It all started when I was in high school. Stumbling blindly across the internet, I happened upon one of those websites dedicated to fan fiction. Amateur writers would take it upon themselves to craft their own stories using beloved fictional characters, whisking them away on noncanonical adventures where the only limitation was your own imagination.
A few of these adventures weren’t like the ones you’d see on screen, however. As it turned out, some of these amateur writers had imaginations that took them into very dark corners indeed. I’d read stories about the cast of Glee or the demon-fighting brothers from Supernatural in which the conflict of the show became the backdrop for passionate and oftentimes explicit relationships between the main characters.
Being a vociferous reader (ever since my days as a little boy reading Nancy Drew), naturally I devoured these stories with a curiosity that only grew as time went on. From there I started reading original erotic fiction stories, having grown tired of the constraints of fanfiction and the insufferable cast of Glee. Some of these were little more than glorified written pornography, although others weaved complicated stories and themes together to tell stories that were actually quite well-written.
I was intrigued by the depiction of the inner life of characters that you would see in erotic fiction that you didn’t get elsewhere. I wanted to know what people were thinking when the action was going down. How does Emilio feel when Harry grazes his arm in the backseat of his dad’s Honda? What’s running through the men’s minds when the clothes come flying off after the realtor steps away to make a quick call?
Call me a sentimentalist, but I found myself gravitating toward stories centered around romance and star-crossed lovers. I believed myself to be a consumer rather than a creator, never believing that one day I would make the plunge and myself become one of those amateur writers. I continued reading erotic fiction on and off through the years until in the midst of the pandemic I came across a story so powerful it changed everything.
The Discovery: Prison Inmates was an erotic fiction story about two men who fell in love in a men’s prison. The story told of the wacky circumstances that led to these two lovebirds finding each other in the midst of a hopeless place and their plight to overcome the evil warden and his malevolent plans. I was instantly hooked, devouring page after page, chapter after chapter of their heartbreaking tale.
To quote Gwyneth Paltrow, “I laughed. I cried. I had many epiphanies.”
Then, to my dismay, I reached the end of chapter six to find there was nothing more. Their love story ended without so much as a slapdash epilogue. I raced to the author’s page and was devastated to discover that not only was the story unfinished, but it had been released a decade ago.
There was to be no happy ending for Jamie and Rhys. Their story would most likely never be completed, the strands of their tale of love left dangling for countless readers to wonder what could have been.
I had never been so incensed in my life. I read through all of the comments through the years.
When will you return?
When will you finish?
This story is so hot. They should totally do it in the prison shower and then get caught by the guard. Also, how do you pronounce Rhys?
All were left unanswered.
I was not going to wait. Taking matters into my own hands, I decided that I would write my own story about two men who fell in love in a men’s prison. Like The Discovery: Prison Inmates, my erotic fiction would be more than just written pornography. It would be a captivating melodrama grounded in emotional truth. I wanted my readers to experience the same sense of love and heartbreak that I had experienced reading about Jamie and Rhys. Only my story would give my characters the happy ending they deserved.
I sat down and plotted out my story. I knew I wanted it to be a love story set in a men’s prison, but beyond that, I had yet to think any further. I wasn’t looking to write a carbon copy of this other person’s story, but rather write something I felt was in the same spirit while telling a unique tale.
There was something freeing about sitting down to write each night. The normal fears that plague my writing were no longer present. I was only writing erotic fiction, I told myself. It didn’t have to be any good. So I wrote freely, not bothering to worry about whether or not what I was writing sounded stupid or convoluted. I simply wrote. I outlined the story in my head and was surprised to find it take on a very soap opera-like feel. It wasn’t simply two criminals falling in love—suddenly there was intrigue and betrayal in the works.
Derek, the older of the two lovers, was in prison for murder but had no memory of the night itself. The younger of the two lovers was terrified of prison and desperate for a way to defend himself. The mysterious warden with his old, lined face scowled at the two lovebirds as their romance blossomed within the concrete walls of the prison. But was there something more behind those cold grey eyes? Could he have had a hand in Derek’s arrest?
I was waiting for my new computer to arrive as I was working on the story, so I wrote the entire thing in a Google Doc on my phone. I wrote sitting on my couch, I wrote in between sets of pull-ups in the park; I even wrote as I walked around the block. Never in my life had I spent so long continuously writing something without editing it. Before I knew it I had 33,000 words. That would be enough for four good chapters.
By the time I finished Protect Me: A Prison Love Story, I had no idea if what I’d been working on would be any good. I went back through it to edit it, unsure of how much time I wanted to spend shaping it and trying to make it as good as possible. To my surprise, I found the story held up relatively well. Sure, it wasn’t Proust, but it wasn’t trying to be. I went through and made some edits to make it flow as well as possible, and then I went about submitting it.
I submitted it to a website that caters to erotic fiction of all varieties. It was free to post and had a relatively large readership, although it did have to pass the website’s editing process in order to be posted. I submitted it one chapter at a time, waiting with baited breath to see when it would be posted.
Finally, a week later, I got a notification that chapter 1 had been posted. We were live! I checked my phone, anxiously awaiting the response from my (soon-to-be) fans. I watched in awe as the views stacked up, with over 10,000 people reading my story within the first 24 hours. This was unbelievable!
I was further astounded to see my story was faring relatively well in the comments section. People loved the romance aspect of it, the melodrama, the older prisoner’s hairy chest. While that wasn’t necessarily what I was expecting, you never know what the fans will relate to.
As soon as all four chapters had been posted, I knew I had to begin anew. I began writing story after story, each time writing melodramatic tales of love, loss, and the complicated reality of human relationships. I would spend hours every night plotting out my stories, writing new scenes, editing old ones.
I found it interesting that, despite the fact that I was indeed writing erotic fiction, I found the sex scenes starting to feel somewhat rote and mechanical. It almost felt like they mirrored real-life sex in the sense that the first few scenes would be full of life and passion while the later scenes started to fizzle out. I would trudge through the sex scenes, looking forward to the later part of the chapter where I could write about the characters playing mini-golf.
A part of me wondered why I didn’t just write short stories and skip the sex scenes altogether. But I knew that the thing that drew me to erotic fiction was the romance, the fantasy, the passion between two characters. I tried to make these scenes come to life by making them about more than just the sex. They were about the characters getting to know each other, opening up, fighting, forgiving each other’s betrayal.
It’s been six months since I started writing erotic fiction, in which time I’ve written six different stories. It remains a pet project I’ve been doing just for fun, albeit one that fulfills me creatively and makes me a better writer. Because of my willingness to let the writer side of my brain run wild, I’ve surprised myself by what I’ve been able to accomplish before the editor side of my brain has a chance to shut me down.
Who knew what wonderful things could blossom just from writing a little smut?