Welcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!
Every time I see someone who writes erotic romance novels say they write erotica, I want to toss my laptop across the room.
What exactly IS erotic romance? Is it the same as erotica? Well, no, if you’re using the definitions that most publishers use to distinguish the two. But more important than the labels, since I see authors EVERY DAY who call themselves writers of erotica, when in reality they write erotic romance, let’s first back up a few steps and talk about what makes it a ROMANCE, period. That might help with the distinctions.
Most publishers use the RWA (Romance Writers of America) definition, or close to it, to define what exactly a romance is:
A central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.
Read their full definition by clicking HERE.
There is also a page on their site that explains the various sub-genres of romance novels. Click HERE to read it.
It’s important to understand the genre you’re writing in.
In a romance, the focus of the story is on the couple, triad, or however many characters in the story are the ones falling in love. There needs to be an HEA – Happily Ever After – or HFN – Happily For Now. If there isn’t, it’s NOT a romance.
If there’s nothing keeping the characters from having a cup of coffee and a nice chat before getting together – in other words, no conflict, no story/romance arc, no character growth, you have bigger problems than distinguishing between erotic romance and erotica. You don’t even have a story. But that’s another blog post…
The most common litmus test to distinguish between erotic romance and erotica is the sex. If you can take it out and the story still stands – in other words – you still have two or more people who face obstacles to being together, who grow and change as the story progresses, and who achieve an HEA or HFN, then you write EROTIC ROMANCE. The focus of that story is clearly on the couple, triad, et cetera, and their story.
EROTICA, on the other hand, may contain one or more of the above, but the focus is on the sex. Without the sex, the story, and the relationship, falls apart.
Here’s an example. Your story is about two people who hook up and have hot sex through most of the book. No reason, except that they want to bang each other. Then they decide to live together on the last page. There are no barriers to their relationship. They face no obstacles throughout the sex scenes. Neither one grows or changes in some way by the end of the story. That’s not an erotic romance. It’s not really a story. Stories need conflict. There’s nothing emotionally satisfying in reading that. The couple could have been anyone. A reader would not be invested in giving a rat’s ass whether that couple stayed together at the end of the story or not. They read that story for the sex, nothing else, because you GAVE them nothing else.
If you write erotic romance, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE stop telling everyone you write erotica. You do not. Not unless you actually do, and then you may make that distinction till the cows come home. But you’re doing everyone a disfavor by interchanging the two terms, because they are NOT interchangeable.
Erotic romance doesn’t get its name from the sex scenes. That’s a common misconception. It gets it name from the language, and the graphic detail not only in the sex scenes, but throughout the entire story. There is no purple prose. Anatomical parts are named appropriately, or the writer uses common synonyms for those parts. The sex scenes often contain kink in varying degrees, and the characters engage in much more than missionary position sex with the lights off. The language in the story may be coarse and rough, and the content may be edgy.
Doesn’t mean you can’t work up a sweat for your readers without rough sex, or multiple sex scenes in a book. You certainly can. But in erotic romance, the overall feel of the book is much edgier and hotter. HOWEVER, and here is the distinction, at the core, it’s still a LOVE STORY.
Because the water is now so muddied, a lot of really talented authors who write erotic romance are being kept from groups, promotions, review sites, and events because the organizers/owners “don’t promote erotica.” In other words, they don’t want straight porn/sex in the story. And, some refuse to believe there’s a difference even after it’s explained to them.
We’re doing this to ourselves, folks, by not being more careful with how we define what we write. Don’t sell yourself short. If you write ROMANCE, first and foremost, waive that term around proudly. You write in the BEST SELLING GENRE on the planet.
Until next week, Happy Writing!!