In general, the sex scenes in your story should naturally arise from the character’s interaction with each other. If they don’t then your story will feel clumsy or as though the erotic scenes were added solely for titillation and sales.
Beware of too much Author Appeal – your kinks and fetishes will turn you on, but they may alienate or disgust your readers.
1. Think like a movie director
You may not be directing the scene to a bank of burly cameramen and a crew of arc lights, but you do want to make sure your description is vivid and three-dimensional. If you err on the side of too much detail, you risk losing the reader’s interest. This is especially true for sex scenes.
You need to avoid the Scylla of too much plumbing – describing what’s happening to someone’s earlobe or their thirteen-inch member doesn’t arouse readers, unless you’re writing pornography. Equally, don’t drift into the Charybdis of sex without an emotional foundation.
Remember, your protagonists aren’t just getting naked to titillate the audience, they’re doing it to move the story forward. They have to come out of a sex scene feeling like they’ve had an amazing adventure, understood one another better or accomplished their goal. And, if they don’t, you need to reconsider whether the scene has a purpose other than titillation. (Erotica has this purpose ingrained in its very DNA). So don’t just write sex for the sake of it unless your plot calls for it.
2. Get inside the character’s head
Sex scenes are a bit different to other parts of your book, and they’ll have their own rhythm to them. But, don’t forget that a sex scene should still serve the story in some way – whether it drives the plot forward or reveals something about one of your characters.
Often, sex scenes can be seen as the most intimate part of your writing and it’s easy to fall back on clunky descriptions that detract from the sensuality of the scene. Describing what a character’s arms look like, or how much their earlobes are stretched over isn’t going to get your reader’s pulse racing.
Don’t use sex scenes as an opportunity to objectify women or men – that will only turn readers off your book. Instead, try and focus on the character’s wants and needs – how their desire to be with their partner satisfies them. Incorporating sensory details, such as the feel of silk against bare skin or the brush of fingers across a bare torso can heighten the anticipation and create a sense of tension in your scene.
3. Think about the setting
In erotica, characters are often drawn together by sexual attraction that builds until it reaches an unforgettable climax. The best erotic authors build that tension with the world they create and the setting of your scene. If your characters are having sex in the back of a clunker, for example, you won’t have much to work with in terms of creating an exciting scene.
On the other hand, describing a character’s defined muscles beneath their lustrous skin in detail can add an extra element of sensuality to your scene. It’s important to keep the details realistic and not overdo them though. That can make your scene feel fake and ruins the impact it’s supposed to have.
It’s also important to remember that sex scenes should still be integral to your story and drive the plot in some way. A satisfying wind down and resolution at the end will leave your readers wanting more. This can be difficult but you can use pacing and callbacks to achieve this in your sex scene. The key is to focus on the parts that are most important to your story.
4. Turn on the sensuality
A common mistake authors make in erotic scenes is using colorful descriptions of physical realities that stray too far from what actually happens. This can annoy rather than excite the reader. Describing what is in someone’s earlobe, for example, isn’t going to get the heart racing.
Instead, the writer can use a combination of words and imagery to convey the sensuality of a scene. It’s not about word porn, but it is about conveying the sense of heat, hunger, desire, and excitement of a sexual experience.
The language used should also be appropriate for the story and the readers. For instance, a steamy romance novel written in the 1990s can use words like ‘cock’ and ‘cunt’, but these words are not going to work for a modern, mainstream erotic novel. This is why it is important to research the genre before writing a book. It is also why reading other books in the genre is essential to finding out what works and what doesn’t. Ultimately, the sexy scenes in a novel should be doing something to develop the characters or move the plot forward.
5. Make it dramatic
A major mistake many beginning writers make is thinking erotic scenes are just about sex. Sex is an emotional exchange, not a one-dimensional hormonal response. So, although lust plays an important role in a sex scene, simply describing the physical sensations isn’t enough to turn your readers on.
Rather, you need to make the scene dramatic, bringing the reader on the same journey the characters are taking. Add a sense of danger, or surprise and excitement. For example, instead of simply describing their muscles as being well-defined and luscious, you could also add the sound of them flexing their biceps.
Don’t overdo it with the drama, though, or your pacing will suffer. It’s usually best to start a sex scene with foreplay, and then have the characters build up to the sexual climax. That way, you have time to build up the tension, and you can then end the scene on a high note – think fireworks or intense orgasms that leave your characters gasping for breath. Then, your readers will want more! That’s the goal, after all.