Language is what sets erotica apart from the other genres. Erotica floats between them all—moving from Science Fiction, to Historical, to Contemporary, and everything in between—always dipping its toes in the water but never fully getting wet.
Language makes erotica.
Now, the one thing that classifies a book as erotica is the intimate encounter (the sex scene). The fastest way to get your book classified as Historical Romance instead of as Historical Erotica is not describing the scenario correctly. There are four main points to remember for your next sex scene:
3. Point of View
All four play an important role of fleshing out your sex scene from stale, words on a page, to a vibrant three dimensional creation. Let’s look at each of the points individually.
Location is one of the more important elements in your sex scene. It is the backdrop for every other part of the encounter. The other four points are both directly affected by where your characters are having sex.
If your characters are having sex in a bed, there’s not that much you have to worry about for location. You slap on your basic descriptions of a room and you have your set. On to the next point. It’s when you want to be adventurous that you have to really pay attention to your location.
Sex on the beach… you have to remember the sand. It will get everywhere! So if your characters aren’t having sex in a tent or in the ocean, how are they dealing with the sand in their mouth as they make their way south. If they’re having sex in an alley, just steps away from a busy street…well your characters are most likely not going to get completely naked. And how does the chance of getting caught heighten, or hinder, your character's arousal?
While location goes even further than those points, you still need to focus on the basics as well. What are the sights, the sounds, the smells that they experience in these locations? If they are on the beach, they’ll hear the crashing of the waves. If they are in that alleyway, they’re probably going to smell garbage or hear the sounds of people walking. Make note of that during your scene. As you wind your characters higher and higher, and the reader follows along, those small details will draw the reader back to the location. It puts them in the story.
People rarely think about the positions when it comes to sex scenes. Most of the romance and erotica I’ve read has two positions the characters have sex in: missionary and girl-on-top. While there are multiple positions that people can try during sex, there are not that many that are used in erotica. Some for good reason (the helicopter position is hard to describe and hard for readers to imagine themselves in) but others don’t get enough action.
Look at your location and see how many positions can feasibly work there and how many your characters would be willing to do. That alleyway above I spoke of above, it’s filthy and your characters are mostly likely not going to be having sex on the ground. Instead of doing the basic against the wall, if your male character is strong enough, try for some free standing sex. All of her weight is supported by him, the penetration angle is different, and the sensations are heightened.
Shower sex almost exclusively means wall sex since most people’s showers are not big enough to lie down in. But even though wall sex can get action in erotica, you can change it up. You can have slow and tender lovemaking or hot, gritty, fuck-me-now sex. Both of those evoke different images of positions. The slow and tender makes readers think of the characters staring each other in the eye; hot, gritty, fuck-me-now sex could be standing doggy style. Throw in the correct language for each scene, sweet nothings for the tender version and dirty talk for the other, and you have two drastically different sexual scenes in one location.
Point of View
While this may seem like a pretty novice mistake to make, the most point of view mistakes I’ve encountered happen during the sex scene. Things get hot and heavy, breathing speeds up, and the next thing we know, we’re in the other person’s head. Case in point, the short erotic scene I wrote below.
Misty squeezed her eyes shut as the sensations raced through her. It was too much. She couldn’t take it anymore. Jake had been teasing her too long. Jake thrust one more time and she peaked, her body shuddering as she came. The squeezing of Misty’s inner walls pushed Jake over the edge. He thrust once, twice more, before throwing his head back with a groan as he spilled himself inside her.
Wait one second. For the entire story, we’ve been following Misty around; we’ve been in her thoughts and feelings. So when did Misty open her eyes to see Jake throw his head back? How do we know it was the Misty’s orgasm that pushed him over the edge? If the point of view was correct in that scene, we don’t know the answers.
It’s common mistakes like that, that can throw a reader out of the scene and out of the story. Unless your story is written as third person omnipresent, stay out of the other character’s head and pay attention to what you’ve written before. Thankfully, there’s a quick fix for the scene above. Either Misty keeps her eyes open or she opens them when she feels Jake start to come. And Jake can tell her during the afterglow, what set him off. This is an easy fix but it’s also an easy mistake.
Now, the last point. Language makes erotica what it is. It is arguably the most important element in a sex scene and the entire book. Language encompasses all the other points to direct the reader to envision the interplay of the characters. From what is said, to what they are feeling, language describes it all.
The innocent virgin, who’s never had a partner and never seen any form of porn, is not going to say pussy or cock without stammering and blushing. Your bad boy sex addict is not going to become a prude in the middle of sex either. His form of dirty talk is most likely not going to be: “I want to put my penis into your vagina.” It’s too clinical, too rigid, for him.
Stop and think about how your character speaks throughout the book, and apply that to sex. Will you character stumble over dirty talk? Or, will they be a seductive vixen, whispering all the naughty things they want to do to their partner? All of that depends on who your characters were before the sex scene.
But language goes beyond that. It transcends spoken words and includes the thoughts and feelings that are being experienced. That innocent virgin is not going to know how to categorize the sensations running through her body. There will be tingles and explosions, hands gripping the bed sheet as she tries to understand what she’s experiencing.
While readers want to read erotica for the sexual component, those scenes can be just as boring as a non-erotic book if not written correctly. Go back through your scenes and see what can be expanded on. Vary the location, the position, the point of view, and language.
Always remember: make your reader tremble with desire.