I started this collection with one of my very favourite fanfiction-specific genres to write. (Hurt/Comfort.) I’m continuing it with one that I rarely write – not necessarily because I don’t like it, but honestly because once I begin I tend to fail in the execution.
PWP is a pretty simple concept – it stands for Plot? What Plot? and is basically used to signify this story was written for the smut it contains. (I sometimes see the acronym broken down as Porn Without Plot as well.) A PWP story is one that was written, generally, with no other goal than to show two (or more) characters having sex. (Possibly incorporating various kinks.)
Where I generally fail is not at writing smut, but at writing smut with no plot or background story. I don’t really mind – personally I find stories with plot/background included far more interesting than straight-up PWPs the majority of the time – but that’s typically how it works for me. I don’t really try to write PWP stories any more. When I did it was typically in my ‘you should write what everyone expects’ phase. (Oh, the bumpy road of being a baby writer. A journey I’ve talked about a little here.)
This is one of those genres that is not only fanfiction-specific, but is a bit harder to see amidst original works. Unless you venture into the realms of short (and/or free) fiction on Kindle, anyway. . .
Though I don’t tend to think of it that way when I am reading (perhaps because unlike hurt/comfort and some others, this is not a genre I write myself frequently) where PWP might fit in a little better in novels is in chapters or scenes, rather than whole stories. (A little like hurt/comfort, which can fit into small arcs in a larger story.)
It can sometimes be tricky to pick out at a glance, but as a reader it seems to me that there is a definite difference between roaming into smut that is plot-relevant, and when it is just ‘break for porn before more action’. Not that the latter option is bad necessarily (although when overused it can become tiresome) and I’ve read novels that used it well, even those outside the romance genre where it might more expected.
PWP stories or scenes can be a nice pause in headlong action – something engaging (if done well) that still allows a reader to catch their breath before being plunged into the next plot point as tension heightens once more. It can be a very understandable (and needed) ’break’ or distraction for the characters in the middle of tense stories as well.
Though admittedly sometimes I will skim (or even skip) PWP scenes (as opposed to more plot-driven smut scenes) depending on my mood. Personally, I tend to do this either when the device has been overused and/or done clumsily (I’m bored of watching these characters fuck; I’m bored of watching the same scene unfold with the names swapped around) or when the drama is so engaging that screw the tension, I don’t want a break I want to know what happens! NOW!
That also likely has something to do with my sexuality – I’m grey-asexual, and sometimes, especially without a more story-driven or emotional component, I am really just bored rather than engaged by reading sex scenes. (I’ve talked about sexuality in fiction from an asexual – my – perspective a little before, and at some point I’ll probably write an asexual perspective on sex in fiction, particularly writing it, as well.)
Something I’ve learned from watching these stories happen (especially in kinkmemes) and the responses to them in fandom (in many fandoms) is that everyone’s tastes and tolerances differ on PWPs, or on PWP intermissions in larger works. There is no universal ‘good’ balance to figure out, or even much of a range to stay within – just what works for you and your story.