I need to know rules on writing erotica vs. writing for a general audience. How do you write about teen sex, cannibalism, rape and mutilation?I don't mean to be rude, harsh or seem...

I need to know rules on writing erotica vs. writing for a general audience. How do you write about teen sex, cannibalism, rape and mutilation?

I don't mean to be rude, harsh or seem sexually-oriented. I don't want you to bar me from this forum. I just need to know where I can find the rules for rewriting an erotic book that contains some highly adult material so that it suits a more general or at least a mature audience.

Expert Answers
brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, we would need more specifics in terms of the kind of rules you mean.  Legal rules? Obscenity rules? Court rulings?

When you say a mature audience, do you mean non-school aged, over 18 audiences?  If so, then adults can choose what they wish to see and read, and there may be no need to revise it.  If you feel you must because you have a more specific audience in mind that you don't want to offend, then consider the following rules of thumb:

1)  What is the purpose of the passage?  If it is gratuitious sex or violence, then the passage can be omitted altogether.

2)  If it has a purpose to the story, paraphrase the purpose into your own words, using more general or abstract language that conveys what has happened without the graphic details.  The audience can figure out what happened.

3)  What is the purpose you wish to achieve by having the audience read your new version?  Is it worth their possibly being offended anyway?

Just some things to think about.  Also, be sure that the work you are paraphrasing is not copyrighted if you are going to publish or sell this yourself.

James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are no set rules, I believe, that anyone can give to answer your question easily. brettd's strategies sound good to me.

I would recommend, too, that you think more thoroughly about possible audiences and possible publishers for the book. Specific publishers have very clear guidelines on what sort of things they will and will not publish, and audiences (readers) have pretty clear ideas on what sorts of things they will or will not buy or read. If you have a publisher or two in mind, contact them and ask them for guidance.

Another strategy to consider -- a good one, I think -- is to read several published works that do something along the lines of what you are interested in doing. Anne Rice has become very successful, for example, by writing in a number of different genres. See the link below for more information on Rice. Writers often read other writers to learn what to do and what not to do.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The previous posts were very strong.  Modeling your own writing after Rice or even some of the passages from D.H. Lawrence or Stephanie Meyer might be effective.  I think that you seem to be savvy enough to understand that writing about provocative and erotic topics must be done in a delicate manner, so as to bring out the elements present and not be misunderstood by others.  I will say that I think it might be difficult to follow this standard when writing about rape, which by its very nature is prone to gratuitous depictions.  The same might apply to mutilation, which is difficult to frame in a setting that is not borderline sensationalistic.  The striving for erotic literature and to create it does walk a fine line to ensure that words do not become a licence or free pass to instigate.  In the topics of rape and mutilation, this might be a bit more careful to tread than some of the other topics.