Warning: This journal contains overanalysis of really stupid NSFW shit.
I like writing; it's something I've always been pretty good at. I'm actually in the process of writing a full novel on my story's first part, where the Second Demon War goes from clandestine strikes to all out world-changing conflict, just to give you a tease. It's been in the works for a few years, and I peck at it here and there. At present, I've written about 68 single-spaced pages, nowhere near done, but the story is fully outlined, and it's just a matter of fleshing the rest out, then editing it. Of course, balancing my art and regular job with this just makes it slower, but I don't mind taking my time.
I'm always looking to refine my writing whenever I can. So when my brother and I were in the Chapters before seeing Jurassic Park, we had a giggle at the Romance section, and I was shocked by how many of them involved werewolves. So I read a few of them to see how these things actually sell. I can certainly see the aspects that do sell, but dear Lord, there is NO difference between each author. Same narrative structure, same basic characters, similar vocabulary. So to bring out my critical thinking cap and reflect on what I can do with my writing, I wanted to break these down to elements that they do, elements they do poorly to make them trashy fiction, and elements they can improve within the erotic book genre to just make them that much better.
So what do they do right?
Focus on the woman - Without fail, the woman involved, usually an ordinary person thrust into extraordinary circumstances, is the center of all the attention, from the villain, to the man/men. It's a sadly neglected point in a lot of other fiction, particularly sci-fi/fantasy, so kudos to these authors for making something centered on women.
Embrace sexuality - Always a plus. Living creatures are sexual, especially humans. A clear indication, even if brief and mostly left to the imagination, that your characters have sex, makes them more real. They don't just make out in romance, they do more than that.
Bring the element of the extraordinary - The best fiction has some aspect that is accessible to the reader to begin with, then takes the narrative to larger heights to keep the reader engaged. These books do that well by taking the main character and setting her up with a wolf guy who introduces her to the pack structure, which usually involves getting to know cool paranormal people/concepts. This is the strength that Twilight (ugh) brought to the forefront. It beats the humdrum ordinary person stuff.
Adding a touch of wild - This is where the werewolf trope is popular. It's one thing for just a hunky guy who happens to be an ordinary human. Werewolves are powerful beasts that aren't constrained by mortal frailty or social norms. They can be warriors, hunters, and this kind of power gets translated into sex well.
So those are the key elements that get people reading them. But why is it still trash?
Lazy relationship building - In most of the books I've read, the main werewolf guy is part of a pack, and the alpha/beta/omega pack dynamic is drawn on to set up the gender relationships. In many instances, the female is the alpha, who then is "mated" with a male, usually by supernatural werewolf-sense; the man and woman just get aroused by each other, then within a chapter or two, boom, sex.
This is really lazy storytelling, because the two people involved are just romantically linked at first sight, rather than actually getting to KNOW the other person. No clash of identities, no personality quirks that get one party interested in the other, just "Oooh, you're my mate, let's fuck!"
Lazy narrative - The better books tend to have some kind of conflict brewing throughout the romance and sex, usually a party that wants to interfere with the relationship, or cause harm to one of the individuals involved. While this is hardly original, if the antagonist is written compellingly, it can work wonders. Only about half of the ones I've read even really attempt an antagonist, or any kind of three-act dramatic structure that has a problem that needs to be resolved. This doesn't exactly let the book stick in my head; it just comes off as an excuse to execute some sex scenes.
Dire wolves?! - This one is more of a nitpick, but come on, werewolves are not the ones in Twilight, for fuck's sake. Jacob turns into a dire wolf, if anything. When I think "werewolf", I think this:
I get why the wolves are like the latter. They're less scary and less monstrous. But they don't have to be. I'm just asking for werewolves to have the telltale anthropomorphic elements like bipedal motion, clearly defined humanoid torsos, fingers, etc. It would allow the wolf-guy to bed the woman in his feral form, with his likely larger penis, without lapsing into the creepy bestiality stuff. Best erotic depiction of werewolves I've ever seen is the Elizabeth Bathory porn comic by Raulo. It's got a lot of brutality there, but it's tongue-in-cheek and got some great sex scenes, so it's worth checking out.
Now that we've addressed that stuff, I know what you're thinking. "This is indulging fantasy, this isn't Ulysses." I gotcha. I like a good Bond movie too, but I don't mix it up with The Godfather. So what can make them hotter, or more engaging fantasies?
Switch up the sex - The best erotic novels gradually increase the intensity and breadth of the sex scenes. While two new lovers might just start with oral or mutual masturbation, sex eventually goes to more playful and interesting stuff like bondage, toys, additional partners, etc.
If you've peppered your work with ten sex scenes that are all the same shit, it gets boring. Keep building it up, and make each one count.
Switch up the vocabulary - This is something that is easy to go overboard with, so I'm not suggesting you use a thesaurus and look up "Cock." But in every damn book I read, "cock" was probably the most used, and in some cases ONLY, word used to describe the penis.
Seriously, ladies, you can use "penis." It's a perfectly good term, still erotic in its own right. There are a lot of the more medical/scientific terms that can read very arousing to the eye and brain, for both male and female anatomy. Vulva, labia, mons, glans, these work pretty well. And they're more specific too. The "cock" is made up of both a head and shaft, so why not mention which part the girl's working on? Similarly, from these books, the female reproductive system is made up of only a clit and a pussy, sometimes a cervix.
Get messy - Sex is hard, heavy, sweaty and very messy. So indulge the reader in that messy experience. The best sex scenes talk about how moist a girl is, the slickness of the vagina, the beading sweat running down a breast, stuff like that. It's more than just mechanical motions and moaning.
This next one's probably my biggest peeve:
Learn how the male and female reproductive systems WORK - This one isn't too widespread, depending on how much the orgasms get described, but I've seen a few of these books play fast and loose with the way the plumbing actually operates. The biggest one is the description of pre-cum. It's an effective sign to indicate a guy's arousal, but it doesn't come out at the first touch. It typically appears shortly before orgasm, not at the very beginning of foreplay.
As another example, male erections are pretty noticeable, so if you want to show your male character is aroused in a public place, and you say he's sporting a boner, if he's got a large penis, it will show through even denim jeans. It's not easy to hide, so keep that in mind.
Probably the most ridiculous one I've seen is the description of semen coming from the balls and being ejected by the penis. If you've described semen in the balls, go to Wikipedia and look up "Prostate". That's where most of the fluid in semen gets generated. Now, there's no need to go into that kind of detail when you're trying to arouse a reader, but let's at least get the basics right when we're describing these things, just so that we don't lose anybody.
Erotic fiction can be well-written, and has its place in literature, bringing together a lot of disparate genres and subgenres. Even with werewolves. If you're a writer, they may be worth checking out, just to keep you sharp.