With Valentine’s Day just a week away, we’re in a romantic mood. Today, erotic romance writer Roni Loren urges us to create a space in our hearts for erotic fiction. Because erotica can be romantic, too.
Often when I tell people I write erotic romance (otherwise known as those books to the general population), I can see what pops into their heads first when they imagine what my books must be about. Sex, sex, and more sex! After all, there is that big glaring “erotic” word to let you know, right?
But it seems they miss the second part of that genre title—romance. I have to hold myself back from saying—wait, no, they’re sexy books, but it’s really about the characters and their journey. Erotic romance and erotic fiction aren’t like adult movies where the supposed “plot” is only there to give scene transitions before the pizza boy and housewife get naked again. Unfortunately, not everybody understands this, and there’s a lot of crappy stuff getting thrown out there and labeled “erotica” by people trying to make a quick buck. (Don’t be one of those people! lol)
Seriously, nothing is more boring than a book of strung together sex scenes with little to no characterization, conflict, tension, or plot (no matter how well written those sex scenes might be). Who cares if they’re swinging from the chandeliers and twirling riding crops if you don’t have any connection to the characters in the story? Yawn.
So my goal when I start a new book is always, always to build my characters from the inside out. Maybe it’s because I was a social worker before I was a writer, but I need to know what makes my characters tick before I can do anything else with a book. I want backstory. I want angst. I want goals that drive them through the book. I want conflict pressing in on all sides. When the characters do end up naked, I want to be worried about how this is going to change their relationship, how is this going to deepen or derail the romance, how this is going to add to the plot. If a sex scene isn’t doing at least one of those things — moving the plot forward or revealing more about the inner journey of the characters — then it should not be in there. Period. If you could lift that sex scene out of the book and it doesn’t change the story, then it wasn’t needed.
I write romances first and foremost. The erotic parts of the story grow out of who my characters are, what turns them on (in my Loving on the Edge series, that happens to be kink), and the journey they are on. Just like non-erotic scenes, I couldn’t pull out a love scene from NEED YOU TONIGHT and plop it into CAUGHT UP IN YOU and have it work because the characters are different, and how they connect both in and out of the bedroom is going to be completely unique to those characters.
So if you’re interested in writing this genre, go in knowing you have to do just as much work for erotic fiction as you do for any other book when it comes to plot and characterization. There are no shortcuts. And don’t let yourself off the hook by calling it something like “mommy porn” in your head, because if you think that’s what you’re writing, that’s what you’ll write.
Good erotic romance can turn you on, sure, (and that’s great!) but it also can make you laugh, make you change your perspective on something, make you think (a reviewer recently said this about NEED YOU TONIGHT and I thought Score! Mission accomplished), and it can even make you cry. Be the writer who gives the reader that kind of story. Then you can smile proudly and say, “Yes, I write those kinds of books.”
P.S. If you want more on how to make love scenes count, I have a For Writers section on my website with over 100 articles on writing, including an entire section on romance writing and love scenes.
About Roni Loren:
Roni (@RoniLoren) wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. She is the National Bestselling Author of The Loving on the Edge series and was a 2013 RITA award nominee in contemporary romance.
You might also like: “Erotica? Erotic Romance? Steamy Romance?” by Cara McKenna