Rules for Writing: Naughty or Nice

  • Posted on June 18, 2017 at 12:20 pm

By Amanda Lynn

I will profess that I am by no means an expert on the do’s and don’ts of writing fiction, whether erotic or otherwise. Most of what I know about producing a written document comes from 33 years as an administrative clerk in the Canadian Forces. My desire to write fiction dates back to my grade 8 and 9 English classes where creative writing was a large part of the curriculum. Of course, the stories I wrote then were all very PG. I dabbled with writing until I graduated high school, and then life got in the way and writing took a back seat.

Now that I’m retired, I finally decided to pick up the pen once again thanks to an author who goes by the name ‘No One’. I’d read some stories by this author over at Nifty, and was introduced to Juicy Secrets when a story of his was posted here. By then we’d exchanged a few emails, and he was urging me to try writing again. With that encouragement, and finding a sub-genre that I really enjoyed at JS, I took the plunge.

I pumped out my first effort, “The Holly and the Ivy,” within a week or so and submitted it. To my surprise, Cheryl, Naughty Mommy, and JetBoy approved it, and with only minor editing the story was published. Still, when I read each chapter as it was released, I was not entirely happy with what I had written. I thought I could do better, and decided I needed to learn more about the art of writing.

Thus I began my research, some of which I’m going to share with you here. The amount of information available on the web is astounding, to say the least. Much of what I will reference comes from blogs and web pages of published authors of erotica.

Are you ready? Let’s get started…

Unless you are still in grade school and reading this (which you probably shouldn’t be because you’re a bit too young to be on this site), you may already have a pretty good grasp of spelling and grammar. Still, the English language is full of rules, some of which apply only some of the time and can even contradict other rules.

When I traveled on the school bus way back when, we would stop at the entrance to a subdivision. Someone had posted a sign at the side of the road that simply read:


No punctuation. So, was this sign a warning not to drive fast because there were children playing? Or a statement that the children playing were mentally challenged?

Remember, everyone, punctuation saves lives! { Let’s eat kids! } or { Let’s eat, kids! } Of course, if those kids are horny young girls, then I suppose either one would be okay. But I think you know what I’m getting at.

Listed below are two very informative books that were suggested to me by JetBoy when I asked for advice at the beginning of my research. Both books can be found at your friendly neighborhood bookstore or your local public library.

Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

A dictionary and a thesaurus are also super handy to have around. Most word processing programs have both of these features built into them. These work well, but are limited. I purchased a program called Grammarly (a freeware version is available) to augment Microsoft Word that offers a more in-depth grammar, punctuation, and spelling checker. And, of course, there’s always Google. I’m sure if I’d had access to this tech back in high school my assignments would have had much less red ink on them.

Another good read, one that was recommended to me by Naughty Mommy, is Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. The first half of the book is autobiographical and interesting. The rest deals with the mechanics of writing. I especially enjoyed when Mr. King described the writer’s toolbox, comparing tools we need to write well with a craftsman’s toolbox.

Shall we take a look inside Mr. King’s toolbox? I’m sure he won’t mind.

On the top level we find a couple of common but very important tools, vocabulary and grammar.

Your vocabulary starts developing when you are a small child. ‘Mama’ and ‘Dada’ are typical first words for most people. Mine was ‘shoe’, and I am sure this thrilled my parents to no end. So, vocabulary is your most common tool, and it will evolve as you continue to read. I have found that just listening to people talk also helps, be it at the supermarket, in a restaurant, or at the airport. Listen to the slang or jargon they use.

Some Do’s and Don’ts from Stephen King

  • DO NOT make a conscious effort to improve your vocabulary
  • DO NOT attempt to dress up your vocabulary
  • DO use a simple word in place of a complex, obscure one
  • DO use the first word that comes to mind

Next, a few words about grammar. For a sentence to be complete, it must contain a verb and a noun. Everyone knows that, right? But here’s something else. Verbs can be either active or passive. With an active verb, the subject of the sentence is doing something.

Example: Marcy licked Lisa’s pussy.

Whereas with a passive verb, the action is being done to the subject.

