Even though sex is the driving force of life (someone once said that it’s hereditary: if your parents didn’t have sex, you won’t either), if you were to go through the books in your house, you’d rarely stumble upon a few pages of erotic fiction. Nabokov, Miller, or maybe Updike, Anaïs Nin or Catherine Millet.
Maybe it’s because erotica is rarely taken seriously by writers, or perhaps intelligent, well-written erotica is more difficult to write than most people would think.
The most important aspect of writing about sex is to go beyond the superficial, and to focus on the aspects that truly matter. Here are some rules on writing erotic fiction:
1. Respect The Genre. Respect The Reader
Writing about sex is as important as anything else you’d write. Treat them with respect.
2. Spare The Rod
The throbbing rod, that is, and all other coy euphemisms for body parts. Please don’t tell me about our hero’s member, or manhood, or hard hot tool or battering ram. Likewise, don’t refer to our heroine’s mound or tunnel or the center of her womanhood.
3. Dispense With Cliches
Don’t say that he pounded her like a jackhammer, or that she lay back, spent. Tell me something I haven’t heard before. Make me think about something that wouldn’t occur to me otherwise.
4. Less Is More
Stay away from blow-by-blow descriptions of sex acts. The mechanics aren’t what’s intriguing. The emotional dynamics between people are intriguing.
5. Keep It Real
Two flawlessly beautiful people having ecstatic sex is just about the least interesting thing I can think of. We are drawn to each other’s darkness, strangeness, sadness, and vulnerability. A bit of frustration goes a long way.
6. Draw On All Five Senses When You Write A Sex Scene
The curve of a hip. The scent of leather. The taste of boot polish. The sound of rain on the roof. The texture of the grass in a secluded field. A compelling fantasy demands a certain immediacy. Put the reader where your characters are.
7. Hone Your Dialogue
…and expect it to carry the scene. Again, the old in-out is not compelling in itself. What is the fantasy these lovers are enacting? What is the power dynamic between them? What secrets, longings, grudges, insecurities, memories are in play here?
8. Avoid The Overwrought
I believe that the more extreme the scene, the more restrained the language should be. Both The Story of O and Nine and a Half Weeks bring a straightforward, understated narrative style to an outlandish tale and — I believe — take on potency and credibility for having done so.
9. Write Your Own Fantasy. Make It Authentic
If I’m working on a sex scene and I’m not turned on, I know it probably isn’t very effective. If you’re not hot and bothered while writing, chances are good that ultimately the reader won’t be either. Conversely, if you can bring yourself to write what genuinely excites you, no matter how strange or mortifying, readers are usually affected in turn. You can’t fake this. And you can’t play it safe. You have to be brave.