Feeling InspiredOne of the things writers are supposed to hate talking about is how they get their inspiration. I’ve no idea why it’s so often a topic that’s off-limits for discussion, but some authors are very precious about these things. The BBC produced an excellent comedy film a few years ago, called Cruise Of The Gods. Set during a fan convention for a low-budget cult sci-fi show which, for reasons I can’t now recall, was taking place on a cruise ship, it poked fun not only at the obsessive nature of the people who watch these shows, but the writers behind them. The creator of this particular show was determined to preserve his mystique at all costs. Taking part in a question and answer session on his work, he watched a sea of hands go up as he asked if anyone had any questions. “I’ll answer anything, apart from where I get my ideas from,” he told the assembled audience – at which point every single hand in the room went down. Of course, it turned out that he was trying to disguise the fact he was a complete hack, and all the exotic names he’d given his characters were actually anagrams of items on his local curry house menu. Still, genius or hack, the one thing your reader will always want to know is where you find the plots for your stories.
When you write a lot of erotic fiction, as I do, the other question that’s always asked is, “Do you do those things in your stories?” A friend of mine got so fed up of this, she started responding with the comment, “Did anyone ever ask Agatha Christie how many people she poisoned?” Seems everyone is keen to know whether we’re actually having all that hot, kinky, spontaneous sex we describe, or whether we just have very good imaginations. Given the vogue for women writing male/male stories, I’m surprised authors are still asked this. The same goes for paranormal erotica – unless that pale, interesting-looking man on their arm really is a vampire...
The other assumption if you write erotica is that you don’t have to put much in the way of thought into devising a plot. After all, you’re just describing two people having sex (or three people, or a woman, a vampire and a shape-shifting leopard...), right? Actually, it’s not as straightforward as that. If you’re sending a letter to Penthouse Forum, they want you to cut straight to the chase, but erotic romance demands – well, romance, as well as skill in the writing. Believable characters are important, as well as a strong sense of their relationship beyond the bedroom.
In Be Good To Your Elf Maddie, a college student, meets cute, divorced dad Tyler while they’re both working at Santa’s Grotto. In a readers’ letter, they’d have dragged each other round the back of the model sleigh for a bout of steamy sex before you could say, “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.” Instead, I took the time to time to let them get to know each other, even to let Maddie have doubts about whether she should act on her attraction to a man who’s much older than she is. And what happens when she does? Well, you’ll have to read the story to find out, but let’s just say that if you can’t have a happy ending at Christmas, when can you?
So don’t be fight shy of talking about your inspiration. And if you really don’t want to tell people where you get your ideas from, then you can always borrow Harlan Ellison’s stock answer. “Poughkeepsie.”
Be Good To Your Elf will be published by MuseItHOT! in December 2010. Find out more about Elizabeth Coldwell and her writing at The (Really) Naughty Corner.