Have you ever wanted to write a great sex scene, but couldn’t figure out the magic ingredients to make it titillating? I know what you’re thinking: how hard could it be? (Heh, see what I did there?) Lisa Cach, author of the sizzlingly sexy 1,001 Erotic Nights series, shares her tips with us on how to write erotica. And good erotica at that. Lisa unveils how authors need to get out of their own minds and mess with their characters a bit. She also sprinkles hot, Hot, HOT scenes from her series throughout, and we’re betting your interest will be piqued. Be sure to download 1,001 Erotic Nights, Part 1: Slave Girl, on sale today! And preorder the other two installments in the series: 1,001 Erotic Nights, Part 2: Barbarian’s Concubine and 1,001 Erotic Nights, Part 3: Siren of Gaul.

How many sex scenes have I written in my career — 50, 75, 100? They’ve ranged from a seductive bout of hand-holding to a Roman orgy, and along the way I’ve learned a lot about how to write them. Here are my three secrets to writing erotica.

1. It’s all about the head game.

A sex scene always has…. sex. Tab A into Slot B, as they say; or Tab C into Slots D and E, depending on what you’re up to and where your tastes lean. The point is, there are only limited ways in which the nuts and bolts get put together.

In erotica, the secret to spicing up those basic constructions is to mess with the thoughts and emotions of the characters. Knock your characters off-balance, and give them something critical to gain or lose by having sex. Make them feel that they’re risking something, even if it’s just their self-respect. Put them in a situation that shocks them or scares them; surprises them; make them feel powerless, out of control, embarrassed, vulnerable, or sinful. Push them far out of their comfort zone. Make the outcome uncertain.

It’s your character’s tension-filled reaction to the sex that will create tension in the reader. Again: your character’s tension will create tension in the reader.

In this scene from “Barbarian’s Concubine,” Nimia has belatedly realized she’s agreed to do something dangerous, only there’s no backing out now:

He took my elbow in a gentle grip and guided me from the tavern into the scorching heat of the day. The sun felt like flames on my skin. My stomach fluttered as I realized this was happening, I was going alone with Jax to the stables, I had agreed to suck his cock in exchange for his agreeing to take us on as paying passengers, and he was not a man who would let me change my mind.

A nervous panic swept over me, and I faltered.

His grip on my elbow tightened. “Shh,” he soothed, without looking at me. As if I were any wench he’d bartered for in a tavern.

My heart beat the faster. When would I learn to listen to Terix? He was so much better at reading people — including reading me — than I was. Terix had said that Jax was not to be trusted… And yet here I was, alone with him, and having given my enthusiastic offer of services worthy of only the lower sort of prostitute.

A quality prostitute would have managed better than to render services in a stable.

“Don’t pretend it’s your first time with this,” Jax said, taking me from the burning summer sun into the instant twilight of the stable. My eyes, blinded by the brief walk in glaring brightness, could see nothing but shadows. I smelled dust and hay, leather and horse, urine and dung. It was cooler in the stable, but the air was still and suffocating.

“Not my first time with a man, no,” I said. “But I…”

He pulled me into an empty stall and with both hands on my shoulders, shoved me downwards. I collapsed onto my knees, the sharp ends of the straw stabbing at my skin. I still wore the rough tunic in which I’d escaped from Sygarius’s villa, my lower legs bare, my feet shod in filthy sandals. “You what?” he said. “You’ve never sucked a cock? You’ve never sold yourself?” He unfastened his belt and tossed it aside.

My face was level with his groin. My eyes could not move from his hands, lifting his tunic to reveal worn wool breeches, fastened with a cord. His calloused hands went to work on the knot. “I’m not… skilled. At, er… the sucking.” I dared a look up at him. The light hit him from the side, leaving half his face in shadow. From my low position, he looked twice as tall, twice as dangerous, as he had in the tavern. There seemed no human emotion on his face.

“You’ll learn.”

Tension = excitement.

What you don’t want, and what is never titillating, is two contented lovers expressing their tension-free affection for one another. Where’s the thrill in that? There’s no uncertainty. No matter what bizarre physical activities you have them do, if they fully trust and love one another it’s going to be boring. Those are the sex scenes readers skim. If you’re going to write one of those, put it at the end of the book because it means the story is over.

