Friday, February 12, 2010

Fiction Focus Friday: Between the Sheets.

Yesterday, I made you go search for an article quoting moi, among some best-selling, big name authors about writing sex scenes.

Today, I’m going to share with you some words of sex scene wisdom from five other erotica writers: Nyki Blatchley (Kaydana the Sorceress series and others ), Annie Nicholas(Angler, Book One: Bait), Isobael Lui  (Moonlight and Magick: Where magick dances in the moonlight and wild things come to play...) , Emly Forrest (Last Resort)  and Lauren Gallagher. I’ve color-coded their responses; I was going to pick and chose their answers, but then all of them had different responses and I was unable to chose. So--I didn't. :) I hope they inspire you to have a Happy Valentine’s Day weekend (or at least, write about one.).
Please click on their art or their links to find out more about who they are and what they’ve written.

What kind of erotica/romance do you write and why?
Nyki: I write fantasy erotica, mainly sword & sorcery – I wouldn’t really call my stories romance, although they have romantic elements. Fantasy is my favourite genre, erotic or not, and I find it an excellent means to explore sexuality in ways that are more creative and extreme than would be possible in a realistic setting. I also have a tendency to include BDSM elements. I’m not sure why that is, since it doesn’t especially reflect my tastes. Possibly, as with the ability to use non-humans and magic, it’s something that allows me to test the characters’ sexuality more extremely.
Annie: I’ve experimented with heat levels this year. One book of what I class as erotica, one main stream heat, and another sweet /spicy.

Isobael: I write paranormal romance. I've always been interested in the paranormal, from the stories I heard growing up, my experiences with the paranormal. My earliest scribbles have always included the paranormal. As I grew older and branched out into romance, the paranormal followed.

Emly: My first (and only so far) story is a work of contemporary erotica, with a cougar main character. I liked the idea of writing about a cougar, because I'm a "woman of a certain age" and believe that there are misconceptions about our interest in things sexual. Honestly, from my limited research, I've found that middle-aged and older women spend a lot of time fantasizing. Yet there are not a heap of books out there that speak to our age group.

Lauren: Pretty much whatever piques my interest at a given time. Generally contemporary erotic romance, M/M or hetero, occasionally going into non-romance erotica. I may even be doing some F/F soon, but I'm not sure yet. As for why? I made the switch from fantasy to erotic romance in late 2008 and never looked back. I enjoy delving into relationships between people, and it's always fascinated me how much sex can influence relationships/individuals, from manipulation to love to anger. Sex is a powerful thing, and erotica gives me a place to really explore that.
2. What do you try to do to make your sex scenes interesting to the reader?

Nyki:For one thing, I try to vary the sex scenes. That’s partly by varying the genders, number and species of the various participants, and partly by varying the situations. For instance, the seducer in one scene might be the seduced in another, or the pace will change from fast and furious to languid and thorough.

I also try to balance the physical and emotional content. I do try to describe explicitly who’s doing what to whom, since I think in erotica it’s important for the reader to be very clear what’s having the effect described on the characters, but I also try to evoke how it feels to the main character and what emotions it rouses.

Ultimately, I don’t think any sex scene will be effective if the participants (or at least one of them) isn’t a vividly realised character the reader can care about. Caring doesn’t necessarily mean liking, of course, but the reader must feel strongly about this person in order to be with them having sex.

Annie: I offer a lot of foreplay leading to actual act with banter and a lot eye contact. It builds heat, desire, and anticipation.

Isobael: I try to make it realistic and yet both raw and tender. There are times when we need raw and unbridled, and times we need the tender aspect of love making. It depends on the situation of the characters (when you come out of a battle and survived, all that aggression is going to be channeled to raw, passionate love making!).

Emly: I attempt to draw on all the senses, but in particular touch, smell, and sound. To me sex is initiated and consumed by the entire range of sensual experience. I want the reader to feel the smoothness of skin, smell the spicy aroma of pheromones heating up, the whisper of passion.

