Disclaimer: This blog post contains spoilers for my short story “Multiple O,” as I break down how I turned my starting Idea into an actual plot.
So you have an Idea. You’ve got some kind of notion that could make for a good story. What’s next?
That depends on the writer and the idea. A lot of the time, for a good writer, having an Idea is enough. In previous years, I succeeded in my May Challenges by becoming skilled at taking an Idea, and being able to turn it into an acceptable short story just by sitting down at the keyboard and typing by the seat of my pants.
Pantsing works well for a lot of writers, and it works well for me most of the time. When I wrote “Satisfied By A Stegosaurus,” all I had in mind was the title, along with the notion that I’d have human/dinosaur sex be consensual instead of the standard rape fantasy scenario. With “An Innocent Haircut,” I just had the setup in mind–a young man is seduced by the woman who’s cutting his hair–and the inspiration to try to write the story about a male losing his virginity as detailed as possible, to try to craft it in such a way that males who hadn’t lost their virginity (and females who hadn’t been male) would be able to live the experience vicariously through my words. Both of those stories turned out very well, still some of my best work, and they were pantsed.
Then there are those other times.
My story “Multiple O” is set in my Serpent’s Gifts setting, a world where the appearance of a giant snake in the sky grants various people comic-book-style super-powers. I’m a big comic fan, and there are certain powers that are staples for superheroes (or villains) and that also lend themselves well to erotics. One of those powers is the ability to make instant copies of yourself, along the lines of The Multiple Man, Silent Majority, Triplicate Girl, or Multiplex.
That was my Idea: write erotica about somebody with that kind of self-duplicating power.
But it needed refinement, because “One day, a person with duplication powers did some sexy stuff” isn’t a good story. It’s not even good micro-fiction.
Once you have your Idea, I find that it’s pretty good to start working through the Five Ws of Journalism: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. My Who in this case is my main character, my protagonist. I toyed with making a male character named “Gangbang,” and having him multiply in the middle of sex with a woman who was open enough to roll with suddenly having sex with two or twenty guys instead of just one, but my personal tastes go the other way, and I decided that I’d rather write about a woman who could turn into multiple women. So that’s my basic Who–the protagonist is female. I came up with the title of “Multple O,” and went with the first female name that sprung to mind that started with O: Olivia.
The Ws don’t have to be in order, and often the Idea itself will fill in at least part of one of them anyway. If I’d been doing them in order, I’d have focused on “What” next, but I didn’t. Instead, I focused on that sixth important question, that honorary W just because it hangs out with them so much. I asked myself How.
Specifically, I asked myself how her power functioned. Multiple Man produces copies from kinetic impact. Other characters seem to be able to do it at will. I think one character could pull alternate-reality versions of himself/herself, or maybe I just dreamed that. I needed a mechanism for my character’s power to work. Where did the copies come from?
I mulled this over for a couple days, I think.
A lot of the time, shaping and refining the Idea is mental work that I do while I’m on a long drive, or trying to beat my insomnia into submission by letting my mind wander, and so forth. Eventually, I hit on the idea of her power being the ability to pull her own image out of mirrors, into the real world. That gave her a vulnerability (her power only works when there’s a reflection nearby), it gave her a limitation (only one copy per mirror), and it gave me a start to the story: a woman is looking at herself in the mirror, when suddenly she pulls her own reflection out into the real world.
As soon as I had the How, the rest of the Ws all fell into place.
Who? Olivia and a single copy of herself.
What? A solo scene that turns into girl/girl fun.
When? Sometime shortly after December of 2012, because that’s when this setting splits off from the real world–That’s when the powers start manifesting.
Where? In the bedroom, on the bed.
Why? Because Olivia was trying to do the female empowerment thing of looking at her own vagina in the mirror, to get in better touch with herself and her body, but when she drops the mirror and tries to pick it back up again, she accidentally grabs her mirror self and pulls it into the real world. Once she adjusts to this new event, the two of her go back to doing what she was doing moments before: getting better in touch with her own body (or, in this case, bodies).
I asked myself if this story would work, and the first snag I hit upon was the issue of whether or not a person who was confronted by a doppleganger of themselves would try to have sex with it so quickly. I went back to thinking about How the power worked, and decided that since the copy was in fact a different version of the main character, that Olivia would be perfectly comfortable with her mirror-clone–it was her , after all.
This wasn’t two strangers–it was two of the same person, and they’d known themselves for their entire lives. You can’t get much more intimate than that; the sex is just a formality. It’s more like masturbation with access to a second body. Which fell nicely into the general themes of the story–a woman who is uncomfortable with herself gets to lover herself a bit more.
That’s the kind of thing that many writers tend to leave out of short erotica, by the way. They come up with characters, a plot, and a sex scene, but they leave their story at that. That’s a mistake, because stories have to be about something important. Yes, sure, sex itself is important, but not always in its own right. Creating a story about two bodies fucking is like creating a story about two people eating a meal together–if that’s all that happens, don’t bother writing it.
The meal, or the sex, or the walk through the park, or the fight in the alleyway… it has to mean something to somebody. It has to be important enough that the story is worth telling, and the reader knows it. In this case, the main character grows to accept herself a bit more. Yes, she has her first lesbian experience (kind of), and she discovers that she has superpowers, but while both of those events are exciting, a really good story needs an extra layer of significance to make it really shine.
The story “Multiple O” is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Multiple-Richa…