If you want to get started in writing but want to churn out something formulaic and copy-paste without much criticism, erotica is a great place to start. I mean that both as a dig and a genuine comment – online erotica can be a great starting ground if you don’t have a lot of writing skill and experience to start. It’s okay to have a style clearly ripping off someone else’s when you begin, whereas in the Amazon novel writing world (or even other online spaces, like YouTube) this will get you accused of plagiarism by people who don’t know what plagiarism means.*
*Copying someone’s story word for word, or even their ideas wholecloth, and passing it off as your own, is definitely plagiarism. Plagiarism is a specific term, especially a legal one. However, if you take someone’s style and apply it, even shamelessly, to your own stories or ideas, even at its most blatant you’re just being callous and disrespectful. It wouldn’t fit the definition of plagiarism.
A lot of people have asked me to recommend my favorite erotica writers in the past and trying to answer them with a decent list has become a frustrating exercise for me. I don’t particularly enjoy a lot of erotica stories as a whole, my own stories included. The most difficult thing for me is that I have a few preferences for my online erotica, and very, very few authors slip through.
1. Be character-focused, with dialogue that sounds like human beings. I should care about the people having sex.
2. Be told with an interesting style.
3. Have competent spelling and grammar. I won’t be a stickler for everything being perfect, but the errors shouldn’t become a constant distraction.
4. Have a conflict.
5. If the author has written multiple stories, don’t have them be the same story over and over.
6. No incest or bestiality please.
Again, very few authors make it onto my ‘good list’ given these qualifications. 6 is a personal preference, I can’t knock others for writing fantasy stories about that stuff when I sometimes write about power dynamics that are illegal in most states. 3 is just a nice bare minimum which saves me a lot of time when looking over new authors. One might think point 2 or 1 is where most authors trip and fall, but believe it or not, it’s point 4.
Erotica, without a doubt in my mind, is the one genre of story where authors feel they can get away with not having a conflict or any kind of plot at all. You can go ahead and write about a guy having an average day, as long as that day includes sex. Five-star reviews all around, millions of views. It annoys me.
“Does it annoy you because you put effort into your stories’ plots and these stories outperform yours?” one might ask. And I want to say no. Maybe it changes to a yes on my most self-indulgent days? Truthfully, it just annoys me as a consumer. If I’m looking for new stories, a site’s rating system should be my savior. I should be able to tell if a story has five stars or a 96% approval rating that it’s a well-rounded and intriguing story. But no, more than half of them are conflict-absent stories about a dude getting 12 blowjobs on the way to the grocery store or whatever, all because the author happened to write the sex well. And hey, if that’s what most people like, I can accept I’m an outlier. And if you like my stories enough to read my blogs, maybe you feel the same way about these stories.
More plot isn’t always better. Mutual Benefits is an incredibly inward story, to the point where it’s almost esoteric. A lot of commenters have said they’re sick of Quinn’s inner monologue, and that’s absolutely fair. And I haven’t heard anyone else levy this point to me, but between the anxious male protags of BMS, GBM and MB, I think I fall victim a bit to my own point 5. Plot-heavy story featuring an awkward anxious guy that has a weird charm factor, usually told through overthink-y stream-of-consciousness POV style. Glean from that what you will. Here, instead of trying to distance myself from in-my-head writing with BMS or justify it with GBM, I embraced it, fleshing out a lot of Quinn’s baked-in insecurities and anxieites.
It’s odd. So many people love the “popular girl gets with the insecure nerdy guy” story, but as soon as you make the insecurity real, a subsection of the audience will complain about portraying an insecure awkward nerd like… an insecure awkward nerd. Either that or perhaps I’m not telling the story right, who knows.
It strikes me that if I removed 90% of the dialogue and made these stories have less conflict, like the stories I talked about earlier, these comments criticizing Quinn’s character wouldn’t exist. When looking at the comments of other sex stories, I rarely see comments criticizing an out-of-character move or an irregularity with the plot. When Mutual Benefits Chapter 11 came out, about four or five commenters criticized the pacing of the chapter (and rightfully so). When’s the last time you saw an author get a comment criticizing the pacing of their story? Especially if the story was a sex-centric plot-void.
The more realistic one makes a sex story, the more there is to criticize, it seems. I remember when a commenter, again, possibly rightfully so, criticized Adam’s lack of hobbies around halfway through Being More Social. In the recent Q&A, someone criticized him not going to enough events. Would anyone have ever thought to criticize the lack of hobbies or events for a boy in, say, one of RawlyRawls’ stories? Sex is borderline all that happens in his stories. The female characters only exist to have sex with the male protag. He barely does anything but fuck. Literally anything else he does, like an entire day of going to school, gets summarized by three sentences. I’m not knocking the guy (intentionally) but his stories are a great example of what I’m talking about. In particular, his story The Dark Stone has no conflict beyond, I’d say, chapter 2, and it gets unreal praise and people flocking to it, with very few examples of negative/criticizing comments. It’s easy to assume “well it’s a different demographic,” but I’d actually disagree. I think these are the same people who criticize the plot holes in a more plot-heavy story because again, there’s more to criticize. You look like a weirdo dissecting the plot of a story when its synopsis is just “guy comes home from school and has sex.”
This blog may read as “Bashful Scribe is bitter because he thinks his stories are better than others and don’t get the same attention.” If so, I’ve failed to articulate my point correctly. Obviously, more plot does not make a better story, and even a story devoid of conflict is superior than plot-driven stories for certain applications, like if you just want to jack off and leave. As well, my stories are very niche, and resonate with some people a lot. That doesn’t make them “better.” “Better” is kind of a pointless exercise. Thirdly, the kind of attention my stories get, with wonderful insightful commenters like you and my dedicated (if smaller, yet growing) audience has been nothing short of wonderful. I feel supported, and blessed, and I’m ready to keep writing and hopefully branch out my style (maybe leave point 5 in the past and be able to write some longform stories that are less overthink-y). I’ll talk to you all next week.