Please excuse any typos in this blog post. I shut my thumb in a car door so my touch typing abilities are a little depleted due to that. It hurts. A lot. Folks, be careful closing car doors. I think I fractured the top phalange.

Anywho, onto today’s topic: erotica vs romance and how to toe the line.

NOTE: Before I begin I would like to have it known that I do not believe that erotica is beneath me. I don’t look down on the erotica genre, or erotica writers. Every genre of novel has its place and a lot of work and effort goes into writing. I do believe, however, that there are distinct differences between and erotica, and erotic-romance, and plain ol’ romance. That’s what this post is about. It is not about dissing the erotica genre or erotica writers.

I don’t know about you, but I love a good erotica. Sometimes I’m just in the mood to settle down with a 100-200 page, hot af, smut-fest between two likable characters who spend about three quarters of the story getting nekkid! The other twenty-five percent is, of course, minimal plot, in order to develop interest in the two characters. That’s about where my interest in erotica ends.

Of course, there are erotica novels that push past these short, smutty novella style stories, but in my opinion they still fall down in the plot and characterisation arc. And that is where I believe the difference between an erotica and a romance novel end.

To me, a romance novel should have developed, complex characters and an interesting plot. There should be a plot, full-stop, beyond the sex lives of the two MCs. That is what makes a novel a romance, or an erotic-romance, as opposed to plan old erotica. Plot and characterisation.

Romance doesn’t have to involve sex, but just because it does include graphic sex doesn’t mean it should automatically be classed as erotica and given the side-eye. There are ways to write erotic-romance, and steamy sex in romance novels, in ways that do not push your story into erotica territory.

♥ Write a well thought out plot, as I mentioned earlier. A good plot is going to distinguish your story. Even if it includes sex, even if that sex becomes quite graphic, a good plot means there is more thought put into telling this story than just sex scenes.

♥ Create complex characters. What does your character like to eat for breakfast? Are they superstitious? What was their first pet? What did they want to be when they grew up? What’s their biggest regret? What’s the strangest dream they’ve ever had? Do they interrupt other people when they’re talking? Do they hate certain behaviours? What makes them cranky? What calms them down after a bad day? Knowing these kinds of details about your characters and creating a full background and life history gives your characters depth. It makes them real. It allows readers to connect with them on a deeper level and gives depth to your story. Personally, even if a story has the best plot and incredible writing, I’ll put it down if it falls down in characterisation. Characters are the single most important part of your story. Make them real.

♥ If you’re going to write sex scenes rather than flash over them, give them a purpose beyond simply the characters having sex. Of course it’s fine to throw in a sex scene to have some fun but make sure the characters are giving the readers something new. And I don’t mean new sex positions. I mean, does this show some new aspect of your character, does it allow the reader to understand something about them. Is this sex deepening the relationship, is it them connecting, is it them moving beyond the dreamy honeymoon period into something deeper? Is it two characters meeting for the first time and there being an explosion of attraction that they can’t hold back from but it could develop into something more? In a romance novel the sex should have a purpose, because you are telling a story and everything should have a purpose or what is it doing there? Even if that purpose is to show your characters’ connection, then that is what you should focus on. Erotica is about sex, just sex, for sex’s sake, that’s its purpose, which is fine, but that is not the purpose of a romance novel.

♥ Decide if you want romance or erotic romance, because the sex will be described differently. Erotic-romance is going to be more graphic, raunchier. Romance will be softer, more allusion as opposed to outright graphic descriptions. All of this comes down to what you want your story to be and what suits your best as a writer.

♥ Make the sex real. Unrealistic sex is fun and fine every now and then, but when you’re writing a romance novel, the goal is to tell a story about people, about their love and their connection. In real life, not all sex takes you to another plane of existence. It’s not all good. It’s not even all bad. Sometimes it’s just sex and it isn’t one way or the other. Sometimes it’s quick, sometimes it’s drawn out. Sometimes you start and then you’re just not feeling it so you stop and turn on a movie and make popcorn. Make sure your very real characters and their real expression of love, also has realistic experiences with sex.

There you have it, five tips that will help keep the distinction between a romance novel and an erotica. Whatever you write, just remember to have fun and tell the story you want to tell. Writing is an art of expression, which is why romantic stories are so popular, I suppose. I like to write different kinds of romantic stories, and I like them to seem real, which is why I don’t shy away from sex scenes unless they aren’t right for my story. If I’m going to be blatant when my characters struggle with depression, or alcoholism, or internalised homophobia, then I’m going to be blatant about their sex lives as well. I write romance novels with a touch of the erotic and I’m not ashamed of that. I’ll write whatever I please because they’re my stories to tell, and I hope you all feel the same as well.

Alright, that’s it for Saturday’s blog. While you guys are reading this, I’m going to be the MC at my big brother’s wedding and I’m really excited about that. I’m gonna roast the hell out of him for all the crap he gave me growing up. Bring it on!

Thank you for reading and I’ll see you all for Wednesday’s blog where I’m going to go over my struggles with writing romantic dialogue. It’s so hard not to make it sound hokey, sometimes.

2 thoughts

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you find it useful. And yes, too often sex in stories is far too good to seem real. Characters in fiction don’t seem to have enough bad, average, or awkward sex haha

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