How To Tell A Good Sex Story, Part 3: Be Sensual

This post is the third in an ongoing series of tips on erotic storytelling. The first post is here. Today’s topic is about being sensual in your depictions.

There’s an old fiction writing adage: “show, don’t tell”. You don’t tell the reader that your hero is in a good mood, you show him giving a friendly wave to a neighbor while bounding up the steps two at a time. You don’t say “she was an evil person”, you say “she kicked the puppy just to hear it yelp”. You don’t say “the gunslinger lived a rough life and was less concerned about looks that functionality”; instead you show the reader this by saying “his rusted spurs were caked with ancient layers of mud, but the six-gun at his side was meticulously clean and glinted darkly with fresh oil.” If you’re just going to tell the reader something, you might as well say “This is the beginning of the story, this is the middle, this is the climax, and this is the resolution. The end.”

In erotic storytelling, there is no mercy for telling when you should be showing. I know; I’ve tried. I told Beth once, “There was this couple, and they liked each other, so they had sex. The end.” When she protested that she needed details, I said “Okay, fine: it was realy hot sex.” This was, as you might imagine, not okay and not fine. She made me start over all the way at the beginning!

The good news is that when you’re talking dirty, you don’t need florid prose and a thesaurus. You don’t need to know the scientific names of all the kinds of clouds. You don’t need to know which part of a castellated battlement is the crenel and which part is the merlon. (Merlons are the solid parts, crenels are the gaps between them, and yes I’m just showing off.) You’re not writing a novel, you’re trying to get your partner in the mood. You must show not tell, but what you must show is the sensuality of the piece.

You don’t talk about the clouds, you talk about the sun on her skin. And you don’t talk about how the sun looks, you talk about how it feels. You don’t talk about castle architecture except if there’s a piece of it the right size and height for having sex on, and perhaps maybe mentioning that the prince spreads his cloak over it because stone is a) hard and b) way too cold to get naked on. My point is you use show don’t tell, but you focus on the senses, and specifically the senses of the character you want your partner to get his or her head into.

It will come as no surprise at this point that Beth loves pastries and baked goods in real life. Part of the enticement of our Hansel and Gretel story, then, is to incorporate the sensual delights of a pastry shop. Gretel tricks Hansel into eating a piece of gingerbread, and he is suddenly overcome with lust.

I’ve mentioned that I have hangups about writing erotica, but this really is the point where I must abide my own rule and stop telling you and start showing. So if you’ll forgive a rusty stab at trying to write down a fragment of story that has only ever lived as spoken words:

Hansel pulls Gretel to him, then grabs her hair and pulls her head back. When she opens her mouth to gasp, he forces a piece of gingerbread into her mouth. The flavor of sugary nutmeg floods her senses, warming her and making her swoon. The heady scent of cinnamon makes her dizzy, and as the magic of the gingerbread washes through her, all her clothes feel too tight and burn and scratch and she needs to fling them off–no, she needs Hansel to strip them off of her. She doesn’t know why, but she does. She opens her mouth to plead, but all that comes out is a mewl of lust. Hansel seems to understand, however, and her skin tingles under his fingers as he works to undo the buttons of her bodice. Her stomach flutters as his his fingers finally brush against the bare skin of her throat, then work lower, to her chest. As her bodice opens she feels his hands sliding under the cloth, outward across her breasts, and she can’t help but moan. Her nipples tingle and ache, desperate for Hansel’s questing fingers to find them…

This fragment is all about what Gretel is sensing and experiencing. Because of the magic gingerbread, the sensations arrive at her mind after they’ve already begun happening to her body; her lust and her sensations are things I’m showing happening to her rather than telling her she is feeling. Always remember that a sexy funtime bedroom story exists to titillate the listener, and that means stimulating the senses. Don’t say “they do the sex and it feels good”.

Actually, that’s a good rule of thumb all by itself: never say “it feels good”. Go into Gretel’s senses, and show what she is feeling. (Or Hansel, if you’re telling this story to your man.)

Let your listener experience those feelings. They’ll work out the “it feels good” all by themselves.

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