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 Gianna Simone
No question erotic romance has come a tremendously long way in a short period of time—and in my opinion, it’s about damn time! There’s nothing better than a wrenching love story accompanied by scorching sex.
Despite its rise to prominence, though, erotic romance has a major hurdle yet to clear: a misconception that if it’s erotic, a story is “no better than porn.” Everyone who writes erotic romance has likely, at one time or another, been on the receiving end of varying degrees of disdain. I am no exception, having had a similar phrase directed at me very recently. The word “porn” on its own draws very visceral reactions, and from what I’ve experienced, those reactions tend to be on opposite ends of a spectrum. You either love it or you loathe it. One of the latest catchphrases to describe erotic romance is “Mommy Porn”—which, by the way, I happen to despise. It arose from the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey, and seems to me to be a mocking term to refer to the millions of women who were awed by this story, thinking it the be-all and end-all of kinky sex books. Others think “Mommy Porn” is a great way to describe a sexy, erotic love story.
Maybe this is part of my social conditioning, but I’ve found that the word porn suggests to many people—myself included—a certain degradation of the women involved. From my perspective, porn reflects a lack of respect for women. Others will argue with this of course, and that’s okay. Everyone has their own tastes and opinions, and even the porn itself varies (at least a little) in this regard.
Certainly, rough and raunchy sex can be a part of great romance. Especially since for those involved, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. But when reading erotic romance, I prefer something else with that sex—the connection between two (or more) characters that transcends the physical dynamite, where they bond on a far deeper level. Emotionally, intellectually, passionately. It’s sort of become a cliché these days, but there is truth in it—the brain really is a very powerful sex organ. It goes beyond finding someone attractive in the physical sense, and that connection the characters make, to me, enhances the physical side of things. Pleasure is fun for the sake of pleasure, but reach a common point on an intellectual and emotional level, and the pleasure skyrockets!
That’s why romance in all its various forms has always been my favorite genre. At its core, beyond the sexual aspect, a romance is simply a love story. When people fall in love, there’s a joining that goes beyond the tangible, physical level, and to me that is the thread that makes romance a compelling read. There are so many layers to that bond: a need to protect, care for and about, and genuine interest and support for what the other person does and is interested in. Peeling back those layers, as the characters discover them, adds to the obvious appeal of the sexual relationship. Each person continues to learn things about the other that has nothing to do with sex, but tightens the that bond regardless.
For me, the most compelling way to touch on those parts of the relationship is quite simply, emotion. Sex alone does not make a romantic relationship—whether it’s vanilla, kink-lite, or hardcore BDSM. Emotion is the mortar that holds the bricks of the physical side of a relationship together. Of course, in a love story, nothing is ever quite that simple.
Keeping that emotional tension and connection high in a love scene isn’t always easy. In a love scene, the characters already have an unspoken yet intense conversation going on. I tend to focus on a character’s reactions, both physical and internal, to bring out the emotional tension as the scene progresses. Sure, there’s longing and desire, but there’s also excitement, security, trust, worry, apprehension and a host of other things racing through their minds. Yes, eye contact can convey a lot of those feelings, and certainly words can as well, but sometimes there simply isn’t a way to accurately vocalize what someone’s experiencing during an intense sexual encounter. Non-verbal cues such as a lingering caress, accompanied by a piercing stare and a fierce kiss, or a gentle squeeze of a hand, can be key to showing what’s in the characters’ heads while adding another layer to the lovemaking. Each partner’s delight in the other’s reactions show that these two people care for one another’s well-being and pleasure, not just their own immediate gratification.
In Prince of the Universe, Merry suffered badly at the hands of an alien from the planet Aldarra. When another Aldarran, Prince Vega, shows up on earth, she wants him out of her life ASAP. Vega is not quite sure what Merry’s been though, but he is determined to get past it and show her the passion they can share. Here’s an example of how aware he is of her emotions, and how he reassures her not to be afraid. Slowly, she begins to trust him, even if only a little:
Vega took Merry’s hands and placed them on the bed beside her. “I will not restrain you, but you must keep your hands here. Do not move them.”
She squeezed her eyes shut for a few moments, and another tear broke free. When she spoke, her voice quivered with fear. “I don’t know.”
“You can do this.” He ran a finger down her nose and she opened her eyes. The terror had eased, but a trace still lingered.
He would banish her fear, would show her that to give herself to him in this way was pleasurable, that he would take care of her needs and not harm her. He began by gently caressing her cheek, wiping away the tear that escaped her clenched eyelids. He continued tenderly stroking her face, her hair. He leaned over, and followed the path of his fingers with his mouth, smoothing soft kisses along her cheeks and forehead, brushing across her closed eyelids. The stiffness slowly left her body and he leaned close to her ear, nibbling lightly at the delicate skin. Her body once more began to quiver, but he no longer detected terror. Apprehension perhaps, but even that slowly faded. Her fingers clutched at the sheets, and he smiled at her efforts to obey his instruction.
He licked around the edge of her ear, and the thought he wanted her to do the same to him flashed in his thoughts. His own ears, with their contours so different from a human’s, were a very powerful erogenous zone. Did Merry get the same excitement he did from the act of having her ears licked? He repeated the motion, supremely pleased when she gave a little moan. He drew away to study her. The flush of passion stained her cheeks and a shuddering breath rippled through her, the pulse at the base of her neck jumping. He pressed his mouth to the spot, the taste of her perspiration sweeter than drucaray, his favorite sugary treat back home. He licked the spot and moved his mouth along her throat. The trembling that overtook her told him he had broken through her fear. His cock throbbed. Soon she would beg him.
He lowered his hands slowly to her breasts, and touched her with soft caresses until a moan escaped. Her eyelids fluttered, and she focused an unsteady stare on him. The haze in her eyes now came from passion, and his body heated in response.
Some uneasiness still lurked under her desire, waiting for the right prompt to free it and destroy the pleasure she felt. He needed to utterly extinguish every trace of her fright before he could see to pleasuring them both.
“Vega?” A tremor of agitation laced her voice.
“Do not fear.” He realized his expression of concern may have revealed his anger at the way she’d been previously treated. Forcing a softened countenance to his face, he resumed caressing her breasts, trailing his fingers around her nipples until they hardened and stood up straight. He pinched them, and drew a groan from her. He rolled the pebbled buds in his fingers and a fierce quiver swept over her. When she pushed into his hands, giving him more of her flesh to touch, he lowered his head and licked one hard nipple.
She squirmed when he sucked the tip deep into his mouth, lightly grazing her with his teeth. Her flesh writhing against his drove his need to a new level of torment. A low moan escaped her and her wiggling grew more intense, her hips undulating against him. Her response pleased him, and sent a bolt of delight sizzling through him, settling with ferocity in his now excruciatingly hard cock.
So there you have the physical sexual connection, and an emotional bond that arises from one partner caring about what the other feels. When I read an erotic romance, those are the things I’m looking for—the things that will not only get my body hot and flustered, but touch my heart as well.
Gianna Simone writes erotic BDSM-themed romance novels in just about every genre. A born-and-bred Jersey Girl with Brooklyn roots, she still lives where it all started. She married her very own alpha male many eons ago, and still has plenty of passion left over to read and write hot, sexy and emotional stories about people both glamorous and not-so-glamorous. And some of them are even downright un-heroic, which is part of what makes them so sexy, in her opinion!