Example: Lisa’s pussy was licked by Marcy.

The use of passive verbs should be avoided if at all possible.

Now let’s talk about the poor adverb. Stephen King has said “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” I understand the establishment’s negative view of the adverb, and I respect their opinion. However, I like adverbs and will continue to use them, sparingly, but still I will use them. I believe they do have something to contribute to a story.

What are adverbs, then…?

Adverbs — words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs, and usually end in ‘ly’ — are considered by most professional writers to be a sign of lazy prose. With a strong and appropriate verb, you will not need an adverb.

Adverbs are often used along with dialogue tags to show how something was said. With good descriptive dialogue, an adverb isn’t necessary. By using the adverb, this is also considered a form of ‘telling.’ We will discuss ‘telling’ and ‘showing’ a bit later.

Okay, digging down to the second level of our toolbox, we find what Stephen King calls the Elements of Style.


The paragraph is the next level of organization after the sentence. The structure consists of a topic sentence followed by support and description. They provide dialogue, description, and direction.


Draws the reader into the story by using the senses, and begins the visualization of the subject of the description. The description should be neither too thin, nor overwhelming. Include all the senses and do not spend too much time describing a character.


Gives the characters their voice and helps define them. You can show things about the character through dialogue without explicitly saying it. Be true to the character by keeping the dialogue appropriate for that person. For example, 8-year-old Sally probably won’t use words like ‘prognosis,’ or ‘philanthropist.’ Come to think of it, I don’t use words like philanthropist. Don’t be afraid to use swear words, if it is appropriate for your character or the situation they are in.


The theme is a recurring message presented in the story. It can be expressed through characters, symbols, and the story itself.


So, those are the basics. But now I want to share with you a few of the somewhat more advanced things I’ve learned about during my research.

1. Point of View: Who sees what

Point of View (POV) informs the reader who is telling us the story, or the scene. Are we outside the story and it is being narrated to us by a storyteller? Or are we seeing things through the eyes of one or more characters?

Some variations…

OMNISCIENT POV: Told by a narrator who is not a character. Can look into the minds of any character, even during the same scene. Can see the past and the future and can tell us things the characters know nothing about.

THIRD PERSON, ONE POV: The story is told by one person and is therefore limited as to what information you can include. If the POV character is not present at a scene, you can’t describe it, unless through dialogue with another character. The POV character can only experience things she/he can see, smell, taste, hear, feel, know. For example, if the POV character is embarrassed, you could write ‘She felt the heat rise in her face,’ but you couldn’t say ‘Her face turned bright red,’ because the narrator/writer inhabits the character and is working from inside.

FIRST PERSON POV: Very similar to Third Person, One POV but more intimate. Everything that is written must be done through the perception of the POV character. This is by far the most limiting of the POV types.

THIRD PERSON, MULTIPLE POVs: The story is told by multiple characters, but only one at a time. The POV character can be switched at the beginning of a new scene.

HEAD HOPPING: With Third Person, Multiple POVs, changing the POV character must only be done at the beginning of a new scene. Changing within a scene is called Head Hopping and can become very confusing to the reader.

2. Dialogue Tags: Who says what

Dialogue Tags are the one- or two-word statements after a piece of dialogue that tell the reader who is speaking. The most common is ‘said’. ‘Asked’ and sometimes ‘answered’ are also acceptable. Anything else can draw attention to itself and, in fact, is telling the reader how the dialogue is spoken rather than showing them (as discussed in #4 below).

It’s important to remember proper punctuation. The dialogue tag is part of the sentence of dialogue, so a comma is inserted between the end of the dialogue and the tag. For example: “Your panties are wet,” she said. Of course, you would use a question mark in place of the comma if the sentence of dialogue is a question.

Facial expression or actions should not be used in as a dialogue tag. One cannot smile a line of dialogue.

Incorrect: “Welcome home,” she smiled.

Correct: “Welcome home.” She smiled.

Avoid using adverbs in tags. This is another form of telling. Instead, let the dialogue do all the work, or use body language.

Incorrect: “What is wrong with you?” she asked angrily.

