One of the questions beginning writers ask us most often is: “How do you know if you have captured the love in your characters’ lovemaking, and aren’t just writing a run-of-the-mill sex scene?” To answer that question, twelve writers offer their own thoughts and advice in this unique WriteSex Author’s Roundtable. Each Monday a well-known romance author will discuss the difference between a sex scene and a love scene, and show us how to charge an erotic encounter with romance. Look for personal insights and how-to tips from our participants in this first ever WriteSex Authors’ Roundtable. —Ed.
By Sally Swanson
In the not-so-distant past, erotic stories favored male readers and relegated women to the role of Object of Desire, rather than characterizing them as sentient and sensual beings. The comparatively new genre of erotic romance, however, empowers women to be in control of their bodies, their hearts, and most importantly their desires.
Erotic romance is hot and graphic, letting instincts run over the conventions of polite society. This titillating variation on the time-honored romance novel intertwines sex with romance as a tool to advance the storyline. The style is provocative—what some would call naughty. Initially, a reader who is not familiar with the genre could perceive the sex scenes as gratuitous, yet they are integral and meaningful to the story. A good erotic romance author will share their characters’ feelings and insights before, during, and after sexual encounters—sharing intimate knowledge of their most fiercely guarded secrets.
Today’s heroine has a career and daily challenges, and these common experiences resonate with the reader. She is independent and accepts her sexuality, whether she is with a man or another woman—and no matter how dominant, submissive or versatile she likes her partners, she’s willing to go out and find them if need be. She takes charge of her life, unlike the traditional swooning, gothic heroine found in many romance novels, waiting for her One True Love to come and rescue her. Erotic heroines don’t have time for that. Their lives are often hectic and overbooked—qualities which, for some characters, some in handy as excuses to avoid intimacy.
Having sex isn’t nearly as intimidating as falling in love, and the heroine shares her subversive emotions of insecurity and doubt. The pain of love lost, unrequited love or a past relationship gone wrong can sully her ability to trust a new love interest (or indeed anyone), and drive her behind a shield of indifference. However, true love is the strongest force known to humankind and energizes even the most jaded soul. Being in love makes her vulnerable and strong at the same time.
With a variety of characters, the reader can see themselves in the participants or be a voyeur; in either case, that connection creates a bond with the characters and keeps the reader engaged. Women and men can enjoy erotic romance, and a well-written novel shares a variety of their perspectives. Erotic romance blends hedonistic sex scenes with tender passion, and the combination sizzles on the page. The reader feels this heat right alongside the characters as their growing tension tightens into tingling awareness. Wanton hedonism takes charge, revealing the core of their carnal desire and tender emotions to the reader—and together, they experience ultimate satisfaction.
But erotic romance doesn’t end with an orgasm—sometimes it begins with one. The heroine continues to battle antagonistic forces until love triumphs. Sometimes the heroine and her lover will decide that their future is together; sometimes one of them will move on. Either way, love unearths the most hidden and vulnerable aspects of the heroine and allows her to grow stronger from the experience—a “happily ever after” ending in its own right. In the end, she emerges confident and courageous.
Erotic romance empowers women to be the heroines of their own lives.
Sally Swanson is the author of the Soul Desire trilogy and the Ghost Lovers series. When she was twelve, she started to write her life story and realized she needed to live life before launching a writing career. To that end, she’s lived in or visited 46 of the 50 states and learned to speak Spanish while living in Mexico City, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico. If you haven’t yet guessed, she loves to travel—and, while doing do, she discovers strange-yet-true stories to provide fuel for Ghost Lovers, her latest paranormal romance series. If you like ghosts and steamy sensuality, you will love Ghost Dreams and Ghost Emerald, now available in multiple e-book formats.