1. MilesTro

    MilesTro Senior Member

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    Romance How to write steamy romance

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by MilesTro, Sep 6, 2018.

    How do you write steamy romance? Is it basically an exotic smut about two characters meeting and making out throughout the book without conflict? Or it is a basic story with conflict and strong sexual tension. I tried writing a short, and I wasn't sure if sex is the main focus in that type of romance.
     
  2. CerebralEcstasy

    CerebralEcstasy Active Member

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    I had to take a break from my sci-fi book because it circled the drain and became romance. lol

    Most romance books are incredibly formulaic. A couple of individuals meet, there is an initial conflict of some sort, but also this undeniable tension and attraction. One or both may fight it, some time usually passes and they are reintroduced to one another. This time there has been some growth in one or both of the characters which allows them to move past the initial conflict. They realize they've been destined to be together all along, and magically all things work out.
     
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  3. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I love to write steamy Romance. In fact it is 100% of what I write, and I think I do it pretty well.

    I always endeavor to write stories where, if you took the explicit sex scenes out or toned them down considerably, you'd still have a good story. The smut for me is the cherry on the sundae or the garnish on my plate. I've only written one short Romance story (which can be found in this collection), but I could have easily left the explicit sex at the end off and still had a good story.

    Erotica, though - that needs to have explicit sex that drives the narrative. I don't write Erotica, just Romance with a fairly high heat level.
     
  4. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    That does not reflect the content of my Romance books or the many, many others that I've read and enjoyed. Can we please stop crapping all over Romance as a genre? It's getting really freaking old and honestly a bit lazy at this point.
     
  5. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    One worry is that, if you could write the story without the explicit sex and still have a good story, then the explicit sex scenes MIGHT feel a bit tacked-on. Do you experience that problem at all, and if so, how do you deal with it?

    I have some explicit sex in my novel—which contains a love story, although the characters 'getting together' is not the story's main arc—but I had to put it there, because it is so revealing of what the characters are like. It's important to show how their relationship differs from their sexual relationships with others. That difference is very necessary to the plot, and to the characters themselves. I could not leave the sex scenes out and create the same understanding in the reader about what really drives these characters at their most intimate levels.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2018
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  6. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I don't think so. My sex scenes usually have a good reason for being there, so the only difference between me and Romance authors who write with a lower heat level is that they'll either fade to black or write the scene somewhat vaguely (Nora Roberts would fall into this category; while I love her books I usually skim her sex scenes because they're too flowery for my personal taste), whereas I like to lovingly detail every moment of the magnificent boning that's taking place. :D

    I almost exclusively read Romance with a high heat level, so that's how I write my books as well, and luckily for me there are a lot of readers in my genre who actively seek out books with more explicit content. A lot of Romance reviewers/book blogs will as a default include a heat index of some sort to guide readers towards books written with their preference in mind. A couple of other authors in my genre who have a similar approach to me when it comes to explicit sex scenes are Annabeth Albert and Cordelia Kingsbridge, although they are more popular than I'm sure I could ever be.
     
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  7. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, I hear you, regarding fade to black or flowery. There is nothing more irritating to me than 'coy' avoidance of sex scenes in any story. It's such a part of most of our lives (or will be, or was) and it's not just a bodily function, like pee or shit or blowing your nose. It's a complicated act that involves another person (or people) and emotions, confidence levels, past histories, skills, ineptidude, consequences, etc. To just 'shut the door' on such an important event, just because an author doesn't want to 'offend' somebody, drives me nuts.

    At the same time, I've also read sex scenes that seemed ...how do I put this ...out of step with the rest of the novel. Sometimes they are, as you say ...flowery. Sometimes they're the opposite, and the excessive use of slangy terminology just doesn't sit right with the style that's used in the rest of the book. Sometimes they go on in the sort of detail that isn't devoted to any other part of the story.

    I remember reading your first novel, the one about the food competition, and being mesmerised by the detail you included regarding the food, the recipes, the judging techniques, the personalities and interactions between all the characters ...and the setting as well. So when it came to your sex scenes, the fact that they, too, were detailed, fit right in. So I think you've walked that tightrope very successfully.

    Explicit sex in novels is newly acceptable in a general sense, but I think we all remember back when it wasn't—back when it was actually censored. So I think it's going to take at least another generation for our tendency to view it separately from the rest of a novel to disappear. But we're getting there.
     
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  8. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    That is such a lovely compliment - thank you!
     
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  9. Ashley Watters

    Ashley Watters Member

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    I am currently reading New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Melissa Foster's works which she has graciously made free for now. I am trying to research successful authors for clues to make my writing better fit the genre. She writes mostly m/f but has a f/f book and a m/m book. Her books are steamy from the beginning. She fills the story with emotion and setbacks. They are formulaic like the complaint from @CerebralEcstasy. I really like her work and understand why it is a best seller. There is nothing wrong with formulaic writing because that is what many readers like. I have read two of her books. I see the formula. It would probably get old after a while. Right now I enjoy her work.

