What defines erotic literature?

I was plagued with doubts when first asked to write an erotic story. My dear husband was very keen on this new development in my writing journey. He thought my inner muse would require me to lounge in front of my keyboard in a negligee, sipping champagne, surrounded by scented candles and sex toys. (He was saddened to find that my inner muse works just fine dressed in jeans and fueled on cups of tea.)

However, I was nervous.  Oh, I had written lots of stories before but never one with any sex in it.  I had read  a lot of erotic literature but there’s a big difference between lying back and absorbing someone else’s words and getting into the saddle (so to speak!) and creating some prose of your own.

But ultimately, a story is a story. Irrelevant of hot, heavy, heaving bits, it needs to have a great beginning, a punchy end and some sturdy structure in the middle, holding believable characters and dialogue together.

I have to admit I was also petrified my writing would come across as a pervy Penthouse Forum piece rather than a scintillating, sexy, short story.  The line between titillating and tawdry had never seemed so blurry.  However, my critique partners promised they would wield their red, editing pens of doom over anything they thought better suited to a magazine with sticky pages. ;-)

Lastly and possibly most frightening for me, I was scared stupid about being judged on a sexual level.  Like most authors, my friends and family are my most ardent supporters and fervent fans.   Writing about vanilla sex seemed easy enough but if I deviated from what was perceived as “normal”, what would every one think of me? Good grief, in this crazy mixed up world we live in, what’s even considered “normal” anymore?!?

Then I gave myself a reality check and put on my big girl panties. Creative writing is exactly that, creative writing. Its basis can be in truth or fantasy, actuality or dreamland. The readers have no idea whether the story is one pulled verbatim from my treasure trove of life experiences or is one fabricated deep within the recesses of my fertile imagination.  Does that make me blush thinking about it too hard?  Hell yeah!  But my family and friends loved me before I started writing about sex. I figured they would still be on my side when my stories became X rated.

And as for erotic?  What defines erotic?  One person’s va-va-voom is another’s vanilla. Am I able to please all of the people all of the time? Probably not.  But whether I’m writing about a straight married couple or a free-for-all orgy, there is a quote by Isabel Allende I try to keep in mind, 

“Erotica is using a feather, pornography is using the whole chicken.”

I figure if someone is looking for a graphic, visual  ‘wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am’ experience, they are well served by a vast multitude of pay per view sites via the internet. Erotic literature needs you to draw in the reader with all of the senses, not just their eyeballs. You want your audience to smell the perfume of your heroine, hear the rustle of her clothes hitting the floor and have goose bumps race across their own skin in tandem with hers. 

And when the story is done, what you want most is the reader to walk away with a spring in their step and a sparkle in their eye thinking, “Gee, I enjoyed that!”

What do you think?  What makes a great erotic story for you?

By Greta Goddard

You can find out more about Greta by visiting her Facebook page or at her author page at Amazon


  1. I like Allende's comment about the difference between erotica and pornography! Words to live by. I always ask myself, "Are the sex scenes integrated into the story?" If a book goes from sex scene to sex scene with no story in between, then I'm not going to be interested.

    1. I hear what you say when it comes to integration into the story. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Hey Catherine! Couldn't agree more about integrating sex scenes into the story. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Well said! I don't mind lots of sex scenes, I just don't care for the ones that make me feel like I'm watching a porn -- degrading the women, really, really bad dialogue, and lots of fake screaming with no emotional connection. But hey, maybe that's just me.

    Great post, Greta, you rock.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    I totally agree. Sometimes less is more.

  5. I don't mind steamy scenes in my books, but I don't generally read/review erotica. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about the relationship itself because for the same reason that someone older than 5 years is uncomfortable for me, family is as well. I did read Mortal Instruments which also explores this concept. I think the interview is great, and I love that she's up front and no-holds-barred with the readers. Thank you very much for sharing! Visit Us


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