Correct: “What the hell is wrong with you?” she asked.

Dialogue tags should be inserted as soon as possible if there is a long stretch of dialogue to be spoken. Don’t make the reader wait to find out who is talking.

Action tags can also identify who is speaking. Unlike dialogue tags, they can provide more information such as:

  • Breaking up long passages of dialogue.
  • Creating an image of setting or actions in the readers’ mind.
  • Giving information about the character’s emotions, especially if this contradicts her words. For example: “I’m fine.” Janet rubbed her hand over her swelling ankle.
  • Helping to pace the conversation by creating pauses in the dialogue.

Alternate between dialogue tags, action tags, and untagged dialogue. If it is evident to the reader who is speaking, then we don’t need tags. If more than two characters are talking, then the need for tags will increase. Be creative with your action tags, don’t bore the reader with repetitive actions.

3. Technical Vocabulary: The vagina monologue, or the pussy speaks

It goes without saying that using clinical words during a steamy sex scene would probably kill the mood. I have a reasonable vocabulary when it comes to synonyms for the various parts of the female (and male) anatomy. After all, I’ve spent many years in the company of soldiers.

I did some digging to see what words are most accepted when writing serious erotica — not just porn — and found a blog article by Bryn Donovan that I thought was a good start.

This next blog article doesn’t talk about body parts so much, but actions, feelings and naughty words in general as it pertains to writing the sexier parts of our genre. This one was written by Quinn Anderson, a published author of heterosexual and homosexual erotica. I’ve used it several times when I found myself stuck for a word that would work in a scene.

 4. The Golden Rule

The golden rule of writing fiction is: “Show, don’t tell.” What does this mean?

With telling you are giving the reader your perception and outcome. On the other hand, showing gives the reader enough of the details for them to draw their own opinions and conclusions.

Showing involves the reader in the story and keeps them interested. Telling is best saved for the lecture hall. The best way to ‘show’ the reader is to use the senses. Show them things they can taste, smell, hear, and so on. Use strong verbs and concrete nouns that will create a picture in the reader’s mind. Be specific in your detail.

For example, ‘She slogged to the bedroom’ expresses more to us than ‘She walked to the bedroom.’

Don’t give the reader your opinion of a character: ‘Janice was talented.’ Show Janice in a scene that will let the reader come to that conclusion on their own.

So how do we know if we are ‘telling?’ Here a few indicators you can look for that might suggest telling: 

  • Using adjectives, especially in combination with linking verbs, e.g., she was, looked, felt, appeared, seemed. This is especially true for abstract adjectives, e.g., beautiful, interesting, etc.

TELLING: Carol seemed to be turned on.

SHOWING: Carol crossed her legs, squeezing her thighs together, and licked her lips as she watched the young girl undress.

  • Using adverbs, especially in dialogue tags.

TELLING: “You are such a bitch,” she said angrily.

SHOWING: “You are such a bitch.” She slapped Amber’s face.

  • Using emotion words. Instead of naming emotions, use actions, visceral reactions, and body language to show us how the character is feeling.

TELLING: “I have never kissed a girl before,” April said, feeling embarrassed.

SHOWING: “I have never kissed a girl before.” April lowered her gaze to the floor as she felt the heat rise in her face.

  • Using dialogue tags other than ‘said’ to tell readers how a line of dialogue should be read. Instead, let the dialogue speak for itself.

TELLING: “Fuck me, Sally,” she exclaimed.

SHOWING: “Fuck me, Sally!”

  • Using ‘filters’. You’re telling readers what your character sees, hears, feels, etc., instead of letting readers experience it directly.

TELLING: Rita heard Amy suck in a breath when she touched her nipple.

SHOWING: Amy sucked in a breath as Rita touched her nipple.

There are times, however, when telling can be useful, such as in covering a period of time when nothing of importance happens. At the beginning of Chapter 8 of “A Girl Named Charlie,” for instance, a year has gone by since the end of the previous chapter. I use a couple of paragraphs to briefly inform the reader what went on during the interim.


