Maria Zannini, a fellow writer and all-around wonderful person, did an interview with me yesterday on her blog.
Maria asked a great question, one that I haven't been asked in all the interviews I've been doing:
Other than the degree of heat, is there anything else that differentiates erotic romance from regular romance?
Most people just assume that an erotic romance is simply much more graphic than a regular romance. While that is true, there is a deeper difference.
Angela Knight, who has been writing erotic romance much longer than I have, said something in a class I took with her that has really impacted the way I approach my stories.
Almost everyone is familiar with a run-of-the-mill romance where the tension comes from wondering when (and if) the hero and heroine will make love. That sexual tension drives the story forward.
In erotic romance, the question of whether the couple will make love is answered early.
Instead, the tension in erotic romance is romantic rather than sexual. Will the hero and heroine end up together? Will they have a happily-ever-after?
It seems counter-intuitive that regular romance would be driven by sexual tension while erotic romance would be driven by romantic tension, but I think Angela got it right.
In the moments when my characters are the most intimate sexually, they open themselves up to each other emotionally and intellectually. That's the time when secrets are shared. When fears are revealed.
And isn't that true of all of us? When we are the most intimate, we are the most vulnerable . . . and the most open to new possibilities or change.
If a sex scene is all about inserting Tab A into Slot B, you've missed the point. Then you're writing only to titillate, and that's porn.
Understand . . . porn has its place. However, you can't write porn and market it as erotic romance.
Some of you may remember I said recently that I believe the purpose of fiction is to evoke emotion. One of the reasons I enjoy writing erotic romance is because of the rich palette of emotional colors available to me as a writer.
When a character accustomed to control gives up that control during lovemaking, it's not necessary for the writer to "tell" the reader that the character trusts the partner; the writer is "showing" that trust.
When one partner agrees to try something new to please another character, the writer doesn't need to "tell" the reader that partner cares; the writer is "showing" that care.
Writing classes teach us that EVERY scene should further the plot. This is as true of sex scenes as it is of any other scene. Sometimes when I am critiquing a manuscript, I come across a love scene and wonder what it's doing there. If I ask the writer, occasionally I'll be told, "I thought it was time for a sex scene."
Hello??? Time for a sex scene? If the scene does not reveal information or further the plot in some way, it has NO business being there. Sex scenes are no different than any other scene. They must earn their right to take up space in the manuscript.
If you are just sprinkling sex through your manuscript, don't be surprised if the story doesn't sell.
I got a lovely compliment this weekend from a fan who wrote:
You really got in my head. I was actually feeling the emotions that were being exposed. It was almost like I felt like I should not be reading this or enjoying this, but I gave into it. I know that may sound a little off, but I don't know how else to describe it.
She did a great job of describing it. She felt the emotions the characters were experiencing.
THAT's the writer's real job.