On Sybians, Succubi, and Storytelling Engines

Do you ever think about storytelling engines? John Seavey used to have this blog where he’d examine the different “engines” behind successful fiction. Like, Buffy had the whole Hellmouth and Slayer thing, providing an endless possibility of stories to be told. Or hospital dramas with a new emergency every week. Cop shows with new murders to investigate. And so on.

When a show or book series don’t have a solid engine under the hood, they can sometimes appear to be flailing around or coasting on fumes. True Blood, as much as I love it, suffers from this.

I just read Selena Kitt’s wonderfully sexy The Sybian Club and I couldn’t help but think about what a seriously great engine she has in her hands (or between her thighs, in this case). A woman wants to buy a sybian, an expensive saddle vibrator infamous for mind-melting orgasms and comes up with a scheme to rent time on the machine to her friends and associates as a way of paying it off. Sexy times result. It’s a brilliant device and an incredibly sexy read. (Seriously y’all, go buy it.)

When I started my Reluctant Succubus series it was with a few goals in mind:

a) Tackle the challenge of writing a serialized novel, making each part itself a complete and erotic story that adds up to a greater whole.

b) Write the succubus novel that I’ve always wanted to read.

c) Create a storytelling engine that would give me a reasonable and logical narrative device so that my main character, Sarah Mayhew, could indulge in crazy hot sex whenever the story called for it.

d) Have fun.

The engine was important to me though. There’s nothing more off-putting in erotica than a sex scene shoe-horned in just to meet some imagined quota. The sex needs to flows naturally from character and plot motivations AND it needs to do all the things in erotica that an action scene would in other stories: sex scenes need to reveal character, they need to move the plot, they need to bring resolution BEFORE emotional resolution (or ideally at the same time).

My Billionaire Blackmail story begins with my Ghostwriter sleeping with the billionaire Logan Grant in an attempt to get information, to build trust, and also just to bed him because she’s physically attracted. But as the story continues the blackmail itself becomes the engine for the erotic encounters.

My upcoming novel–featuring a dominatrix who gets caught between a werewolf pack and a predatory succubus–has a main character who is literally a sex worker and who ends up with abilities that can only be harnessed with sexual energy.

When you’re writing your erotica, it’s worth keeping in mind the need for a solid engine to drive the story. If you get the mixture just right, the stories will write themselves.

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