When I started writing erotica in 1999, I was in my mid-twenties, on the verge of leaving law school, and didn’t know what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” All I knew back then was that while my previous writing had been strictly nonfiction, there were fictional erotic stories that were clamoring to get out of my head.
My first stories were largely based on my life, whether on my actual fantasies, such as my debut “Monica and Me,” about Monica Lewinsky, which was published in two anthologies, Starf*cker: A Twisted Collection of Superstar Fantasies edited by Shar Rednour, all about celebrity smut, and Best Lesbian Erotica 2001 edited by Tristan Taormino. I wrote about my own sexual adventures, lightly (and sometimes not so lightly) disguised. My first trip to a strip club, Cheetah’s in Los Angeles, turned into one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written, “Lap Dance Lust,” published in my anthology Glamour Girls: Femme/Femme Erotica. I relished recounting my wildest moments in fictional form, but eventually, I ran out of real-life scenarios to use as erotica fodder.
So I began looking at the world around me, and quickly discovered that there were endless options for coming up with erotic story ideas. From talking to friends about their sexual encounters, I came up with scenarios very loosely based on their lives. Sometimes it was a line of dialogue, or a particular fetish, or a setting. When a friend told me about seeing a woman in a Paris restaurant eating French fries elegantly with a fork from a plate with a flame burning beneath it, I turned it into a sexy, salty encounter titled “French Fried” in Best Lesbian Romance 2012, edited by Radclyffe.
I’ve also found story fodder from reading the news—yes, even the business section. I once encountered an article offering advice on public speaking, and turned it into the story “Picturing You Naked,” about a man giving a motivational speech to his whole company, with double entendres directed specifically at one very special audience member. That was published in an anthology from the male point of view, For The Men And The Women Who Love Them, edited by Rose Caraway.
Over the 20 years I’ve been writing erotica, I’ve been amazed at how easily story ideas pop into my head, often when I least expect them. Now, that doesn’t mean I can always execute these ideas, but if you’re an aspiring erotica author who’s sitting there thinking, What should I write about?, here are some suggestions.
Browse TV and movie listings and song titles.
There are so many pop culture titles that simply beg to be turned into an erotica story. Sometimes, all you need is a phrase to get a vision forming in your mind of how that phrase will play out on the page.
Read the newspaper.
As I mentioned earlier, the news is an excellent source of story ideas. It doesn’t matter whether you know a lot about the section you’re reading or not. I know barely anything about sports, but still look in that section in case there’s some morsel that might be of interest to my literary concerns. A corporate boardroom, a scandal, a scientific discovery or an election can be the perfect backdrop to the erotic story you want to tell. You can always do research to make sure you get the details right.
Read advice columns.
I’m not suggesting you poach someone’s most troubling moment, but advice columns, by their nature, present a problem in need of a solution. There’s inherent drama in them. Find a way to fictionalize and dramatize the issue in an erotic way, and you’re halfway there.
Maybe a photo of a particular outfit on the runway during Fashion Week, or an advertisement or other image or even an essay or article will capture your attention. You can make a game of it: See how many story ideas you can generate from each issue. Plus, then your magazine purchases become business expenses.
Read sex toy trade publications.
Sex toys are a natural fit for erotica, and often give you a different way to have characters interact when they get it on. While the standard vibrators and dildos can fit easily into your sex scenes, what about other adult toys that are more experimental or innovative? The wide world of sex toys is ripe for fictionalizing, as are household objects. When I edited Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, I was thrilled to publish stories about everyday items like ice, used in the most sensual of ways.
Look at photos.
Go on Instagram or Pinterest or Flickr and simply browse. You can search by subject, such as bondage or spanking or nudes or whatever you’re interested in. See if you can challenge yourself to prove that a picture is indeed worth a thousand (and possibly more) words.
Seeing how bodies fit together, how dirty talk plays out on your screen, may prompt a different scene to come to mind. Check out sites like Bellesa for porn clips, or follow your favorite porn stars on social media.
Explore real life.
Anything can be erotic if you use your imagination—even the worst, most frustrating events. Stuck in traffic? Write about someone who’s stuck in traffic and flirting with a stranger who’s a few cars ahead of them. I moved four times in three years, and while nothing about moving was fun or sexy for me, I did turn that experience into a story about a couple who have to keep their kinky hijinks quiet after moving into a new apartment. Cue a very handy ball gag.
Once you start looking, erotica ideas are truly all around you. You might want to keep a notebook or notepad app section of your phone handy to jot down these ideas. They may not all lead to a finished piece, but are likely to spark ideas you wouldn’t have come up with in the same form on your own.