Welcome to what I call Fine-tune-it Fridays… a day to look at some of the skills and techniques in writing, and those necessary to writing spicy and erotic romance.
In fact, that’s the first topic I’m going to tackle. When does spicy become erotic? That line’s grown finer and finer over the years. Having cut my romance teeth on stories that always shut the bedroom door right when it started to get good, it’s difficult to imagine some of the books on shelves in stores now.
Deciding exactly where the line rests, though, is a problem I’ve encountered as an author. Having written what I considered to be simply a very spicy story, my editor asked me to remove some scenes because they were too hot. In the end, it didn’t matter. One scene in the book resulted in its move from simply being spicy to becoming erotic.
So, what was the line in the sand? When I asked, a senior editor explained that if the sex scenes moved the plot forward in some way, i.e. through characterization, increasing tension or resolution of the story, as long as we didn’t get into obvious erotica territory, then that was all right, but if the love scene was sex for sex’s sake, designed solely to titillate the reader? That’s erotic.
Another editor draws a more definite line by saying an erotic romance has sex and the development of the relationship through sex at its core. This may be a clearer definition, but isn’t always entirely accurate. Stick in that gratuitous sex scene and find out what happens (see above), sex certainly wasn’t at the core of that novel’s plot.
Author Sylvia Day defines erotic romance as, “stories written about the development of a romantic relationship through sexual interaction. The sex is an inherent part of the story, character growth, and relationship development, and couldn’t be removed without damaging the storyline.”
As with any romance, Happily Ever After is a requirement, although that too has been stretched to “Happily for now.”
Of course, there are still topics that are off limits for anyone hoping to land a contract with a mainstream publisher: rape, incest, bestiality, necrophilia, for example. Hmm, wonder how everyone justified those zombie romances?
Like every other business, romance writing has trends—like zombies—and the trend in terms of sex has been to throw the covers off and come out into the open. I write hot stories. I like seeing how the hero and heroine interact with each other in what is, let’s face it, all of our most vulnerable moments. Truly making love with a partner requires you to lay yourself bare, literally and figuratively, and it can reveal a lot about the characters in your book.
Does it also entertain? I hope so. That’s the point of writing romantic fiction after all, but the important thing to remember is keeping the romance at the forefront.