Today, I’m turning the blog over to award-winning romance author Shara Lanel. Romance is a complex genre, ranging from the chaste to the downright naughty. Shara’s post helps shed some light on the distinctions between “sweet” and erotic romance.
Shara’a latest book, Blame it on the Night, will be available for purchase on Nov. 15–be sure to check out the link to a free excerpt below!
Do you want to follow the hero and heroine into the bedroom? Or would you rather stop at the door and give them some privacy? This is generally how I think of the difference between “sweet” romance and most popular romance today. But “sweet” doesn’t mean there’s no sexual tension. Pride and Prejudice is loaded with sexual tension culminating in one sweet kiss. Many romances have incredible sexual tension with very few love scenes.
However, I would say most popular romance today ventures inside the bedroom. This ranges from somewhat flowery, rather vague, one-page love scenes—which I tend to skip—to the several-paged, we’re-right-in-the-bedroom-with-you love scenes. To me, the line between these romances, generally not labeled erotic, and those that are labeled erotic comes down to word choice. One particular word that my mom disapproved of when she read my first novel, ENLIGHTENED LOVE. In erotic romance the sex needs to be descriptive (fuck, cock, pussy, etc.—can you guess which word Mom didn’t approve of?), raw, maybe some kink, frequent, and each scene should last several pages. And you still need to have that sexual tension.
My erotic romance books TELEKINETIC KISSES and FINDING MR. RIGHT IS MURDER aren’t really structured different than “traditional” romances, but the sex scenes take it up a notch.
Then there are the stories my mom hasn’t read. For these the sexual premise becomes very important. If your hero/heroine just met and don’t particularly like each other (conflict), why would they have sex in the first couple of chapters? Even if they have the classic “mistake” of a one-night-stand, what’s going to make them have sex in chapter three and so on? You can’t just throw a sex scene in there if your plot doesn’t call for it.
In BLAME IT ON THE MOON, Kitty can read minds. Therefore, she’s immersed in Haden’s erotic thoughts before they even speak to each other. In THE MEN ON MARS, Nate walks in on Helena in a threesome, and Helena is highly motivated to do whatever it takes to get a ride to Earth. Other examples: maybe your hero’s a stripper or a voyeur or your heroine’s an FBI agent undercover in a BDSM club. Maybe your heroine’s curious about the BDSM lifestyle and your hero is very happy to teach her. In other words, there are other sexual forces at work, not just random hopping-into-bed-together. In one story I’m working on, the hero finds out about the heroine’s very sexy backstory.
When I entered PRIMITIVE PASSION into contests or pitched it to agents before published, there were drastic differences in opinion (scores) because some people didn’t see Heath as heroic. Sylvia needs his help to get out of the jungle, but he has a price: three days of obeying his carnal demands. But without Heath’s demands, Sylvia wouldn’t have discovered new things about herself and the story wouldn’t have been erotic.
As a writer, you learn to target different publishers by researching books similar to yours and seeing who published them. Then you may cater a story toward the requirements of that specific publisher. This is the same when it comes to erotic romance. A publisher may want male/male, interracial, or ménage-a-many. A certain amount of kink may be expected or a certain familiarity with the lifestyle. The nice thing about the publishers I’ve worked with is that they’ve helped me up the heat level if I didn’t quite hit it in my manuscript.
So what’s the difference between erotic romance and erotica and porn? Well, first and foremost, we always have a happy ending, but the erotica I’ve read seemed literary or thought-provoking rather than sensual. Many movies labeled “erotic” do nothing for me. Meanwhile, porn seems to me male-centric and based on plot-less fantasy. “A sexy woman comes up to me in a bar, says she wants to do me in the bathroom, and then calls her friend to join us…” A lot more explicit, of course, but totally lacking in motivation.
Feel free to post questions or comments!
At age 10, research to Shara Lanel meant hopping aboard the local steam engine and writing the equivalent of The Great Train Robbery. Nowadays, she gets hands-on research at the Writers’ Police Academy. Give her a gun and she might hit the target…or a pedestrian. She swears her characters are much better shots, hitting the bulls-eye with the villains and the heart.
BLAME IT ON THE MOON, winner of the HOLT Medallion, delves into the life of a werewolf wanted for murder, while FINDING MR. RIGHT IS MURDER introduces you to the girl-next-door who, in the middle of an adult slumber party, finds a body in the freezer. Shara’s novels are always full of suspense and hot romance, whether set on the moon or in a Mexican jungle.
Shara resides in Richmond, Va., with a clingy dog, an action-oriented son, and a handsome hubby. Don’t put her in the kitchen, unless you want to burn it down, and her green-thumb is hit-or-miss, but she excels as a bibliophile, hoping she never has to pack up and move, since her hubby might see just how many volumes she really has.