I'm reviving some of Other Me's ERWA posts, beginning with this one.
for new ideas? History is filled with opportunity for the creative erotica writer
- courtesans, court intrigue, forbidden loves - you name it, you can find an
example of almost any kind of erotic situation you can imagine in the
past. Writing historical erotica
can also offer a fun way to improve your writing. You can work with integrating
historical details into your story and have fun playing with dialogue. If you
are good at it, the historical settings and details may even give you an edge
in getting your work published by giving it a unique voice.
historical settings and/or people effectively in your fiction means doing some
research. While historical settings for erotica generally do not need to be as
detailed as a PBS miniseries, you’ve still got to know enough about the time
period you’re writing about to make it work for your reader. Otherwise glaring
anachronisms will take your reader out of the story and probably lead them to
avoid your work in the future.
on which time period you want to write about, the Internet and the library are
usually the best places to start. Some historical periods are considerably
easier to research than others because much more has been written about them.
In addition, you can often get primary resources (works written during the time
period) as well as secondary resources (works written after the fact) for time
periods which are popular with historians and writers. Examples of the latter
include medieval Europe, Regency England, the American Revolution and Civil
War, the Roman Empire and Victorian England. You can find primary sources for
most of these eras as well as numerous books analyzing and compiling the events
of the time.
going on your research, start out with a good basic history book or two or
several websites (see resources below). Take notes as you read; if it’s your
book, flag worthwhile passages with post it notes. Or copy and paste notes onto
your computer if you’re doing the online research method. At this stage, you
want the big picture: events, important figures, geography. It’s a really good
idea to read a couple of resources to get different takes on events as well as
to make sure that the authors got their basic facts right.
you’ve got a handle on the big picture, it’s time to drill down to greater
detail. Now you want an idea of what people wore and where they lived. Being
able to use historically accurate expressions and slang, for instance, also
helps make the setting real for your reader. Writing your best guess on how
your characters might have spoken can misfire badly however and is best avoided.
You can achieve the same effect by using historical slang or making references
to the character’s accent or dialect as experienced by your viewpoint
purposes of writing erotic fiction, it’s very helpful to know something of the
sexual mores of the time you want to write about. Researching sexual activities
and attitudes toward sex can be done via fiction of the time period as well as
through reading nonfiction. Again, it will be much easier (relatively) to find
erotica literature from some time frames than others. There was a great
flowering of erotic writing during the Victorian era, for example, some of
which has been reprinted. Sex manuals, books that were banned when they were
first published and letters from controversial figures can all provide
information about how some people thought about sex and how they did it. Just
bear in mind that this kind of literature was often only available to
subcultures and/or the well to do and write your story accordingly.
sources are easier to obtain, of course. They may lack the immediacy of the
primary sources but they can help with the analysis of the available material
and give you a broad general idea of what was going on. In addition, you can
comb through the authors’ bibliographies to find primary sources that are worth
good historical resources on sexuality at your public library can be a little
tricky, needless to say. Much of what you can find there is likely to be coded
rather than explicit sexual writing but this may be enough for what you need.
On the other hand, the library is always a good starting place, especially for
the aforementioned history and reference books. But if you require more explicit information, the Internet
is generally the way to go. Here are some good resource websites -
Writers Write resources -
http://www.writerswrite.com/reference/ -another good page of reference links
Victorian Research Web - http://victorianresearch.org -
links, articles and information on the Victorian era.
Romancing the Past - a writer's blog from Carina Press
The Romance Authors Research Index
used by historical romance writers are terrific for erotica writers too.
Romance readers expect a reasonable amount of accurate historic detail in the
novels they read so historical romance writers spend a fair amount of time
doing research. Many of these authors are kind enough to share. Some useful
romance resources include:
Writing-World.com Romance and
Historical Fiction page at http://www.writing-world.com/links/romance.shtml.
Good resource list.
you’ve got some good information about the time period you want to write about,
you still need to integrate that detail into your story. How much detail is too
much? It’s pretty subjective but in general you don’t want so much detail that
it overtakes the story. Erotica readers are looking for a different experience
than traditional historical romance readers, after all. You don’t want to
that in mind, try to avoid “info dumping”: whole paragraphs of information that
do nothing to move the story along or to set the scene. Every bit of research
that you did to prepare for writing this story should not actually appear in it
(unless you did very little). You want your details to be relatively seamless
to the reader. If your story is set in a castle in France during the Middle
Ages for instance, it’s pretty safe to assume that your reader has some idea of
what a castle looks like. You don’t need to describe each flagstone and rush on
the floor to convey the setting.
On the other hand, if you’re writing historical erotica, you
also don’t want the details of the setting and time period to be so minimal
that your characters could be your
next door neighbors having a fun night. Try to establish the erotic elements of
your story in some aspect of the time period that makes it special. Is the
basis of the story the powerplay between a concubine and her master who’s
really a bottom? You can convey some of what a relationship like that would
have required two hundred years ago: the sexual tensions, the need to conceal
their love. Possibilities abound.
are a number of good examples of historical erotica out there for your reading
pleasure. Most recently, The
Mammoth Book of Historical Erotica edited by Maxim Jakubowski (Carroll and
Graf) and Wicked:
Sexy Tales of Legendary Lovers by Mitzi
Szereto (Cleis Press) are two collections which offer contemporary writers’
takes on historical erotica. In addition, there are numerous novels by
individual authors such as the Celia novels by M.S. Valentine (Blue Moon) and Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
(Riverhead Books) that explore sexual relationships in the past.
such as Renaissance E-books and even the University of Hawaii Press have
reprinted various works of historical erotica. These include The Pearl, a noted Victorian era erotic
magazine as well as several novels from the same time period, and The Carnal Prayer Mat by Li Yu, a
classic work of Chinese erotica. Take a look around and read some of what’s out
there; it should really spice up the historical research too.
Here are some additional
Bald-headed Hermit and
the Artichoke: An Erotic Thesaurus by A. D. Peterkin (Arsenal Pulp, 1999) -
contemporary and historical erotic words and phrases.
The Literary Companion
to Sex collected by Fiona Pitt-Kethley (Random house, 1992) - a compilation
of literary writing on sex both past and present.
Sexuality and erotica collections and bibliographies:
http://www.univie.ac.at/Wirtschaftsgeschichte/Sexbibl/ - bibliography on the
history of western sexuality.
- the Kinsey Institute Library.