All good sex scenes are about what the characters are thinking and feeling, not the nuts and bolts.

Though you still need the nuts and bolts.

2. Embrace your inner perv.

When you look for ideas for a kinky sex scene, you need look no further than your own secret thoughts. Look to your own wild imaginings, your fantasies that you’d never share or want to live out, but which do funny things to you when you think of them. No matter what it is that sets your loins a-tingling, there are other people who respond the same way.

If you feel bereft of creative sexual ideas, then read erotica, look at porn, go see what other people are getting off on. And then listen to your own reactions, and take a close look at what it is about the erotic situation that appeals to you (or doesn’t). Some erotic art and fiction might seem disgusting or comical at first glance — tentacle porn, anyone? — but look at it a little longer and get past your surprise, and you begin to sense why there are fans of it. Give yourself the freedom to explore new, shocking things in your own mind.

In this scene from “Slave Girl,” Nimia is given a lesson in sexual perversity by her master, Sygarius. Together they watch a redhead get intimate with a statue:

“I’ve always thought the story of Leda and the swan to be a strange one,” Sygarius said, the vibrations of his voice sinking into me along with the perfume. “Turning into a large bird seems a strange way for Zeus to court a mortal woman. Why should she find such an animal appealing? Its prick is hidden away… although its head and neck are… suggestive.”

The redhead smeared the oil over the beak and head of the statue.

My eyes widened. She wouldn’t… No, I was not going to see that.

“No normal man would find the thought of shoving his prick into a bird arousing. It doesn’t speak to us. The mentula shrinks and hides. But women… You do not even need the figure of a man to arouse you. Leda didn’t know it was the greatest of the gods who approached her in the honking, flapping form of a swan. So why did she let him do it–however he did do it. Have you seen a swan’s prick, Nimia? It’s twisted in a spiral. Perhaps, when it emerged, she couldn’t help herself. She wanted such a strange, ribbed thing thrust inside her; she was female, after all.”

“More likely she wasn’t given a choice,” I said.

He tilted his head in a half-nod of acknowledgement. “Or maybe it was the sight of that blunt swan’s head that was more than she could resist.”

The redhead bent over and put her hands on the end of the couch, her hindquarters pointed towards the swan.

“Maybe all Zeus needed to do was nuzzle her once, twice.”

The redhead moved backwards, the oiled swan head sliding between her thighs. She arched her back and sighed, sliding still, until the head emerged from the front of her thighs. Then she reversed.

I could almost feel the cool, slick marble on my own sex. Feel my lower lips parting, the smooth column easing along my length.

“It wouldn’t have taken Leda long to consider the possibilities. If the swan was willing…”

The redhead shifted, until the end of the rounded beak was pressed against her gateway. She rocked her hips, and the beak pressed inwards; the redhead’s whole body clenched and shivered. Her back arched, and she rocked her hips more firmly against the statue. The entire beak disappeared within her. She paused, the thickest part of the swan head poised at her gate. She reached between her legs to finger her stamen and then, as I watched, she eased back against the swan head, emitting little mewling cries of pleasure. The head stretched her, her flesh tight and shiny around it; it was as big as my fist. It moved tiny bit by tiny bit while her fingertips rubbed and thrummed on her stamen; the eyes on the head sank into her crimson flesh; the broadest point of the head seemed ready to split her in two when she gave a cry and her body shuddered, her thighs clamping tight around the swan’s head.

I was panting, staring at where the white marble swan’s head sank within the girl’s cunny. I could feel my pulse in my sex, throbbing.

“Your eyes are glowing,” Sygarius said, his voice savoring the words. He liked what he was doing to me. “I’ve never seen them so bright.”

“I’d never, ever want to do anything like that,” I lied, and knew he knew it for a falsehood.

As the Roman playwright Terence wrote, “I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me.”

Embrace anything that sends a thrill through you, no matter how shameful. Or especially if shameful! If you find yourself thinking, “I could never write a scene about that,” then maybe you should.

