Welcome Title Magicians, welcome everyone, I invited Monica to blog with us about an important topic. I consider this is an extremely important topic simply because it affects all of us as authors, aspiring authors and readers.
How much romance, or how many love scenes are too many in a romance novel of any genre, from contemporary to shape-shifter to time travel? How many scenes are not enough? Or, more to the point of this blog, what do you want in your erotic romance, whatever your fave genres? How many sex scenes, what kind? How hawt do you want it? Is there ever too much? Sex, that is. Graphic sex, more specifically.
Do you want more plot? Do you want more expression of feeling, of love? How about the motivations of the heroine, and of the hero ~ or the heroines, heroes, however many there are, or how they are paired.
Well, Monica had an opportunity to sit down with readers and discuss what they wanted in their romance novels. So, I consider what she learned about sex and language, to be of the utmost value and importance to us all.
Once you’ve read about Monica’s experience and her conclusions, please weigh in with your own knowledge and insights. As a reader, what do you want? We authors and aspiring authors truly want to know.
Sex, Language and Readers
Writing sex is one of the hardest things I do as a romance writer. Why? Because sex is the most intimate of exchanges between two characters. You have to dig deep to make the scene meaningful. Lately, I find myself questioning whether or not I have too many sex scenes. I mean what is too much, and can one consider sex in romance as quantifiable?
In May, I discussed this topic with some really savvy romance readers. I think it important to note that only a couple of these readers have read my work. So I wasn’t in a fan club setting (although one can dream). Also, none of these women are writers, nor do they have a desire to write. This made their commentary free of the influences most writers have about romance in general. Inclinations such as the fear of competition some writers have, preconceived definitions of romance, craft "rules" such as GMC, character ARC etc. Listening to them exult and disdain about erotic romance and romance in general was a breath of fresh air because there were no preconceived notions. It was simply about what they liked and didn’t like about romance and erotic romance.
First off, these women LOVE sex in their books. They love ménage, m/m, m/f/m, UATW (up against the wall) sex, forced seduction, you name it and they love it. However, in our discussions they expressed extreme dissatisfaction with a lot of romance published today. They stated flat out that the erotic romance books they’ve been picking up recently seem to have sex scenes ad nauseam.
"I Would Write of Characters" — Ellen Glasgow
As a writer, I had preconceived notions as to why they were dissatisfied, but I didn’t share my opinions until after they listed their specific complaints. Their comments only reinforced my beliefs. These readers know the who, what, when and why of sex in a romance. But the most important element to them is the question of why. Without the why question being answered the book doesn’t work for them.
These women were emphatic about their need to understand what drives the characters either to have sex or what the characters are feeling during sex. All of these women stated that too often the sex in romance feels like it’s just thrown in to meet a story quota. It’s their biggest gripe with the romance genre today. They just don’t get the connection with the characters that they want.
They’re not the only ones expressing their opinions on this issue. I’ve heard similar rumblings in other reader places such as Dear Author and readers are possibly beginning to speak with their pocketbooks as well. The grapevine says Pocket Books reported their erotic romance line is slowing down (I’m sure the economy is part of that trend, but not the entire part).
Some people might say this "too much sex in romance" discontent is probably driven by authors or aspiring writers who write outside the erotic romance / erotica subgenres, but I don’t think so. Even if that were the case, it wouldn’t matter. If characterization isn’t a major component of the bedroom sex, then the sex doesn’t belong in the book. Without characterization you’ve got Part A going into Slot B, and that kind of sex is boring to read.
"Language Is Wine Upon The Lips" — Virginia Woolf
Compounding this "too much sex in romance" is the aspect of reader complaints about foul language. I applaud sex and foul language in romance when used appropriately and judiciously. For me, it MUST always be tied to the characterization. I once had a reviewer slam me for using the word cock too many times for her taste. I didn’t really agree with the reviewer, simply because the hero wasn’t a gentleman, he was a self-made man and the word cock was a part of his character. But I paid attention to what she was saying about my word choices. It occurred to me that if I overused a word it lost its impact on the reader.
There’s nothing more powerful than the F-word used at a point in the story where that’s the only word that will do. But using it every other line reduces the word’s impact. The same can be said for just about any other sexual word a writer uses. Not to mention the clinical sounding ones. Some erotic romance / erotica I read makes me wonder if the majority of women really use words like clit, clitoris, penis, etc. during sex. Sometimes I think we’ve swung from extreme purple prose to extreme clinical prose. Surely there has to be a happy medium somewhere in there. Just like characterization is integral to a sex scene, a foul word is inherent to the character and their motivations. Overusing it makes the reader go, "Enough already!"
"O, What Learning Is!" — Shakespeare
In the end, all of these rumblings don’t tell me anything I wasn’t expecting. I’ve known from the beginning that erotic romance would eventually become a saturated subgenre and that the spaghetti that sticks to the wall will be from writers who use great characterization and story lines as well as weighing every word they put on the page. Whether the gripe is "too much sex in romance" or prolific foul language in romance, I think writers can take away a great deal from these types of reader complaints. As Billie Jean King said, "It’s about learning your craft." Tennis might not be writing, but craft is craft. You need to practice it to be good.
So what do you think about sex and language in romance?
Monica Burns - http://www.monicaburns.com
Dangerous -- 4.5 Stars, RT BOOKreviews "A pretty good read" -- Mrs. Giggles
Mirage -- Top Pick, Romantic Times BOOKreviews
Mirage -- Top Pick, Romantic Times BOOKreviews
P.S. Talk about exquisite and powerful cover art! Which one is your favorite?