How To Write Erotica With All Your Senses
Fellow writers of all things erotic: we’re in the business of being sensual, but today I don’t mean that in the smexy- sexy way we usually do. I’m talking about including all the various senses in your sex scenes. It sounds pretty simple and kind of obvious but believe you me it isn’t as straightforward as it looks.
How many times have you read a story that looks basically like this:
He said this then she did that and they wiggled it all about and then they came and it was good.
I’ve read many of them, well, I’ve read a few paragraphs of stories like this it is impossible to get much further. It illustrates how crucial engaging the reader’s senses can be. I’m going to share some advice on how to do this, some senses are easier to engage than others but if you can get a good balance you’ll be writing stories that will keep people coming back for more.
This, in theory, is probably one of the most straight forward senses to convey. It’s very simple, just think Catchphrase – Just say what you see, say what you see.
The challenge with including visual information is how much detail to go into. If your character has crash landed on a new planet or is enjoying a walk in the countryside or sightseeing in a city then it seems right to include details about what they’re seeing as it’s integral to their experience. However, if your hero is going to grab something from the fridge you probably don’t need to list the colour, height, size and knob design of said refrigerator.
Specifically within a sex scene you can use the visual to really turn your reader on. Drinking in hairy chests, ample bosoms, jade green eyes, that cute little lop-sided smile or ink emblazoned skin will really bring your characters to life. Beware of just writing out a list of attributes though, definitely no bra sizes or precise penis lengths. For one, unless there’s some kind of measuring implement about how are you going to know? Most people can’t tell the size of a boob or a dick at a glance. It also comes across as a bit shallow. It’s much better to pepper your text with physical descriptions than having them all at once, it’s more natural that way.
We’re not just talking about dialogue here. It’s not just the words themselves, it’s how those words are spoken. Is the voice deep? Is it squeaky or smooth, raspy or treacled? You can convey a lot of meaning by how words are said.
“Fifteen pounds, that’s not bad.” He said.
“Fifteen pounds,” he squeaked, “that’s not bad!”
Those two sentences convey two very different reactions so when you’re writing down dialogue remember the importance of how that sounds. Try to read any dialogue out loud at some point in the writing process, as you write or as you edit. If you struggle to read your words or they don’t sound natural, you need to edit it. You’ll also be able to work out where you whisper or shout, where you speed up speech or slow it down, where you feel your character might stutter or pause. All these things will make your dialogue more realistic.
Human speech is not the only sound you’ll want to convey. You can use the bleating of sheep, the tweeting of birds, the rumble of traffic or the whine of plane engines to help set the scene. The hitch of breath, the low rolling groan, the thwack of leather on buttock will add texture to sex scenes but you don’t need every ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ transcribed as there’s a point where you just sound repetitive. Only you can decide this level, it’s another great reason to read your stories out loud when you’re editing to make sure you’re not moaning too much.
Quite often sex involves touching. Even cyber or phone sex will probably include one or multiple characters touching themselves. It’s integral in the build up to sex too. You know what it’s like when you fancy someone and you want them to know, you find interesting excuses to touch them, brushing lint off the shoulder of his shirt, tucking the label back in to the back of her t-shirt or a simple arm stroke when you want attention.
The art of capturing touch on paper isn’t just stating a fact it’s connecting a sensation and maybe an emotion to that touch. Here’s an example from my latest novella Something Brave:
She wanted another orgasm. She wanted to come again, and finally she was convinced she could as she shook and shuddered with every lap of his tongue against her. Each new flick sent tingles of pleasure shooting up her spine and along her extremities, bathing her whole body in bliss. Even the sharp sting of the freezing glass on her punished arse contributed to the growing ecstasy. Every time she pushed her pubis forward, Samuel would press her back, the cold sting making her gasp. The contrast of the hot prickle in her cheeks and the chilly window thrilled her.
