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Idea Farming
By M. Christian

It seems like every writer has some smart-assed answer to the age-old question: Where do you get your ideas? 

For the longest time, I played with The same place you'd get yours from, if you tried, but it always sounds so arrogant, so superior.  So now all I just give them a little, down-home reply: Oh, from everywhere, I guess.

For smut writers the question is definitely more loaded than for other genres.  Do horror writers ever get the supposition that they hack up hitchhikers in the name of 'research'?  Us merry pornographers, however, are automatically labeled perverts in real life (or worse) simply because we have vivid sexual imaginations. 

Cut someone's head off, after all, and you only get an R rating -- fuck them and it's XXX.

Still, I contend that story ideas for both come from the same place, and so deserve the same respect: the imagination.  In most people, this tiny part of the cerebral cortex is pitifully underutilized, reserved boss-murder and secretary-fuck fantasies.  For someone who likes to write, however, it's important to develop the imagination into a hefty piece of brain matter. 

Here's some ways to do it.

A common mistake a lot of beginning writers (smut or non) make is to think that creativity is something holy, untouched by outside influences.  Fudge to that.  Creativity is using what's around us in a new way, just like how every major work of art has its roots in everything else before it.  I'm not talking plagiarism here, folks, but rather taking what's here and twisting it in your own unique fashion.

Twisting is exactly what I preach to my smut writing classes.  Not only can playing with existing forms in new and unique ways result in something wonderfully unusual, but also more importantly it stretches your imagination muscle.  Before you can twist, though, you have to stick something in your gray matter right next to your developing imagination: mainly that it's okay to dream.

A bit on that: Another common mistake is to think that everything you dream or play with has to have some kind of eventual purpose.  Fudge to that, #2. 
Play!  Dream!  Fantasize!  Get CRAZY --you don't have to use everything you dream up, you don't have to write about everything you imagine.  Just have fun.  Your imagination, after all, is just like sex --if it's not fun you're doing it wrong.  So kick out that internal censor, and just allow yourself some good, old-fashioned chaotic dreaming.

Okay, so you've kicked your internal critic in the balls --so how what?  Here's a game I play in my class: name your favorite movie.  Go on, do it. 

Okay, so you're not a movie buff --how about a teevee show, a book, a play, a comic book ... anything.  Pick your fave.  Got it?  Now imagine a sequel, write it in your mind.  You don't have to really write it, just play with what you liked about the original source and stretch it out.  Say you love Sunset Blvd (one of my faves), think about why you like it (wicked black comedy), what you want to see more of (the decadence of Hollywood), what didn't work for you, what did, etc. 

Now have fun!  It doesn't have to be some great work of art, either.  Pick what you like, look at why you like it, and then try and imagine something that incorporates it all.  Sure it's tough, but remember: you're not going to actually do anything with it, just dream it up.  Do something like this all the time. 

Another great technique is to watch a show or read a book and stop somewhere in the middle --and finish it yourself.  Is your ending better?  Is the original better?  Why?  Maybe how you ended it would make a better story --so take your new version and change it, add things you like, take out what you didn't.  Fun!

Many people think I'm too hard on books and movies, that I'm too critical --but what's really going on is that, in my mind, I'm imagining a better movie or book, what I think would have worked better.  Friends are always kicking me in the shins when I groan in a movie, or rag on it endlessly afterward: But it would have been so much cooler if they'd tied in the marriage with the funeral, so there's an echo of the loss --great foreshadowing!i  I may never use what I'd been playing with, but every time that happens it stretches my imagination a bit more, making it easier to really dream when it comes time to face that blank computer screen.

This works for every genre, even smut.  There's sex all around us --obvious as well as subtle.  As I've said before, often the difference between a good erotic story and a bad erotic story is STORY!  Just a sex scene might be interesting, but it can never be anything beyond just 'interesting.'  But telling a story, with people ... THAT gets people's attention. 

A good way of farming for smut ideas is to look where sex is --and yet isn't.  Erotica is a genre that doesn't blink.  You know what I mean: in a flick a couple are passionately kissing and suddenly the camera pans away to a fireplace --in other words, it blinks (a comedian once said that he thought babies came from charcoal).  Smut, though, doesn't. 

So tell me a story that doesn't blink, where the sex is there --adding to the story, telling us about the characters.  Look at Sunset Blvd --we know that there's sex in that movie, even if it's just ... well, weird.  If you take away the blink it becomes a sex story, but one with a good STORY.  I heartily encourage people to use their imaginations where good stories blink.  Fight Club, for instance, has some delightful homoerotic moments --let alone the skid row sex with Marla.  In your mind, fill in the blanks --not just sex for sex's sake, but with a sex scene that tells something about the character, the story, the setting.  Just like you should finish stories, add to them --show, if just to your self, the rest of the story.

 Do that and I can all but guarantee your sex scenes will read more like fully realized characters being together, versus boring cardboard cutouts.

So get out your imagination, take it for a walk, feed it often, and -- more than anything -- play with it.  Having a hearty, healthy imagination, after all, is what writing is really all about. 


Copyright M. Christian. All Rights Reserved


M. Christian is author of over 100 published short stories. His work can be found in Friction, Best Gay Erotica, Best American Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica 2, and many other books and magazines. He's the editor of over seven anthologies, including Best S/M Erotica. You can visit M. Christian's website here: http://www.mchristian.com

Praise for M. Christian's work:
The first time I read a story by M. Christian it was just an innocent-looking submission to an erotica anthology I was editing. It blew my socks off. In fact, it blew all of my clothes off, and I ended up in bed. How can one writer be so smart, stylish and seductive? I don't know, but when I read an M. Christian story now, I find it best to just get naked and get directly into bed. - - Cecelia Tan.

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