Final Thoughts

There is so much more information out there when it comes to writing fiction, be it erotica or conventional, naughty or nice. I have touched on just a few things things that I feel are the bare minimum a would-be author needs to write an entertaining story well.

Maybe the most important tip is simply to read, read, and read some more.

You may also want to set a daily writing goal for yourself, even if it’s only twenty minutes a day. A fun website I found offers a large assortment of “generators” that can give you a random plot, setting, dialogue, and much more. It will provide you a starting point to scribble out whatever you want for your daily exercise.




Stephen King’s Toolbox –

Adverbs –

Telling and Showing and POV –



Creative Writing 101 by Ali Hale

All Write – Fiction Advice by AJ Humpage

Fiction Writer’s Mentor by Tracy Culleton


No comments on Rules for Writing: Naughty or Nice

  1. This is great, Amanda Lynn! Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

    I’ll admit that I certainly don’t always follow all the ‘rules’ you’ve listed, and I’m not sure I even agree with some of them. Like you, I have an appreciation for adverbs and use them regularly. After all, this is descriptive writing we’re talking about here, not legalese, hee-hee. And I also have a fondness for using facial expressions in dialogue tags. Maybe the experts will say that’s wrong, but it works for me, so I’ll just keep on doing it. 😉

  2. Enjayem says:

    Wonderful writing resource!
    I lead a Creative Writing class at University of the 3rd Age…most of my “class” are over 65, indeed some of my ladies approach 80. I don’t think a link would be appropriate, but then you never really know. What I really need to do is show them I’m not the only one to bang on about show don’t tell, avoid pasive case, speech markers and every single thing you wrote.
    There has to be a way.

  3. Quinlan says:

    That Lucy V Morgan link doesn’t work for me. It just times out.

  4. Purple Les says:

    I love all the writing tips on this site. I am learning all the time, and trying to do better each time.
    Thanks Amanda Lynn, and Naughty Mommy, Jetboy and my editor Cheryl for showing me the light, and the right way.

  5. Sammy says:

    Building on what NM said, I would emphasize that much of King’s advice, in particular the Do-Don’ts, is in contradiction to the practice and work of many of the world’s great writers (company in which I would not include Stephen King), like Flaubert, who would labour for years on a single story (or days on a single sentence) in search of le mot juste (“the right word”), or Nabokov, for whom the very point of reading itself was the shiver along the shoulders that resulted involuntarily from a certain kind of beauty in prose.

    As a counter of sorts, I would offer Brooks Landon’s Building Great Sentences, which among its many virtues argues that evidence of work in word selection and sentence structure is one of a writer’s most valuable gifts. He also does literature a great service by stressing that Hemingway’s reputation for “short and simple” is misleading at best and comes at the expense of some of the man’s best work.

    • Matthew says:

      The right word, though, is usually the most precise one (the right sense or nuance) and not about obscurity or “four dollar words.”

      Adverbs should be used sparingly because they lose their meaning when used for every verb or adjective.

      • Sammy says:

        You are correct. Thesaurusizin’ per se does not good writing make (I bet you wouldn’t even find “thesaurusize” in most of ’em! ;]). Flaubert was never ornate for the sake of it (Nabokov, on the other hand…). But impulse and precision are opposed far more often than not.

        It’s also important to remember King’s own reading list in On Writing includes a number of authors who disregard “standard” writing tips with glee and will have even the most seasoned reader reaching for the dictionary (Cormac McCarthy, Don Delillo, Stanley Elkin).

  6. Matthew says:

    On Writing is a great book and should be followed by most writers who think they know what they’re doing (but really don’t).

  7. JetBoy says:

    Wow, I sometimes break many of these rules. Then again, I’m entirely self-taught (never took a writing class in my life), and ought to be permitted an occasional spot of ignorance.

    The best basic advice for just about any writer is: keep striving to do what you do better, and don’t ever assume you know it all. Your writing skill should always be a work in progress.

  8. Cheryl says:

    Amanda Lynn, this is a wonderful article! Still, we should remember that a good writer knows when to break the “rules” for what is thought to be “good writing.” Thank you so much for preparing this!

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