Pacing a Story, Part I: Short Works

This is the first in a series of Guest Author posts, where erotica and romance writers are welcome to create an article on the topic of their choosing. Today’s piece is from romance author Samantha Westlake, and delves into the thorny issue of pacing a short story.

Pacing a Story, Part I: Short Works

“Boring is the right thought at the wrong time.”  – Jack Gardner

Jack was probably not thinking about writing when he made this quote, but his statement applies just as well to the composition of a fictional story – even an erotic one!  Good erotic and romantic writing doesn’t just depend on having enough cocks to go around; it needs proper timing and balance to provide a proper flow to the story.

The easiest explanation for this is to understand that, despite how most people think of erotica as a written version of a porn video, the biggest defining difference is the presence of a story.  Just as how some choose to watch porn for the plotlines, most erotica readers are looking to be swept up in a story world – not just to have dicks shoved directly into every hole (although that will come in time!).

This man was not properly aroused by the erotic story.

This man was not properly aroused by the erotic story.

The most general rule for writing erotica is the “rule of thirds” – if your story was split into these three categories, the word count for each would be roughly equal.

The first third of a story should be introduction and the ramp up.  In every story, no matter where it’s headed, the first page or two should introduce the main characters.  If they’re going to be with us for the entire tale, they need to be brought into existence right away, so that the reader can internalize their presence and features.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t include plenty of sexy comments!  And indeed, this is the chance to get your readers “warmed up.”  Throw in references to bulging muscles, pert breasts, increased pressure making pants tighten, sudden blushes and feelings of warm moistness, and more.  Just like a temptress can flirt with a man until he’s all but foaming at the mouth, you should be focusing on getting your readers feverishly flicking through the pages in a rush to get to the sexy times.

And this brings us to the second third – the sex!  By the time you reach this point, you’re at the top of the story ramp; your readers should be hot and ready to dive into swinging dicks and bouncing breasts.  So give it to them!  This whole third of the tale should be the most intense action, so make sure that you don’t switch over to long descriptions or run-on sentences.  Keep things short, spicy, and to the point!

Just because we’ve reached the sex, however, doesn’t mean that you should slack off in the writing.  Even as the sex is happening, the story should be building, climbing up towards the climax (both figuratively and literally).  The characters are striving to finish, and make sure that they don’t take a break until they reach that point.

Although your characters have “finished”, so to say, that doesn’t mean that your job as a writer is done.  There’s still a third left in the story.  This final part should be the “cooldown,” similar to exercise.  The characters are exhausted, you’re exhausted, and you want to wrap things up as quickly as possible.  But don’t rush too fast – this is your chance to provide a bit more exposition on your characters, to round them out and really show them as multidimensional.  That may not seem important to you, but there’s a reason why amateur porn is still so popular.  When we think of a character as more real, we care more about what happens to him or her and empathize with their successes or failures.  And if you decide to use the same character in a sequel, they’ll have more details to exploit and write about.

The final third is also a great place to pad out the word count.  If you wrote some sexy action scenes but your story is still under 5k words, adding a final scene or two can quickly throw another thousand words onto the word count.  To you, this might seem useless – the characters have come, why bother with more – but one of the most common complaints by readers is that the tale ends too abruptly.  Write that final third, and both sides win!

Story graph

So remember, plan the timing in any story that you write.  The first third should be a rapid ramp up, quickly setting the scene, describing the characters, and getting the reader hot under the collar.  The second third should be consistently intense, but still building towards the final climax.  The last third should be gradually cooling off, rounding out the characters and setting the scene for a sequel.

About the Author

Samantha Westlake has written two romance novels, and is currently developing a third.  A student of science, she focuses on her writing as a means to escape and relax at the end of a long, hard day.  Her most recent work can be found on Amazon here.

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