3. Write like no one will ever read it.

When you write a sex scene, it’s got to be just you and the keyboard. If you allow anyone to be looking over your shoulder, even in your imagination (“What would Mom think?”), you’re going to inhibit yourself. It’s the “observer effect,” and it will dampen your writing. You won’t take as many risks, or push yourself as far, and the result will be flat, insipid, bland, blah. If you worry about people’s reactions, you’ll write sex scenes that offend no one, and excite no one.

The last reaction you want to your erotica is “Meh.”

Sex is called “intimacy” for a reason. It’s intimate, it’s private, and when you’re writing about it for publication the reality is that you will be exposing it to thousands of eyes. And when you do, thousands of people will judge it, and to some degree judge you.

That’s unsettling. Unnatural.

In this scene from “Siren of Gaul,” Nimia loses herself in a private sexual fantasy while she’s playing the harp-like cithara for a conservative king’s court:

With a strum of my fingers on the cithara I stripped his tunic from him; another strum and his breeches were untied. With an arpeggio I slid my hands under the waistband to cup his buttocks, and then down the breeches went. I plucked a rich chord, and felt the thick heat of his rod in my hand.

Harmonizing notes now: the king responding, as I could dream he would. His mouth coming down to mine. His hand sliding along my waist, then up to stroke my breast, his thumb flicking over my nipple. His lips at the base of my neck, tongue pressing hard, while one hand unfastened the clasp at my shoulder until the fabric came free, baring my breast.

My imagining was so vivid, I could feel it in my cunny. I swelled and moistened, and felt the pulsing of my gates, eager to give him entrance. With my music I commanded him, having him turn me round and pull me to him so that I could feel the ridge of his desire against the small of my back. He lifted me in his strong arms until he could wedge himself between my buttocks, and with his free hand he raised the hem of my gown. His calloused palm skimmed up the inside of my thigh to my folds.

He stroked me. Once. Twice.

I moaned, my hips rocking in rhythm to his touch.

A third time. A fourth.

And then his finger slid deep inside me and he pressed his palm to my mound. He rocked me against his hand, his mentula sliding against my buttocks, his fingertip inside me rubbing against a buried treasure of sensation.

His finger withdrew, and I whimpered, bereft; but an instant later four fingers slowly pressed their way in in its place. I felt myself stretching, accepting, canting my hips toward his hand even as I wanted to back away in alarm.

He sank his hand up past his knuckles, and then spread his fingers.

My cunny clenched, and then I was falling into waves of release. My fingers raced on the cithara, plucking chords that forced him to find his own satisfaction against my backside. Together we pulsed and flowed, my body cradled to his, until the waves subsided and we calmed.

With a few quiet strums, I released us both, and my golden swarm faded away.

I sat with my eyes closed, the cithara heavy in my arm. It took me a few moments to realize that the room was surprisingly quiet, though I could hear breathing.

I opened my eyes and found the king staring at me, his face flushed, his lips parted. He looked bewildered and wildly aroused, and a flick of his gaze had me looking down at my chest, half-exposed as one of my shoulder clasps had fallen out. Several locks of my hair had fallen free, too.

Gods. I must look as if I’d been tumbled in truth.

If you want to write sexually thrilling scenes, you have to shove the awareness of future readers out of your mind. While you’re writing you have no parent, no spouse, no neighbors, no friends, no editor, no agent. It’s you and your characters, and fortunately your characters are eager for you to put them through their paces. They’re begging for it: the more you mess with them, the more they like it. There’s no reality for them except for the world of the book, where you are their god; they know nothing and care nothing for Aunt Bridget and neighbor Joe, or for that friend of your husband’s who always reads your books and then makes lewd comments about them at holiday parties. Your characters want you to go wild on them.

Give your characters what they want. Don’t disappoint them with timid writing. Their reactions to the kinky sex are the only reactions that matter.

*   *   *

Writing erotica comes down to fearless honesty about what makes you go “oooh!” in your most private thoughts. Torture your characters’ emotions as they act out your scenes, and you’ll give your readers a naughty good time.