A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!

Julie Moffet . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Saturday, September 15, 2012

I Spy: Writing the Gay Mystery SEX

Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.

TODAY'S POST: I-Spy: Writing the Gay Mystery – SEX


The traditional mystery reader is generally not a fan of mixing sex and clues. In fact, even mixing romance and mystery can be tricky, although the sub-sub genre of romantic suspense is alive and well. Maybe this general distaste for sexy sleuthing is because of the cerebral nature of mystery fiction. Maybe it’s because of a little built-in genre snobbery, but whatever the basis for this bias, it holds true for the traditional gay mystery reader as well. Graphic sex scenes do not win Edgars, Agathas, Shamuses, Lefties, or Lambdas.

But M/M is a sub-genre of romance and, as such, the M/M mystery is more closely aligned to romantic suspense than traditional mystery. In an M/M mystery, romance is always going to be half the story, and while it is true that M/M romance is not, by definition, erotic romance, the majority of M/M still does contain some erotic content.

Which is A-OK as far as the majority of fans of M/M mystery are concerned.

Sex sells. We all know that. But boosted sales are not the primary reason for including sex scenes in your M/M mystery or thriller. The two main reasons for including sex scenes in your M/M mystery are to show the developing intimacy – the changing relationship – of the characters, and to offer insight into a side of the characters we would not otherwise see.

However, because you’re also writing a mystery, you do have to balance the romantic aspects with the crime solving. If you short change either the romance or the mystery, readers are going to be disappointed. That means no stopping for sex while running from a serial killer. It also means the discussion will have to occasionally revolve around personal and relationship matters as well as clues and leads on the case.

There are only so many ways to describe the act of intercourse. Pretty much everyone in M/M is using the same terminology and phrases, and generally the same sequence of erotic milestones in any given work. The way you make your scenes different is through dialogue — internal and external — sensory details and emotional subtext. Fresh language, original metaphors are wonderful if you can think of them, but step cautiously. It’s alarmingly easy to skid from the sublime into the ridiculous when you’re writing about sex.

 Go easy on the adjectives and adverbs — some of these scenes read like the rape of a thesaurus. Your erotic tableaux should be written in the same style, the same voice you’ve used throughout the novel.

 Part of how you keep the sex scenes vivid and intense is that you make them true to the characters. We’ve all got our little quirks and preferences when it comes to the bedroom, and characterization in your sex scenes has to hold true with the rest of the story.

 Don’t be afraid to give your protagonists preferences. Tell us something about the characters by showing what they like and don’t like in the bedroom. Give them opinions, predilections, desires — give them fantasies — give them insecurities and hang ups. Make their sex as unique and individual as they are.

Use depictions of intimacy to show us something about the characters we wouldn’t — couldn’t — otherwise see. Give us insight into their characters and their relationship.

Strip your protagonists naked during sex — emotionally, spiritually, mentally naked.

 Pacing is just as critical for writing sex scenes as it is for the rest of the work — both in the number of scenes and the length of the scenes. Again, the heat of a gun battle is not the time to be thinking about someone’s cute freckles or tight ass.

When it comes to the number of scenes within a given work, think quality over quantity. We've all read way too many novels and novellas where the plot merely existed to string together a numbing sequence of nondistinct humping, grinding, and thrusting. Too many sex scenes dilute the impact and importance of what should be a big moment within the story. Don’t spoil the romantic tension by satisfying your lovers — let alone your reader — too quickly. Tease, tantalize. Make everybody work for it.

Don’t miss the opportunity to build sexual tension and satisfaction by including erotic scenes that don’t end with fucking. Showers, baths, hot tubs, moonlight swims, feeding each other, undressing each other, dancing, cuddling, massage — full body and otherwise — not to mention good old-fashioned kissing can all serve to build sexual tension between the characters.

The important thing to remember in all M/M fiction that the sex is not simply about sex. It’s about love. The important thing to remember in M/M Mystery is that as important as the love story is, it cannot be given more importance than the mystery plot.

Questions? Thoughts? Opinions?


 A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist


FUTURE POSTS will cover:

 Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.

 We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!


Elliott Mackle said...

Excellent wrap up. And I love "raping the thesaurus."

Toni Anderson said...

"Again, the heat of a gun battle is not the time to be thinking about someone’s cute freckles or tight ass."

This made me laugh.

Excellent points as always, Josh, for all writers of SEX. Intimacy isn't just about body parts.

Anonymous said...

Aisling Mancy wrote...
There is nothing more inspiring than a great author who is also a learned author. These articles are excellent, Josh, just excellent. Thank you for sharing your sage advice/wisdom with us!

Rita said...

This is so great. Thanks. What you say isn't only for the M/M mystery author it's for ANY author. The tab A into slot B sex scenes are awful. As you point out stripping the participants emotionally is also required.

Josh Lanyon said...

Thanks very much, Elliot -- and congratulations on the new release!

Josh Lanyon said...

True, Toni! Very true.

Josh Lanyon said...

Thank you so much, Aisling. That's really a lovely comment.

Josh Lanyon said...

Thank you, Rita. And you're absolutely right. One of the first lessons of writing solid m/m fiction is remembering that all the rules of good fiction and solid storytelling still apply!

ray thor said...

SEX is an essential ingredient in most fiction, factual books and movies. T&A or gay are O.K., but bathroom scenes are never necessary.

My ebook, BLOODGUILTY (a thriller-chiller) has all the sexual ingredients to move the story along. Available on KINDLE bookstore by RAYMOND THOR. Click on link:

Kelly Whitley said...

Great post. Just the kind of stuff to include in your contemplated revision of Writing M/M for kicks...

kim said...

I love your posts!
I like what you said about sexual tension.That's why I usually prefer protagonists to sleep with each other in the second half or at the end. Who doesn't like to be teased ;)
I notice that authors tend to be bolder in sex scenes than they used to. I'm not sure why. BDSM seems to be very popular in m/m lately. Not sure if I like this direction. It's romance, not erotica. I read it for the good story after all. Too much sex, no matter how unbridled, without emotional context or narrative purpose, is boring. Great points.

Anonymous said...

I know I´m a little late, but some important advice from a reader: Don´t feel like you owe your readers a fuckfest at the end of gay/mm mystery! Nobody needs it. Haooy or sad, end it like a proper self respecting crime novel. (I loved the ending of Marshall Thorntons "Murder Book" even though it made me want to drink. A lot.)

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