It takes seconds to see what books sell the most reliably. These are the titles that fill the shelves at your local supermarket and department store – the titles that are going to come off the shelves as quickly as possible because they have a wide general audience. Just glance at those shelves and you’ll see a small section devoted to “Best-sellers”, a small section for the westerns and science fiction, and at least twice the size of both those sections combined is the one proudly displaying romantic fiction.
The romance genre has come to be so much more than the stereotypical Harlequin. Paranormal/science fiction romance is a fast-growing sub-genre. Of course, we still have access to hundreds of Harlequin titles, but even they have expanded into new lines that offer steamier, racier, and just-plain-hotter romantic fiction.
To break into the erotic romance market, you need to understand what erotic fiction means. From there, it’s just a matter of giving your imagination time to run away with your fingers.
Erotic Romance: What It Is
Shalla DeGuzman, president of the ShalladeGuzman Writer’s Group (www.shalladeguzman.com), recently had the opportunity to interview Shara Lanel, an erotic romance writer quickly growing in popularity. Her most recent release was Primitive Passion, but there’s less than a month left before her latest book – The Lion’s Den – hits the shelves, followed immediately by Gemini: Directing Claire.
In other words, Shara has some experience with the field of erotic romance and her thoughts are a great start in defining what erotic romance is. How does she define it?
“Most of all, it’s great romance stories with well-developed heroes and heroines that you can just fall in love with. On top of that, erotic romance takes the heat level up a notch, or several notches depending on the story. The love scenes are longer and more explicit. Euphemisms are not used, when the real word will work nicely. And the characters’ sexuality is a more integral part of the story premise.”
Subtle language is no longer the name of the romance writing game – even in mainstream romances, language has become more frank. With this knowledge, the line between sexy and erotic can seem blurred. The key is that the characters in erotic romances will never shy away from the actual terms used for body parts, and the love scenes they engage in stretch or totally cross standard romance boundaries. And a love scene never stops with the first kiss … you’re going to be invited right along for the duration.
Erotic Romance: How to Write It
With any writing project, the most difficult thing for most authors is coming up with story ideas in the first place. No one wants to read – or write! – the same old story done in the same old way.
Recently, I had a very disappointing experience that illustrates the point. I read one romance – the old vampire falls in love with a young woman and tries to push her away but she loves him back and won’t leave thing – and was satisfied with the way the story played out. A couple weeks later, I opened a new book by a different author and different publisher and found myself reading … the exact same story. Literally, every basic element of the story was the same. It was blatant enough that I actually sat down and charted out plot points, comparing the two books, and found that the only thing different was the ending.
I can’t get over how disappointing that was.
In other words, don’t follow a “formula”. Let the writing come naturally, and gather ideas from real life. If you’ve been on a kick reading information about making stained glass, perhaps your hero/ine could be a stained glass artisan. Maybe you’ve got a life-long affinity for birdwatching. Your heroine might be a birdwatcher who witnesses something she shouldn’t have while birdwatching which then kicks her into a struggle for her life – which, of course, your hero helps her out of.
All of life is potential fodder for a story – even the steamiest, most erotic story your imagination can conceive of.
Right along with your story idea is the characters. They should evolve together, because each depends so strongly on the other. Of course, an erotic romance character needs to be sexy. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that sexy is all about looks. A strong presence, a superb personality, and an internal conflict that makes it difficult for the hero/ine to choose right over wrong (but they have enough integrity to choose right, of course) all lead up to sexiness and play right into sexual tension.
The last key to writing a successful erotic romance that doesn’t fizzle out into something more mainstream is to add some real range to the love scenes. Erotic fiction is all about pushing limits – shattering them if appropriate. Highly sensual is good, but don’t let yourself shy away from things like BDSM or menages by thinking of who might read your work. If your mother decides to pick up your book, well, keep in mind that she knows you’re an adult. Shove the inner editor right out of your mind and concentrate on your own fantasies. Feed them with all your senses and really play the love scenes for all they’re worth – an erotic romance reader wants every juicy detail, not just a summary of what happened.