Of all the genres in the writing world, erotic romance and erotica are the toughest to write. It's not about what you call the body parts. It's not even about what you do with those body parts. It's about how you stimulate the mind.
I've read love scenes that didn't raise a brow. They just left me feeling "Meh." And on the face of it, it was hard to define exactly why. Kinky doesn't do it. Gymnastics don't do it. Variety isn't actually necessary. So... what is it?
I think it's the total involvement between the people. It needs to be mind, body and heart. Without it, it's just sex. Isn't that how it is in real life? Isn't that what we look for in a partner for ourselves? And if so, why are we willing to settle for less in our writing?
I'm not talking about the technicalities here. Almost any good writer can include the touch, scent, taste, visual in a scene. But if I finish reading a scene feeling like there's a director waiting in the wings to yell, "Cut!" then that doesn't do it for me.
When a scene truly touches me, it's because I'm so caught up in the act that I forget that it's a story. It's real. And it has meaning, regardless of the kink factor. If the reader is not enthralled by the way the characters are interacting, then something is wrong.
The other thing that bugs me is when sex is abrupt. I'm not picking on up-against-the-wall sex here because he or she has a sudden uncontrollable urge. But if the couple have had a nice romantic evening by the fire and then without any warning whatsoever he's handcuffing her to the bed, then that totally throws me.
Um, what happened to foreplay? Or even just sexy talk? Why do I feel like the author has a mental playbook and this is position ten? It sometimes seems that the author is fitting in various acts... "Okay, they did this in chapter one, and then they did that in chapter three, so now it's time for them to do that next."
Is there a playbook that lists what positions/acts are necessary in an erotic story? Or has everyone jumped on the same bandwagon because it worked for Randy Writer? Yeah, sex in the hot tub sounds hot, hot, hot, but not when you read about it in every single book. One of the sexiest scenes I've ever read was in Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard. It was the scene with the hose when they were washing the car. Yummmm.
Variety is the spice of life. But just as you wouldn't use the same spices in every single dish you make (pepper in the pudding, anyone?) the spices in our erotic romance should be varied and lively. An editor once told me she was still waiting to be surprised. I would like to issue the challenge to my fellow authors. Notice that the word was surprised--not shocked.
So... can you make it good for us?