If you’re a fan of the sexy stories in Peaches Magazine and erotic romance in general then chances are your story will have some sexy scenes. Although these are great fun to write, they can also be notoriously difficult, even for otherwise bestselling authors. If you don’t believe me. . .
How Not To Do It: The Bad Sex Award
Every year in the UK the Literary Review gives out its Bad Sex in Fiction award. To give you a few examples, here are a few (anonymous) snippets from winners and runners-up in recent years:
I was immersed in the slush of her moist meat.
‘She began to gasp. “Oh dear, oh my dear, oh my dear dear God, oh sugar!”’
The bed shook and bounced and walked tiny fractions across the moving floor.
His manhood had swelled to its fullness and strove for release.
A freshly made ear and a freshly made vagina look very much alike.
. . . these sorts of gyrations and five-sense choreographies. . .
Believe it or not these phrases are all from best-selling authors of literary, romance, thriller and mystery fiction.
So. . . how do you write erotica well? Well, I don’t pretend to be an expert, and one person’s sexy scene is another person’s turn-off, but as a full time writer of erotic romance I’m happy to share some of the tips I’ve learnt along the way. Below are a few extracts from my forthcoming writing guide, Passionate Plots, to help you along the way.
Erotic Language and Creating Your Own Glossary
One of the hardest problems for writers wrestling with erotic scenes, especially those fairly new to this, is what to call things. Specifically, body parts. Personally I prefer to call a spade a spade. Or a cock, a cock. Being direct is certainly preferable to using euphemisms such as “his manhood” (though these may have a place in historical settings where the characters would have used those terms) or overly anatomical terms like frenulum. Most readers will be turned off or in fits of giggles if you start talking about his “manly weapon” or the “delicate, dewy petals of her lady garden.”
Having said that, words like “cock” and “pussy” may seem too pornographic or even offensive to the reader. Which leaves the writer in a bit of a bind. There are two solutions. First, use words that are direct but not too explicit or anatomical, such as:
- Shaft (penis)
- Head (of penis)
- Sac (testicles)
- Cleft (vagina or vulva)
- Nub (clitoris)
Use these words in a direct manner without adding flowery adjectives–so no “tumescent shafts” or “pearly nubs”-and you can’t go too far wrong. If you don’t like these words, find some of your own. Keep a little notebook to build up your own erotic vocabulary, and you’ll soon have a list of words and phrases to use when you want to change the heat levels or substitute one word for another simply to avoid repetition. “Shaft” instead of “cock,” for example.
There’s also another approach. Don’t name the genitals at all. Consider the sentence, “He slid inside her, masking her gasp.” It’s explicit, to the point, and quite sexy. Yet no names have been used, because we don’t need them. We know exactly what he is sliding where. Similar expressions would be:
- He entered her
- She rode his body
- She caressed his length
- He pushed his fingers into her slowly
- As he tasted her, he looked up wickedly from between her thighs
Try some phrases of your own, note how other authors do it, and record the phrases you like. Then have a go at writing a few sentences with each. You’ll have the outline of a steamy scene before you know it.
A common complaint about unsatisfactory erotic scenes is that they either read too much like a biology textbook, or that they describe the characters’ feelings without any details of what they are actually doing. Adding sensual detail can transform and add heat to both of these approaches. Mention how soft her skin is, how rough his hands feel, how he tastes, how she smells. . . even a few details here and there can make a difference.
Sensuality doesn’t just apply to what the characters are doing to each other. You can also add sensory detail to what’s going on around them to add to the eroticism of the scene. If they’re having sex outside in the sun, for example, make use of the heat on their skin, the smell of fresh cut grass and the bright blue of the sky. If they’re in the shower, how does that water feel across their bodies? If your characters are in bed, the smell of clean linen or the feel of crisp sheets all add to the scene. Bring all of the five senses into play.
Writing Exercise: Using the Five Senses
- The curve of a strong buttock
- Long hair falling down a back
- Moisture on skin
- Sparkling eyes
- Smooth lines
- The intricate patterns of fishnet against skin
- Fresh flowers
- The tang of sweat
- Clean linens
- Engine oil
- Hot asphalt
- Baking bread
- Melted chocolate
- Wine in a lover’s mouth
- A low growl or soft moan from a lover
- Skin brushing skin
- A deep throbbing bass
- Thunder in the distance
- Silk sheets
- Rough calloused palms
- A tongue-tip
- Sun, wind or rain on skin
- A wool rug
Write a few sentences using some of the above sense details for an erotic scene involving a couple making love in a shower. Then try again for a couple indulging in hard core BDSM play. Sensuality doesn’t necessarily mean “soft.” Whatever your characters are getting up to, give your reader a glimpse of what they are seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting and smelling and you will breathe life into your erotic encounters.
This article first appeared at www.peachesmag.com and is taken from my first writing guide ‘Passionate Plots’.