Tag: Superhero Erotica

Why I Don’t Use Trigger Warnings

[This blog post contains minor spoilers for my story “Satisfied By A Stegosaurus”]

I’m not opposed to the idea of trigger warnings. In fact, I think that they’re often a good idea. I personally like to check with DoesTheDogDie.com before I watch a movie, because I don’t like to wander into that kind of thing without advanced warning. It’s not truly a trigger for me, but it’s certainly upsetting. Likewise, I know any number of rape victims that have been unpleasantly surprised (and triggered) by a rape scene appearing in a film where there was no indication in the ads or previews. I can understand why trigger warnings exist.

 

I also understand that in erotica, rape/reluctant/violent scenes can turn what was supposed to be a perfectly pleasant experience into something horrible, or at the least upsetting and annoying. I want all of my readers to have perfectly pleasant experiences when they read my stories–that’s one reason why I write erotica in the first place.

While I do have the common author’s conceit of wanting readers to approach my stories without any spoilers, I also understand that when dealing with erotic short stories, it’s not as much of an issue. The plot is that somebody or some bodies have sex of some kind. Because people tend to have particular kinks and sexual tastes, knowing in advance what the sex scene is going to involve isn’t a spoiler–it’s advertising.

So for the most part, I’m cool with trigger warnings, even if they’d “spoil” part of the plot.
The main issue for me is that as an independent author, I work mostly through Amazon, and that means that trigger warnings could directly interfere with my business as a writer. Amazon has a very arbitrary set of standards that is sporadically enforced. They technically will not publish any books with rape scenes in them, for example, except for all of the books that that they publish that have rape scenes in them. “The Color Purple,” for example. And most dinosaur erotica. The difference being that Amazon is NOT going to yank “The Color Purple” from their electronic shelves due to content, but any indie or small-time erotica author could have their work(s) yanked at pretty much any time.

I went into the writing of my story “Satisfied By A Stegosaurus” with the idea that I’d go against the grain–and err on the side of caution–by having the human/dino sex be consensual. Oddly, during the writing of the story, a human/human rape-fantasy scene occurred as part of the main character’s back story. It’s not a particularly brutal scene, and I wrote it in such a way that it the rapist doesn’t exactly come out on top. But it is a rape/non-consent scene, even if it’s one that isn’t likely to trigger anybody. I’d gladly warn people about that plot element in the beginning of the book, or in the blurb, except that by doing so I’d be likely to attract the attention of Amazon’s enforcers.

Sure, they don’t seem to have a problem with countless beast-rape stories like “Taken By The T-Rex,” but the nature of the content often doesn’t seem to matter as much as whether Amazon has plausible deniability. If I, the author, mention that there’s rape-fantasy or non-consensual activity in a story, and somebody reports it, then Amazon would be more likely to take action.

Remember, Amazon’s applicable guidelines are as follows:
https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200672390

Pornography

We don’t accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts.

 

Offensive content

What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect.
So the hazard for including trigger warnings for rape-fantasy/non-consent stuff applies equally to most possible triggers that might appear in my work. My BDSM novel has scenes where the main character is tied, cuffed, or blindfolded. Those things might trigger some people. But if I acknowledge that those elements are included, the Amazonian hammer might come down on me for it. Even though they’d never consider banning “50 Shades of Grey.”

Another factor is the nature of what I write.

I don’t feel bad about not including a trigger warning on “Satisfied By A Stegosaurus,” because the very nature of that particular sub-genre, dinosaur-human sex, is that consent is rarely included. It’s mostly just straight-forward stories about dinosaurs fantasy-raping humans. Similarly, my story “The Octopunishment” includes (surprise, surprise!) tentacle-rape scenes. Again, that shouldn’t surprise anybody. Likewise, my story “Moonheat” has a werewolf-on-human nonconsent/rape scene, and the only surprise there might be that the werewolf is female and the human is male.

In general, I try to write within genre and sub-genre norms and expectations when it comes possible triggers. If I write superhero stuff, there’s going to be some violence, and probably varying levels of non-consent at times. If I write monster sex, it might well include rape-fantasy scenes. I don’t feel that trigger warnings are necessary when it comes to standard conventions of a genre or sub-genre.

If anybody out there is curious about my work, but has particular things that they’d like to avoid (or to seek out), just send me an email, a tweet (public or private), or respond to this post, and just ask.

So You Have An Idea…

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…