    I have dealt with local song writers who wanted to get into the business. The problem they had was doing things their way. Two had some success but not paying success. They had the drive and the connections to make it somewhere but refused to get along with the industry. This caused them to spiral out and give up on their dreams. Something to consider.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2018
  10. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Conspicuously Conventional Contributor

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    In any story? Like, even other genres? Because I'm happy with a fade to black or vague sexual summaries for 99% of the stuff I read.
     
  11. Nariac

    Nariac Contributor Contributor

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    I only have one steamy romance novel, and that's because romance is not my primary genre. I have romantic subplots in all of my stories - I love writing them - but only one novel where the primary focus is romance.

    I would say that the ratio of plot to sex is what would govern where your story lies on the scale from romance to erotica. After all, nobody reads Pride and Prejudice for the sex, and nobody reads 50 Shades of Grey at all for the plot. My own story has several steamy sex scenes but it's very much plot and character driven. It's filled with conflict and sexual tension, because both characters have strong reasons to try to avoid falling in love with each other. The sex scenes are those moments where they give in. A bit a first, then again, and then again. It's an important mood break within the story, which is usually rather fraught. A chance for the reader to catch their breath, before the next bout of drama.

    The thing about scenes in general is that if they don't either develop character or advance plot, they need to work hard at justifying their presence. It's generally more difficult for a sex scene to do those things than for other scenes to do it, which is why fade to black is so often used. The other reason of course, is that sex and humour are two of the hardest things to write well. A joke which falls flat isn't just unfunny, it makes the reader less likely to laugh at your next joke. A sex scene which is badly written isn't just not-hot, it actively drains heat from the surrounding text. If you're going to have one, make sure you know why. Also make sure you really want to write it, because if you can barely bring yourself to peek at the naughty bits to write, it'll be just as awkward to read.
     
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  12. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    No, of course I don't expect sex scenes in every book I read. But when I sense there's the coy ...and the door closed behind them, and next morning she came out smiling ...kind of thing, whenever the sexual situation arises—when whatever happened behind that door is important to the characters and the story, I feel the author has let us down a bit. If the nature of the sexual relationship isn't important to the story, fair enough. But to then go into detail about every other aspect of the characters' lives, while making it clear they DO also have sex lives (nudge nudge wink wink), seems to say 'oops, I'm squeamish about sex scenes.'
     
  13. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Sexual Steamy Tension, huh?

    Naked tied to the rack in a sauna. :p
     
  14. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Conspicuously Conventional Contributor

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    Outside of racy romance stories sexual details generally aren't important to the characters or plot. Which is why they're rarely shown in other genres.
     
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  15. MilesTro

    MilesTro Senior Member

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    I guess it depends how much sexual tension it has to make it steamy.
     
  16. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sexual tension doesn't necessarily have to be expressed by writing sexual acts. It can be expressed by being compulsively aware of each other, by seeking out the other's opinion, by always being around, coincidentally or not. When unsure, whose eyes to you meet? Who do you turn to for assistance? Who do you lash out against when you're frightened and cornered, because you know that this person won't turn away?
    For me, such details make a romance a lot more tense than just describing a hot sexual encounter, and they have the added benefit of being vital for the unfolding storyline. But there are readers who prefer to read sexual acts, and there are readers (like me) whose focus lies elsewhere.

    Do I write sexual encounters? Yes, if plot and character development needs it to unfold. No, if not. Generally, I prefer to write tension and not explicit sexual acts, but it won't always be possible to leave them out. However, if they are necessary, then it is necessary to write them as they are. Don't cheat the reader out of an experience.
     
  17. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    Set the whole book inside of a sauna. Instant steamy throughout the whole book.
     
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  18. CerebralEcstasy

    CerebralEcstasy Active Member

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    I was commenting on what seems to be a pattern I had seen in a lot of the novels I've personally read. I actually quite enjoy historical romance, if done well.
     
  19. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Well there is the EL James: It was Hott (use quite liberally and often).

    IDK, really, perhaps figure out what exp. you have IRL to kinda write
    out the scene. They say the best way is to write what you do know.
    If you are just wanting to write the tension parts, then just build upon
    that part, by having both parties totally into and invested in their relationship.
    Can be as complex or as shallow as you want it to be. Though if the reader
    is suppose to buy it, then it might help if they have good chemistry and
    are likable to the reader.

    Good luck. :superidea:
     
  20. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    Maybe you need to be more discerning when you're checking out contemporary works if everything you read falls into the pattern of "magically everything works out." I've probably read a dozen romances this year so far and the HEA is usually beautifully hard-won.
     
  21. CerebralEcstasy

    CerebralEcstasy Active Member

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    Quite possibly. In truth, it has been awhile since I've read any of the genre, so it could be that they've changed greatly over the years. Or that I just wasn't very discerning in the first place because they were a guilty pleasure, as opposed to something I'd read to really make me think. Please don't take my comments as disparaging, I'm certain that you have a greater appreciation for the genre than most because its your craft. Best regards.
     
  22. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I mean, I get what you're saying, but being introduced twice, growing as a person, and overcoming multiple conflicts to end up together doesn't strike me as "magically working out." lol Most people get together irl easier than that.
     

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