Lauren: Emphasize the little things. It's all about the little things. Breath on skin, the taste of a kiss, things like that. Also, I capitalize on emotions, and try to make every sex scene mean something. I've written everything from tender, emotional lovemaking to furious, bed-breaking revenge sex...if there's a sex scene in one of my books, it's there for a reason, even if that reason is subtle or not immediately obvious (i.e., something that will tie in to a later chapter). My writing partner and I spent hours poring over books and sex scenes from movies to figure out what set some scenes apart from others, and we've done everything we can to use that knowledge to our advantage.

3. What techniques do you use to put your reader on the sheets?

Nyki: Really, most of what I described in the last answer. I think the most effective technique is to have a viewpoint character the reader can be interested in, and then letting the reader share what that person is doing and being done to, how their body is reacting and the emotions it evokes.

It’s important, I think, not simply to give a laundry-list of actions and reactions, but mixing very specific descriptions with imagery that expresses the feelings, rather than describing them. Also, I think the reader must be given something they can identify with. Even if it’s supposed to be the most amazing sex in the history of this or any other world, there need to be points of reference to common experience. The reader might not have experienced a particular feeling, especially if they’re of a different sex or orientation from the character, but there are common experiences of sex.

One other thing I try to include sometimes is the awkwardness, even humour, of sex. The reality isn’t a choreographed, soulless porn scene – it can be clumsy, squelchy and even absurd, and all of that is part of the charm of real sex. Although it can be overdone, I try to nod at that at times.

Annie: I learned how to use a pattern in my sex scene to help me create them. Action, reaction, inner thought, returned action. Repeat.
For example:

Action- He trailed his eyes from her face, to her mouth, then to her breasts.

Reaction- His open admiration made her heart flutter like a humming bird on steroids.

Inner thought- She’d never possessed such a strong desire to find out what someone would taste like until tonight.

Returned Action- She popped open the top button of her blouse.


It’s not set in stone but it gives you something to work with as a first draft.

Isobael: I just write it as I feel it. I try to be descriptive with the feelings, the sensations. I'm still learning how to "translate" those into words though, so sometimes, my heroines have trouble doing the same. I think it adds a bit of realism to it.

Emly: This is a tough question--one I may not be totally ready to answer. I'm still learning. I like to use humor (sex can be very funny sometimes). I also made my main character less than perfect--she's a little zoftig and in her forties so readers can relate.

Lauren: Utilize all the senses. Tap into emotions. Using emotions and all five senses, I hope to make the reader feel everything the characters are feeling, from the "I want you RIGHT NOW" tension to the "almost...there..." seconds before an orgasm to the "Holy crap, I needed that" sigh afterward.

4. Do you use a single point of view per love scene or do you shift from participant to participant? Why?

Nyki:I rarely change point of view within any scene, and I can’t recall ever having done so in a sex scene. On the other hand, various magics available in my stories can sometimes make sharing point of view possible. I’ve never actually written a scene where both people having sex share a point of view – that would be amazing, but also very difficult.

Annie: I usually stay in a woman’s pov because that’s who reads most of the romances. I have written from a male’s pov but there was a reason for it like he had the most to lose in the scene.

Isobael: Sometimes, I'll start with the male POV and then switch to the heroine. As a woman, I find it easier to write from her POV than from the male's.

Emly: My story is first person narrative, so there can be only one perspective, alas.

Lauren: Depends on the scene. The vast majority of my work is in first person, so it always stays in one POV. If it's in third, I will occasionally switch, but only if it's absolutely necessary that the reader feel the scene from both POVs. And I also make sure it's clear to the reader to avoid head-hopping and confusion.

5. What words do you find yourself overusing?

Nyki:Well, as I write a lot of lesbian scenes, perhaps “she” and “her” are the most overused words. I remember reading somewhere that the single most challenging element of writing same-sex erotica is pronouns, and I agree. Otherwise, I have to watch repetition of the words for the key anatomical features, as well as words like “thrust”, “flick”, “tease” etc. which can easily become automatic go-to words.

