Friday, April 16, 2010


How about a bit of in-the-moment, live-action, never before seen story brainstorming? We authors do it all the time, receive the kernel from our muse and start to nurture the damn thing until it blooms into a full blown story. Just yesterday sitting in the parking lot of Dunkin Donuts (No, I was not bribing my muse with sweets. I was bribing my son, thank you.) a story setting descended on my poor unprepared mind. The circus. Do you like the circus? Ironically, I never much did as a child. I think it made me nervous. And the sensory overload blew my circuits. Of course, as an adult, I realize that's part of the point and leaves great riches to mine in potential story wealth. As a grown-up I saw Cirque du Soleil and formed an instant addiction to those shows. The blatant sensuality of it blew me away. How perfect for erotic romance.

The circus, even the more typical one, has so much: wild animals, acrobatic feats of strength and physical self-discipline, costumes and masks, daring, magic, the embracing of the bizarre, family troupes with long traditions and histories. So tell me, does the circus do it for you? Is it exotic or just a sensory turn-off with its screaming children, loud lights and music and copious amounts of sugar? I admit I've read a couple books recently that may have brought this setting to mind. Do you have a favorite book, erotic or otherwise, that used this backdrop for character and story?

With this recent muse-provided story environment I thought I'd give myself a writing challenge. Since I am perpetually in need of work on my SHORT story writing (I'm super plus length novels all the way, my dears) I'm going to ask you, my lovely readers, to come up with some story variables for me to use to write a stand-alone erotic romance circus scene. Later, I'll post the scene on this blog. I won't promise it for my very next blog post, but I'll try my best. So here's where you get to decide if it's Mr. White, in the library, with the candlestick, up against the wall with Mr. Brown topping him, or otherwise. Oooh, maybe there can be a whole series of erotic Choose Your Own Adventure novels? Do you remember those?

Throw out some variables to me and I will play --m/f, m/m, m/m/f --- an acrobat, the knife thrower, a clown, the ringmaster, a trapeze artist, the animal trainer, the tight rope walker etc... --- under the big top, in a side show car, in the bus of the caravan, inside the animal cages etc... --- a modern day circus, a circus in a fantasy or futuristic setting etc... And anything else you can think of. I'll pick and choose suggestions and then string them together as part of the story.

Let's see what happens. Any suggestions appreciated.


Cara McKenna said...

Ooh, erotic Mad Libs, is it? "The [circus occupation] and the [another circus occupation] went to the lion cage and [erotic verb]ed each other with the whip and chair until the ringmaster [verb]ed them."

I've never read an erotica set in a circus, nor a romance. The wonderful novel Geek Love by Katherine Dunn has a circus-ish backdrop, and I read John Irving's A Son of the Circus a zillion years ago. Water for Elephants is on my to-read list but I haven't cracked it yet.

My absolute favorite semi-circus-related diversion, which is not a book, is the tragically short-lived HBO series Carnivale. If you haven't yet, watch it watch it watch it!

The appeal of the circus for me isn't anything erotic, I'm afraid. I'm drawn to it by the seediness and potential scandal, the desperation of the patrons and performers, the leeriness and exploitation of it. But I'm definitely not thinking of a modern circus—20s and Depression Era for me, all the way. Drearily-ever-after for gloomy old Cara!

But I can certainly brainstorm some aspects of the circus that might translate well to erotica…for one there's a lot of cages, chains, whips, people in costume issuing commands, "freaks" in bondage, flexible bodies, close quarters with eccentric characters, wide-eyed voyeurs gawking at the underbelly of diversion…oops, I went all dark and glib and again!

This area's ripe for erotica, Michelle! Definitely check out Carnivale if you haven't, even if it isn't the right era or the right facet of circus/carnival life. The characters are fascinating.

Wynter Daniels said...

I seem to remember an O Henry story set at the circus, but nothing in the way of romance or ero romance. I like the animal trainer setting under the big top. Whips and all.

Michelle Polaris said...

Cara--You would obviously be a fantastic creator for an erotic mad libs series. Get to work on that pronto. I see big money in the venture. I'm going to hope that my short comes up a bit less blocky, however.

And since I am all about netflix at the moment, I will be hunting down Carnivale asap.

Wynter--One vote for animal trainer and big top noted. I'm all for whips though not usually on animals.

I highly recommend (for a kick-ass erotic romance fantasy series with circus related setting and characters) the second and third books of Denise Rossetti's Pheonix Rising series called Tailspin and Strongman. Of course you're going to have to read the first which isn't circus-related but is also excellent.

I'm also in the middle of Lilith Saintcrow's Flesh Circus if you're into urban fantasy and want a dark, twisted taste of Hell's circus. Cheery, I know.

Thanks for the comments.

Jina Bacarr said...

Okay, Michelle, here's a circus scenario for you:

Three colorful clowns in full makeup and costume (m/f/m) chase after each other in the House of Mirrors--

Male grabs the female, makes love to her while the other male watches them in the neverending mirrors. Everywhere he turns all he finds is another mirror...

He's desperate to find them so he can join the fun...

Michelle Polaris said...

Jina--What a great idea! You already have most of the story told yourself. You should write it. But if you choose not to I know I can mine part of this treasure for my story. Or we can both write our versions and compare in the end (LOL).

Dalton Diaz said...

Never been a big fan, either. It's always interesting, then quickly gets overwhelming with the summer heat in tents with too many people and animals.

I love the funhouse idea! Swinging together on a trapeze would work, too, especially when they can hang from all angles. Yeah, I don't think I'd mind the heat from that one!

Denise Rossetti said...

Hi Michelle,

Just couldn't resist! Like you I thought Cirque du Soleil was incredibly erotic, such magnificent bodies doing jaw-droppingly amazing things. No to mention the makeup and costumes. I actually do imagine Griff (from Strongman) as a Cirque du Soleil performer.

The other thing I really liked about the Ten Nations Fair (which is like a circus and traveling exhibition combined) is how people live their lives on the move. As a confirmed homebody, I was fascinated by the lives of the Travelers, with their caravan homes.

And I love, LOVE Jina's idea with the endless mirrors! *bwg* Do that one, do that one! *bouncing*


Michelle Polaris said...

Jina and I have agreed to take up the challenge together. She's working on a funhouse mirror story and I'll write my own version. Our blogs with pieces of our stories will start appearing mid May. Thank you so much for all the inspiration.

Jina Bacarr said...

Thank you, Michelle, for setting this in motion! I'm enjoying coming up with my story...

I will post Episode One of what I'm calling my "Naughty House of Mirrors" on Wednesday, May 19th.