I feel the work of an erotica writer (or call it smut or porn too, if you wish–I’m fine with them all) can sometimes be analogous to that of a film composer.
Often the writer creates a story completely out of his imagination and it is illustrated by an artist-rendered picture or a photograph. In that case, the illustration brings a visual dimension that the story can only suggest. But on other occasions, the writer is called upon to provide amplification for photographs, in the “girl copy” that accompanies pictures. The words bring a literary dimension that the pictures can only suggest, just as good film music brings extra dimensions to cinematic images. Soundtracks for movies use music and audio effects, and “literary soundtracks” for images use words to evoke emotions and fantasies.
Here are two examples of “girl copy” I wrote for a pictorial commissioned by me when I was editing Leg World. I called the model “Sandra Scarlett”–as far as I knew, she hadn’t picked a nom de porn, so I gave her one. The photos were shot by noted erotic photographer Jana Krenova.
The pictures of Sandra were taken for the October 2008 issue of Leg World, and Jana also shot Sandra for the cover (which you can see in my archives here.) Ms. Krenova did many terrific pictorials for me at Leg World and for Dian Hanson when she edited Leg Show. You can see more of Jana’s work on her own site, BestLegShow.com.
I am a very big fan of classic film music, by composers such as Bernard Herrmann, Miklos Rosza, Alfred Newman, Jerome Moross, Franz Waxman, Erich Korngold, and Elmer Bernstein. I often listen to their music when I work, as well as to ragtime, house music, Big Band, and classical piano and symphonies.
Check out one of my favorite pieces of film music here, the opening credits from David and Bathsheba, setting the scene for a tale of exotic and dangerous Biblical romance. See this excellent movie if you have the opportunity.
Now, I recently had the pleasant experience of writing a story to accompany a picture by the noted British fetish artist Sardax on his site The Femdom Art of Sardax here. I used various details in the picture to imagine a story around it which was entitled “The Pit.”
A woman counting money…a barefoot woman reading…the color of a domineering woman’s blouse…my story took off from these things to imagine a sensual, psychological, and emotional experience for the man in the center of picture, in awe over the feet of the woman sitting above him.
One thing I like about Sardax’s work is that his mastery of expression and detail gives his work a narrative quality that is very appealing to a writer’s mind.
There are more than a few pictures on his site that have written accompaniments, these “literary soundtracks” which accentuate and bring extra psychological and emotional components to the images. Most of his pictures don’t have words, but the ones that do have some excellent and evocative prose.
It’s amazing how just a few lines or paragraphs underneath some of his pictures really expand on the already powerful fantasies he depicts through his skills with drawing and color alone. One of my favorites is “Lucky Man”:
In the copy that accompanies the picture, the young wife expresses her dissatisfaction with her older husband, and lays out a “contract” with five items which pretty much encase him in a cocoon of total slavery to her. She emphasizes:
“I am in charge. Your role in this relationship from now on is to obey me, and work to make my life easy and pleasant. Is that understood? Do you accept these rules?”
He is more than happy to acquiesce and feels lucky to do so, as the brief but potent story elaborates the “contract” point for point.
Sardax recently completed a series of gorgeous pictures illustrating the early femdom novel Venus in Furs, and they are some of his most dramatic and striking images. They are now on his site.
I hope to write more for Sardax, and of course will let you know here if and when I do.
Getting back to the idea of an erotica writer providing a “soundtrack,” one of my happiest accomplishments when I wrote porn screenplays from the 1980s through the early 2000s was to suggest the use of an actual musical soundtrack, of Rossini’s overture for The Thieving Magpie as the score for an X-rated movie I scripted in 1988, The Bitches of Westwood. The director, Ron Sullivan aka “Henri Pachard,” liked my idea and we had ourselves a very jaunty soundtrack which perfectly accompanied this porn take-off of the Jack Nicholson/Michelle Pfeiffer movie The Witches of Eastwick.
I think the writer Anthony Burgess, most famous for A Clockwork Orange, said that if he weren’t a writer, he would have liked to be a film composer. I feel the same way sometimes (although being a film director is even more appealing and was my original career “goal”). Anyway, give a listen to The Thieving Magpie overture here on You Tube and imagine it as accompaniment for a hardcore sex comedy!
(Well, holy shit. As I went to You Tube to find the music, I discovered that Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, the 1970 movie, used it too. That was a film I hated for its violence when I saw it and never watched again, but I wonder if after that the first time of hearing The Thieving Magpie it perhaps nestled in my subconscious for years after…until it seemed to me the perfect accompaniment for my own take on, shall we say, rambunctious devilish behavior?)
In any case, music has always influenced my work, whether overtly or subconsciously. When I worked for GCR Publications in the 1980s, I used to sit in my office and sometimes listen to Big Band music as I assembled issues of Cheeks, Girls Over 40, Stag, or For Adults Only. One of the associate editors said he always thought that the Benny Goodman number “Goodbye” (composed by Gordon Jenkins) well expressed my personality. Either that’s true, or I played it so many times in my office that it became indistinguishable from who I was. But my personality did partake then, and still partakes, of some of the melancholy embodied in the tune, which can be found here in a recording on You Tube.
And this is me around the time I was always listening to “Goodbye,” playing dress-up at home in the “film noir” mode:
Maybe I’m being a little harsh on myself. I shouldn’t call it “film noir dress-up” because I had a lot of vintage clothes (still have some of them, in fact) and donned them often, not as “costumes” but as my regular wear. In many ways, “noir” is the way I look at the world…as a place where people, even with free will, are too often puppets in the hands of destiny…where men are subject to the wiles of femmes fatale (truly)…and sometimes I call myself a “film noir” kinda guy. Anyway, this picture was taken in the 1980s when I lived in a Times Square walk-up where many years earlier in the 1950s prominent burlesque agents actually had their offices. (I discovered this recently by looking at the agency ads in old burlesque trade magazines and seeing the address where I used to live.) So it is very possible that peelers like Tempest Storm or Jennie Lee, or models like Bettie Page, at one time or other crossed the threshold of the very same apartment I dwelled in thirty years later! No big deal, just strikes me as kinda cool.
The images of Sandra Scarlett from Leg World October 2008 courtesy of Magna Publishing Group Inc. and Jana Krenova.
The use of “The Pit” and “Lucky man” pictures are courtesy of Sardax.