Whew! I just finished Book 2 of my Harwell Heirs series on Friday December 13th and sent it to my editor at Ellora’s Cave. While I was editing and polishing that manuscript (working title: Lord Petersham’s Contract), I wrote 50,000 words of Book 3 in the series (working title: Miss Danby’s Condition) for November’s National Novel Writing Month. This intensive period of writing solidified a belief I’ve had about writing erotica from day one: sex is driven by the characters and not by the author.
I’ve already told my story about how I started writing erotica, how my characters suddenly decided they wanted to have sex with each other. (One guy in that still-unfinished first NaNoWriMo novel is such a slut. I love him so much!) That was my first experience with the concept “character-driven”: They took on lives of their own. In my second NaNoWriMo novel (also unfinished), the sequel to my first NaNoWriMo novel, I tried with all my authorial might to get two male characters together. They resisted with all their alpha-male might. So the best I could get out of them was a threesome with a woman who had been a lover to each at different times in the story. (Author claims the victory[!] even though the characters are all probably laughing at me.)
But at the end of November 2013, I saw laid bare before me the results of character-driven sex.
Book 1 of the Harwell Heirs, The Pleasure Device, touches upon the story of the scandal surrounding Helena Phillips’s birth. Book 2, Lord Petersham’s Contract, is the story of that scandal involving Helena’s parents Sophia and Joseph and introduces Sophia’s brother Arthur. The Pleasure Device has some great “freaky” sex in it: vibrator-assisted anal sex! a gang bang! oral in bondage! etc.! Lord Petersham’s Contract has some great sex in it, too, don’t get me wrong. But after The Pleasure Device it seemed so “vanilla”: role-play, simple anal (butter, no toys), spanking, a threesome, a hint of the homoerotic. Then I started writing Book 3, Miss Danby’s Condition, and, wow, there it was: cock-and-ball-torture while chained spread-eagle.
Welcome back, Dr. Julius Christopher.
I’ve written three characters that have taken me in sexual directions I never thought I would go: Bestia (Hadrian and Sabina), Fuscus (Hadrian and Sabina), and Julius Christopher (The Pleasure Device). Like all my characters, I let them take control of my writing when writing sex. Well, initially at least. Fuscus is the only character upon whom I had to exert some authorial control. He was about to do something that was just not okay in any world, even an imagined anarchical Roman sexual underground. But I played a trick on Fuscus: I involved Bestia in this control of his character. I was able to convince Bestia that what Fuscus was about to do was not in Bestia’s best interest. So Bestia stopped Fuscus from going too far.
Otherwise, what you see my characters doing sexually is what they really want to do.
I feel very strongly about trying to subvert authorial intrusion as far as sex goes. I’m totally guilty of throwing in emotions or plot elements that the characters suddenly have to cope with. But sex? Sex is such a personal thing in real life, and I feel it is a personal thing for my characters, as well. Especially in a genre where sex is paramount.
I hope that my sensitivity to this aspect of writing lends authenticity to the finished work for you, my readers.
[UPDATE: I have a follow-up blog post, Character-Driven Sex Redux, or, “What do you want, Brick?”]