Annie: Touch and press. I’ve made myself a small thesaurus for these words. LOL

Isobael: LOL...umm...I think, the overly used descriptive words for, burning...

Emly: That, even, lick.

6. What's your favorite word for female genitalia? For male genitalia?

Nyki: For the female genitalia – I know it’s controversial, but I actually like the word “cunt”. A lot of people describe it as a hard, violent word, and it can be when it’s used as an insult. If it’s a bit slower and drawn out, though, it always seems a warm, squelchy word to me, perfectly describing what it refers to. I’m not so particular about the male – I most often just use “cock”.

One thing I always dislike is referring to “his/her sex”. It seems rather coy.

Annie: I hate the word ‘pussy’. I don’t like writing it or reading it. LOL No logical reason for it either. For women I use groin, between her thighs, core, entrance…For men I use cock, hard length, steel rod…

Isobael: This is tough! I know I don't like to use abrupt words but nothing too flowery either. Nether lips, sex, womanhood for a woman and for the male, arousal, cock, hardness.

Emly: I'm struggling with sensuous words for female genitalia. Pussy seems so slangy, but the alternatives are too demeaning. My favorite word for penis is cock; for testicles: cojones or balls.

Lauren: Pussy and cock. I can't stand the goofy euphemisms and overdone flowery metaphors.

7. When you read other writers' love scenes, what makes you cringe? What makes you sit up and take notes?

Nyki: There are countless cringeworthy elements of badly written sex scenes – I’ve already mentioned “laundry list” descriptions of who’s doing what, and another one is orgasms that happen without any particular stimulation. One thing I’ve come across, though, that really bugs me is unrealistic dialogue during sex. I mean, it’s one thing to have someone screaming “Yes... yes... oh yeeeees” but not when, in the throes of orgasm, they find the breath (and the grammar) to pant out, “Oh, you are so wonderful that I cannot hold out any longer. Ram your rampant, ten-and-a-half-inch organ deep into my open, juicy passage. Oh, I am coming now.” By the time that’s over, they’d be sitting up sharing a cigarette.

What impresses me, I suppose, is simply when I can feel myself there with the characters. As a reader, I just enjoy it. As a writer, I go back afterwards and try to see what they’re doing to make it so great.

Annie: For me it’s not the act itself but the build up to it.

Isobael: Abrupt terminology makes me cringe (cunt, etc). I know it's used in erotica a lot, but to me, it's so...derogative. What makes me sit up and take notice, take notes, is when I can read a love scene and BE there. I'm the heroine. I'm feeling every sensation she is. If I can come out of the scene breathless and fanning myself...or wishing I was there! definitely makes me want to sit up and take notes.

Emly: I despise dialogue that does not ring true--in love scenes or any other kind of scene. C'mon, we've all had sex, haven't we? Would you really say something like "Give it to me, big boy" in bed? Or am I showing my age? Great love scenes draw me in: perhaps they remind me of something I did once (or something I'd like to do sometime).

Lauren: What makes me cringe is euphemisms. They're either comical or induce eye-rolling, both of which kick me out of the scene. Also, failed attempts at being way too raunchy, which comes across as being unnecessarily crude and, as a result, is terribly unsexy. The other big one is lack of realism. Positions, actions, physical reactions, etc., that make me think "Has this writer ever actually HAD sex? I don't think that would be nearly as comfortable as she'd like me to believe..." Great answers! It’s interesting how each of them has a different answer to every question, which makes me realize that writing sex is like any other writing: as long as you trust your voice and your instincts, you're writing the best book you can. I hope you check out their books and their sites and thank them for teaching us what they know. Happy Valentine’s Day!

What makes me sit up and take note is when a writer emphasizes all the little things instead of missing the forest for the trees. Two people having sex, fine, great, enjoy. Tell me about a fingertip brushing someone's lower lip, a bead of sweat on someone's temple, or that first ripple of an orgasm...and you've got me. My writing partner, Scarlett Parrish (, is a master at this. I'm a tough sell with sex scenes...very picky...but hers...well, let's just say they're hot.

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