging. Plot is merely the engine that makes the reader turn the pages to get to the deeper stuff that stays with her once the book is finished. The deeper parts of your stories are the things that will make a reader hungry for more pages.
In conclusion, you can carve into your kindle however you want as long as there is a strong internal logic guiding it. Whether that logic is found by a carefully planned outline or by following the colorful pattern of your son’s blocks, the fact that there is intrinsic sense will lead to success. Just because we are writing erotica doesn’t mean that we can’t write the pants off the reader. In fact, that’s exactly what we need to do. Each writer finds her story’s internal logic for herself. Some of us have to find that logic over and over again for each piece or else we end up with a turkey in our hands.
Now put this down and get to your own writing. If you want more tips or want to be in the writing discussion, please visit my literary porn site where I hold a blog. Thanks for reading.
Poet-turned-eroticist Moctezuma Johnson can be found on Twitter retweeting great writers. He is currently finishing Season One of his depraved literary porn psycho-thriller Chronicles of a Humiliation Backfired. When reviewing episode one of the series, erotica master Bella Swann said “I loved this story! It was funny and unbelievably offensive!”