Historical erotic stories are, as the name implies, set in a particular historical era. English Regency stories are traditionally very popular at the more romantic end of the market, but a historical can be set way back in the Stone Age or as recently as the Swinging Sixties. With any historical fiction, not just the erotic kind, the setting is almost a character in its own right; the cultural and political mores of the day adding extra depth to the story. This can work excellently for increasing both conflict and opportunities to arouse. For example, if your story is set in an era where people, particularly women, had a lot less sexual freedom than we take for granted now, then that provides boundaries to your main characters getting it on, which provides a point of conflict as well as a tale of forbidden desire, which is always popular. We always want what we can’t have, after all.
An important point to remember with historicals is that, although the history should provide a rich backdrop to the story, it shouldn’t swallow it up with reams of information about the particular time and place. If your protagonists are getting hot and heavy in a Roman plaza then some description and background will add texture and drama, but a three page rambling on Roman architecture will not just turn off your reader but probably bore them too. My own historicals include
Paranormals include characters or situations that are outside the realm of ordinary experience. Werewolves or vampires, or haunted houses or fairy glens. As well as giving your imagination free rein, paranormals offer lots of opportunities to up the erotic ante. That dark brooding lover turns out to be a shapeshifter, or the fetish club is actually a hunting ground for a hot vampire…the possibilities are endless. Apart from historical, this is my favourite genre to write and read. As well as my ‘Vamp’ series I have a short story ‘A Different Type of Demon’ published by Peaches magazine, which you can now read for free here.
Contemporary erotica is pretty much the opposite of the two sub-genres I’ve just mentioned. That is, it’s set in the present day and the characters are very much flesh and blood and mortal. I had a contemporary erotic story, ‘Artistic Licence’ published in an anthology by Brickstone Publishing called ‘Ignite.’
Sci-fi/fantasy involves setting your story in a made-up, alternative world, whether that’s another galaxy or an unseen dimension of our world. As with paranormals, sci-fi stories allow for heaps of flexibility within erotic situations and you can really push the envelope. Perhaps your characters live in a world where sex is forbidden, or where open relationships are the norm? This is of course quite a niche category, as with sci-fi in general, but an increasingly popular one. Check out my erotic fantasy story ‘Club Wonderland’ here for free.
BDSM stories are particularly popular at the moment in all forms of erotica including romances, memoirs and short stories. BDSM stands for a combination of Bondage, Domination and Submission, and Sado-Masichism. There is a lot of variety within this category of course; you could have a romance in which your characters involve in some spanking and role-play, or an explicit piece of erotica involving a variety of characters, props and scenarios. BDSM stories are usually highly explicit and the best tend to be written by people with at least some hands-on experience. See my own memoir ‘Wicked Games’.
LGBT involves characters that aren’t just heterosexual, and the name stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered. As you can imagine there is a huge range of scope within this sub-genre, so much so that some object to the term, but it is still widely used by readers and writers. This isn’t my usual genre, but I have had a historical lesbian romp, ‘Behind Closed Doors’ published in a Ladylit anthology entitled ‘Anything She Wants’.
New Adult is an attempt to bridge the gap between YA – teenage – and adult fiction, particularly romances, and is a relatively new genre, inspired by the overlap between YA and adult readerships. With huge numbers of adults being fans of the Twilight teenage paranormal series, and hordes of older teenagers getting stuck into the Fifty Shades books, it was noticed that there was a call for books featuring characters aged in their late teens and early twenties, engaging in more explicit erotic scenes than can be found in the YA category. As a result, New Adult fiction is often referred to as ‘teen steamies’. Although allowing for more erotic content than YA books this tends to be the least explicit of the genres due to the younger readership, with more of an emphasis on romance. I had great fun writing about younger characters in ‘Unconditional‘.
There is of course a great deal of overlap between sub-genres, with most stories belonging to two or more. For example you may like to write a paranormal New Adult, a historical same-sex romp, or a contemporary BDSM story that features characters of varying sexual persuasions. Plot and sub-genre are often closely intertwined – plot twists that would work in a contemporary setting may be completely unfeasible for a historical story, for example. To get a feel for this and to experiment with which sub-genres feel right for you, try the following writing exercise from my writing guide ‘Passionate Plots; a Guide to Writing Erotic Stories and Scenes’ published by Compass Books.
Writing Exercise – What’s your Sub-Genre?
Take an idea you may have for a contemporary story and briefly bullet-point the plot. If you can’t think of anything right now, choose a story you’ve recently read. Summarise the main developments in the story. Now choose a historical setting you know something about and ‘move’ your story into it. How does this change things? Would your characters believably behave in the same way, for example? How would the change of era affect their sexual backgrounds and choices? Make a few notes on how you might need to tweak – or even significantly change – the story.
Now take the same story and imagine one or both of the characters are an otherworldly creature or have some kind of supernatural power. How does this affect the story, do any different possibilities open up? How might this affect their erotic tastes and knowledge?
Do the same thing for any of the other sub-genres you may be interested in. Make your characters same-sex if they were originally heterosexual or vice versa, and consider how this would alter their erotic development. Or for New Adult, make them eighteen and fresh out of college. Perhaps one or both of them are virgins?
Although the point of this exercise is to get a feel for the different sub-genres rather than to produce an actual polished plot, it’s worth coming back to your notes at a later date and seeing what ideas they may spark off.