obody likes their time wasted. People who dick with their phones at a traffic light. Or who wait in line at a fast food counter and only then look at the menu. Even one minute commercial spots are a mind-numbing waste of time. So why do you think your readers feel any different?
If you are writing a novel, you have time to bleed in suspense. Characters can be developed. Clues (if appropriate) can be distributed. You can toy with foreshadowing and cast your mood with clever wording. Heck, if you are writing in 1870, you can take hundreds of pages to get to the point. But if you are writing something for today’s short story audiences, time is nothing you can waste.
On the web (where most erotica is written – the old magazine market is dead), you have to get to the point pretty quick. My rule of thumb is that if I’ve not got something erotic going on by the third paragraph, I’m wasting time. Even if it’s foreshadowing, even if it’s an erotic metaphor (and even if my use of an erotic metaphor is obvious), it serves its purpose. The reader is getting what he or she is looking for. Not dynamic storytelling. No, a quick jump to the action.
This might seem rushed – it is. But you are writing for people who either are browsing for free, or have (if you are damn lucky) paid a couple of bucks to read it. You can’t afford to waste their time.
One idea to getting into the action is the flashback – drop the reader directly into the steamy action, get enough description to sort everyone out, and then (usually in the lusty thoughts of your hero or heroine), they backstory to how they came to this Kama Sutra position. Who cares that, biologically-speaking, real people don’t review the path that lead them to their current situation while shuddering in near climax. You’ve hooked your readers, and now you can parcel out their backstories intermixed with flash-forwards to the current sweaty affair.
Another trick is the musing fantasy. So your main character is a bored housewife, thinking of what will happen when her husband gets home. She can look up from those soapy first-paragraph dishes to look out the window and fantasize about what is going to happen. Or what she would like happen. Or what we’d like to see happen. Doesn’t matter – she can putter around, doing the housework and setting the scene while we, as readers, are treated to mini-bursts of pornography to liven up the scene-setting run up. Look for phone-calls from mum or vase-toppling cats to bring your heroine back from the moment of climax. It’s a cruel truck, but it will keep your readers engaged, looking for more.
But that’s past and future – suppose you don’t want to play those games. That only leaves the present. And if you are going to launch into a story with some meat on it (and not just a postilional play of afternoon delight), you’ll need to hook your reader with something sharp and sweet from the first paragraph. Perhaps a killer description, something so tight and sexy that your readers find an instant rapport with your character (like a beautiful woman with a bottle of chloroform in her purse, or some handsome rich bastard who wakes up on his houseboat docked in Paris, vowing he’s going to have sex with a stranger by nightfall). It’s tricky to establish that sort of pull with readers off the bat (most of them assume you are going to fail and don’t put the effort in to getting to the payoff). This method is tricky, but can work if you really have a unique idea and the skill to pull it off.
But what doesn’t work? How about writing a long and windy story, hoping that readers will trust you across five pages just to get to the diddle.
Don’t waste their time.