Enter the Dark Side
A Guide to Writing and Marketing Dark Erotica
By Duana R. Anderson
Dark Erotica Defined
‘Dark erotica’ is not easily defined. In fact, everyone has their own idea of what it is. I have seen ‘dark erotica’ described as: sexual horror, erotic horror, gothic erotica, pagan erotica, dark fantasy, romantic horror, gothic romanticism, fetish, BDSM, alternative, underground, urban erotica, paranormal romance, romantic tragedy, science fiction and fantasy, which primarily fall under the huge heading of genre or speculative fiction. There seems to be no limit to what ‘dark erotic’ includes from moody and atmospheric, to sensual and romantic, to raw, edgy, provocative, dark, sinister, bizarre, smutty, sexy, sizzling, urban and utterly pornographic. The only limit is your own imagination.
The keys words here are FEAR and LUST.
FEAR and LUST are at the root of our primal emotions. They originate from the swampy beginnings of our ancestral birth at the core of our reptilian brains. It was these instincts that saved our species from extinction, through procreation and by anticipating unforeseen dangers. They come naturally to us.
Likewise, we are junkies to FEAR and LUST. That’s why we crave a good scare from a horror movie, or long to crawl under the sheets with an erotic novel. We receive the same kind of sensations from a terrifying experience, as we do from sexual arousal. Both are manifested by similar physical responses in our bodies. Both embody an element of danger, which is quite compelling.
It is not unusual then, that FEAR and LUST have an interwoven relationship, each feeding off the other like a pair of sycophants. Our thirst for each is naturally intensified, and ‘dark erotica’ has become the embodiment of both.
Writing Dark Erotica
One thing ‘dark erotica’ is not however, is badly written trash. There seems to be a misconception that all erotica is just sex scenes and all horror is visceral in-your-face splatter gore fiction. Excessive violence and explicit sex does not make a ‘dark erotic’ story. You can have these elements in a story, but they are not what drives the story. ‘Dark erotica’, just like all well written fiction in any genre includes intriguing, well-developed characters, a plot with conflict, a mood, atmosphere, interesting setting, well-written prose, good punctuation, grammar, spelling. ‘Dark erotica’ doesn’t even need to have any “sex” in it at all. It can be sensual, a mood that is seductive or a writer’s style that is evocative.
Don’t be afraid to tease you readers like a stripper, slowly revealing more as you arouse their curiosity. Never forget that the mind is also an erogenous zone as well, and appeal to all the senses. Yes, ‘dark erotica’ can even be intelligent and literate. The same applies to explicit violence and gore. Often, what is not revealed can be more provocative and creepy. As the saying goes: “It is not enough to Conquer, One must know how to Seduce.”–Voltaire. That is not to say that explicit sex scenes and the macabre are not welcome in ‘dark erotica’, but they must be done well.
If you are not sure what ‘dark erotica’ is or how to write it, then read plenty of it. Simply punch ‘dark erotica’ into a search engine (my new favorite is GOOGLE.COM) and start to explore the complexities and styles of this genre. I have listed many online venues in the markets section of this article. Choose quality sites and stories as your guides. Write what turns you on personally. Explore your deepest, darkest fantasies. Hone your skill, develop your own personal voice and style, and let your imagination be your muse.
Finding markets is now made easier with the advent of the Internet. To find good markets try ‘publishers of erotica’ in a search engine. Scour the market lists such as Scavengers, Gila Queen, and Spicy Green Iguana. If you prefer pulp, buy books and magazines you enjoy and send away for the guidelines. Buy a “best of” anthology and note the previous publishers on the copyright page, as many of the stories are reprints. Who are your favorite authors? Who is publishing them? Keep a list of these publishers on your hard drive so you can access them when you have a story ready for a specific market.
Most publishers of ‘dark erotica’ are looking for fiction that goes beyond the norm and cross-breeds a variation of genres into a new age mixture. These publishers are interested in experimental fiction that cannot be pigeon-holed and explores new styles and ways of “telling a story.” This is why ‘dark erotica’ has become so popular over the past few years. ‘Dark erotica’ is at the forefront of the evolutionary speculative fiction genre.
There are, however a few things that most publishers no longer want to see. These include vampire fiction, werewolves, bondage dungeons, typical monsters, typical scenarios without any new slants or imagination. That’s not to say that they won’t publish these types of fiction, but they better be a) Great, and b) a new twist on an old theme. With that in mind, it is a good rule of thumb to research specific markets to find out exactly what that publisher wants.
So, if ‘dark erotica’ is such a great up-and-coming genre, how come I can’t find any good paying markets, you might ask. There are paying markets out there. You just have to do you research. I have included a few markets and resources on the web at the end of this article for you to use as a starting place.
When you are first starting in this genre, you may want to try some of the non-paying high quality markets to get your foot in the door. As a writer of ‘dark erotica’ myself I believe authors should be compensated for the outpourings of our soul. On the other hand, many ‘dark erotic’ markets are underground and small press, alternative publications and can’t afford to pay professional rates, paying only in contributor copies or royalties or sometimes only in exposure. This can often be discouraging to writers starting off in the genre. So, why do it?
It certainly is not to get rich, unless any of you are entertaining thoughts of becoming the next Stephen King. But there are advantages to submitting to low or non-paying markets.
One is publishing credits. This is especially important for novice writers. I don’t recommend submitting to any old place, just to see your name in print. Do your homework. Read publication guidelines, look at who they are publishing, find out how well respected they are. Once you get your foot in the door the editor may turn you on to other publications and projects they are working on that do pay. The more widely your work is read, the more you build a name for yourself. This will in turn lead to publications that pay. I have found this to be the case for myself.
And finally. Do it because you love/want/need to. Because you have all these deep dark fantasies burning in your mind that you must exorcize by putting pen to paper (or fingers to key board, which ever the case may be). Isn’t that why we all write anyway? Because we can’t stop ourselves? So go on now. Scare me with your dark verse. Entice me with your steamy words. Enter me with your tales of fear and lust, darkly and deeply.
duana r. anderson is an author, poet, artist, photographer and filmmaker. Her works explore the genres of dark erotica, horror, dark fantasy and gothic romance. Her short stories, articles and poetry had been most recently featured in Suspect Thoughts, Gothic Net, Amoret Journal, Waning and Waxing, Venus or Vixen, Earwig Flesh Factory, Scarlet Letters and Tears on Black Roses. New works will be appearing soon in the next issues of Parchment Symbols and Dancing Skinless. Visit her cyber lair ‘The Daughter of Darkness’ to find out more about her upcoming illustrated chapbook ‘Blood Feast: Tales of Vampire Seduction’, and to unearth the worms that crawl inside her mind: http://www.necrobabes.org/duana/