Greetings, RU Crew! Your characters have exchanged longing looks across the room, held hands and possibly, shared a few kisses. And now, they’ve arrived at a major turning point in the story. I call it the love scene. Others might refer to it as the sex scene. So, what’s the difference?
RU’s regular contributor Handsome Hansel explains why sex and romance aren’t the same thing.
Welcome back, HH!
I suppose we all knew we’d get here eventually, huh? After-all, we can’t talk about writing romance without talking about the sex which comes with it.
I am tempted to write this post full of double entendres, witty quips, and well placed euphemisms but I’m going to try and be a good boy.
Aww hell, who are we kidding!
I started writing romance accidentally. I WAS the epitome of a hopeless romantic when I began writing which I’m sure steered my writing. Perhaps it was a void in my life, perhaps it was a wanting. Whatever the reason, I wanted Romance. I wanted to both be the swooner and the swoonie. (Romance works both ways Ladies) It pulled and pushed at me to the point where it eventually found its way on paper simply because I needed the release.
Fast forward to me writing my stories and sending them to people I trust.
It turns out… the sex scenes, while (in their words were) completely hot, weren’t romantic. Upon further reflection, I realized I was being a guy writing a story instead of being my hero as a writer. Things had to change.
When I sat back and analyzed where I was coming from, I could see that I was forcing myself into the characters. Speeding things up as it were. I needed to do what I would normally do in real life and slow it down. Take the time needed to build up to the moment in which real intimacy happened. The point where in real life, people would, within the blink of an eye, decide whether or not this person was the one they wanted to be with. I found even in the swiftest of decisions there still needed to be buildup.
I had to take the approach that I am dating my readers. Sounds strange but bear with me. While most of us have had one night stands, I think we can all agree that in the whole scheme of things they are meaningless, forgetful (most), and simply serve a pent-up need. There is no substance there. No different than if we throw a half-dozen sex scenes on paper and simply call it a Romance novel or Erotica. When it comes to adding the sex into our Romance stories, we need to give them a purpose other than “it’s been 50 pages so I better put one in”. After-all, you wouldn’t expect a man to awkwardly grope you at the end of your first date, would you? (Ok, which one of you said, “It depends on where he took me to dinner?)
Our readers, just like our characters, want to be courted. They want our writing to gain their trust before they can squirm, continually recross their legs, and enjoy with any amount of honesty the sex scenes we pepper our stories with. While our readers ARE always looking for the hot sex and in some cases read at a faster pace in order to get to them, it is our responsibility to really bring the heat by fanning the flames before they get there. Don’t we all want that build-up in our own lives? Sending a sexy text in the morning followed by a quick phone call telling our lover we can’t wait to get them alone in the evening. It makes the sex hotter when we do those things in real life so why shouldn’t we translate that into our writing for our readers. Court them, tease them, make them not be able to wait anymore.
So, how do we do that? For me, I feel the need to simply take what I would do in real life and put it on paper. Or, take what I would want done to me and put it on paper. (For the record, I’m not talking sexually here so get the minds back on track!) What I mean is what would turn me on before the sex even started. The foreplay before the true definition of foreplay. Those moments when we can’t wait to be together. Those moments when we are inside each other’s heads way before we are in each other’s pants. Anticipation breeds expectation which breeds lust and desire. In a lot of cases it is a set of circumstances which keeps the two lovers apart. They want/need to be together but can’t because of certain conflicts which seem to never go away.
What I have learned from the critiques of my writing is that those moments when things are hot and heavy between our characters and the flesh is dripping sweat, the heat is exchanged through anticipatory breathing, and nothing else exists within our character’s rawest of moments, is that if we haven’t done our job as writers beforehand, it’s emotionally shallow which translates into the shallowness of the sex. Which…let’s be honest, may turn a few on for a while but ultimately, as authors, we’re not life long partner material.
For obvious reasons I get a lot of Nicholas Sparks talk headed my way. What I have noticed is that what stands out most in his readers minds is not the love making. It’s “the canoe ride”, “the kisses in the rain”, etc.
Sex is desirable but it’s not romantic. Sex becomes desirable to our readers when we build up the romance before it.
Throughout my critiques I’ve learned a lot. Mostly, that romance lovers take their genre seriously. We owe it to them to deliver. Let’s “date” our readers and become the authoring partners they desire!
How would you “date” your reader? What romantic gestures would your characters make before taking the plunge?
Sonali Dev presents: Inspiration Hunting in the Publishing World on Wednesday March 6th.
Bio: Like most of us, I’ve been around the block a time or two (or three) in the relationship world. I like to think of myself as having a pretty thick skin, however, that skin doesn’t surround the heart.
I’ve been in love; I’ve been in lust. I’ve been hurt and got up to do it all again, each time having learned more of myself as well as “wants” and “don’t wants” for my next relationship. Amazingly enough, I never gave up on that one true love wrapped in Romance. You can visit me here, at http://thedanceofromanceonline.com
- Handsome Hansel presents: Sex Is Not Romantic…Or So I’ve Been Told
- Men – Can they truly be accepted as Writers of Romance? with Handsome Hansel
- Writing When You’re Under The Gun with Handsome Hansel
- “Why Me? Why Us?” Handsome Hansel on Romance University
- Valentine Schmalentine with Handsome Hansel