Felicity didn’t want it to stop, but the pleasure grew and the there was no way she could stop it. Each lick, each flick of his tongue combined with the kiss of his lips, the suction of his mouth and the tickle of his beard took her ever closer to an inevitable ending.
How do you know how it feels? Use personal experience. You might not have felt cold glass sexually but I’m sure you’ve felt it in your everyday life. You can always try things out on yourself although clearly be sensible there. I don’t want anyone going to A&E with items lodged in intimate places and blaming me for it. Thanks.
How much is too much? Repetition can be an effective tool but beware of too many strokes or spanks or flicks of hair or—thinking of a certain novel about shades of grey—biting of lips as it can become seriously distracting. If you pick up on it as you’re reading back you’ve probably over used it, that’s a good rule of thumb.
Another great tool for escalating tension is withholding touch. It’s great to hold back, let the tension build, don’t give in to your character’s desire too quickly. Make them wait, make them yearn for it and describe that yearning. That’s what’ll get people squirming in their chair as they read.
This is one of my favourite senses. I’ve written two novellas dominated by this sense– Spiced Vanilla and Scentsual. It’s a particularly tricky one to use because what do things smell like? Capturing that is difficult. We all know what an orange smells like but how do you describe that? Zesty, sharp, zingy, fresh are all adjectives you could use but each one will conjure a different image to the reader.
They say the sense of smell is the most evocative. It’s the one that goes straight to your memory. Every time I make hotpot, a simple strew of minced beef, potatoes and carrots, I’m transported back to my Nanna’s kitchen and the vat she’d cook up on a Saturday for our tea.
Use smell to stir character’s memories, it’s something we all can relate too. This is particularly useful when writing about fetishes. Leather, latex, wax, for example, have unmistakeable scents that can be used as a short cut to arousal. It can also provide the opportunity to enrich your character’s personality and back story. Unlock a memory and let your character show why they’re the way they are. A reader will want to know all those little details. I know I do. When I’m falling for a hot guy in the book I’m reading, I want to know all about him, his history as well as his present.
This is probably the most challenging sense to capture. Have you seen City of Angels? Well, Seth (the angel) is talking to Maggie about why he likes Ernest Hemmingway’s books – he always talks about how things taste. And he asks her to describe how a pear tastes because he doesn’t know:
“Sweet, juicy, soft on your tongue, grainy like a sugary sand that dissolves in your mouth.”
It’s not easy to describe the taste of something because we don’t often have to do it. It’s probably easiest when describing food, we live in a world filled with cooking programmes and the language of food is well known so describing peppery rocket or a sharp cheddar is second nature to many of us.
It’s when you need to describe the flavour of sweat, of kisses, of cum that it becomes more challenging. Look at comparing it to a well-known flavour. It’s not going to always taste the same. Bodily fluids will change depending on many factors so there’s definitely scope to vary your description. Yeah, male ejaculate may taste salty but sometimes it can be sweet, don’t just settle for the clichéd association. Try and capture something a little different.
Although if you tell your readers his cum tastes like bleach don’t expect them to be very impressed. That doesn’t sound awfully attractive or healthy come to that.
You need a balance of all the senses to round out a story. Don’t worry about engaging every sense in every scene. Focus in on the ones that feel most important for you but don’t forget about the others too. Sometimes you can combine them for the maximum effect. Taste and touch or sight and sound integrate well but you can mix and match them however you like.
If you’re not sure how to add in sensory information to your work simply ask yourself these questions:
What can be heard? Is it relevant? Will it add to the story?
What can be seen? What is important to the action, what is background that doesn’t need to be explained?
Is there anything to taste?
What are the characters touching, what is touching them? Do they like it? How do they respond?
What can be smelt? Is it strong or subtle?
Enjoy writing sensual erotica. Yes, that is me giving you an excuse to eat chocolate, wear your furriest pyjamas, listen to your favourite, cheesiest music and indulge all your senses as you write.