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Monday, February 1, 2010

Turning the Heat Up . . . or should I say, Down?

I read Phyllis’ recent blog post with interest. I can remember those days of writing love scenes for my romance novels. I typed then would glance around to make sure my kids weren’t present and then go back to typing. They were a part of romance and a requirement of the story – or so I thought.

Then the day came when I wrote a novel and I didn’t have a love scene. I wasn’t even aware this happened until I got to the end and realized my omission. I remember thinking the novel would never sell without a few intimate scenes. So, I went back and tried to find a place to fit them in. No matter where I picked it would be obvious that I put the love scene in for the sake of having one and not because that is where the couple was in their relationship. So, I left the story alone and didn’t add any intimacy.

I also looked back at my other manuscripts to see if I had added the scenes because they were necessary to the story. It turns out none of my novels needed intimacy. As I learned more about writing and story structure I found I was plopping in love scenes because it was expected. I was following the trends of what I believed sold and what readers wanted. The problem was, love scenes do not belong in my stories. Further, I was not comfortable having them there. And, once I deleted the intimacy I was so much happier with my manuscripts and my writing took yet another turn - inspirational romance. Luckily, for Phyllis and I, romances appeal to every age of woman (and some men), and that appeal is on several different heat levels.

Every writer has their own journey and every reader has their own comfort level when it comes to intimacy. What is your writer’s journey? Did you start someplace and end up somewhere else? What about your level of heat? The steamier the better or do you prefer your novels to have that fade to black moment, leaving the bedroom scene to your imagination? Or, do you even care as long as it is a good story? I know what I like, but then again, I am only one reader and writer in thousands. I love to know where everyone else falls.

15 comments:

  1. I prefer a low slow burn:) More of the emotional heat than physical. I wrote a couple of romances but my current book doesn't have any scenes in it either but the love is apparent between the couple in other ways I think:)

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  2. I personally have love scenes in my books, but they tend to be on the shorter side. I don't enjoy love scenes that go on for 8 pages when I'm reading, so I certainly don't write them. But I also don't mind reading books that don't have any love scenes at all. As long as it's a good story, that's all that matters. It's the romance I love - the falling in love part - that gets me excited about a book. If sex is a natural part of the couple falling in love, then that's fine. However, I've read some books where, like you talked about, it seemed the love scenes were just plopped in because they were "required".

    Great post!

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  3. Terri, I am with you on the low slow burn and emotional heat.

    Jerrica, you do tend to keep your love scenes short and, like you, I think it is the love story that is the important part.

    Thank you, both, for commenting

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  4. I can't help thinking about my mother, and my kids, and my husband, when I'm writing them. Still do it, but much more a subtle thing, no parts, no play-by-play. Works for me. Hopefully, my kids will just roll their eyes. Again.

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  5. I don't care as long as it's a good story. Since I write YA, I feel I have a duty to keep my romantic scenes on the sweet level. No sex at all. But when I'm reading a romance, I could go either way.

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  6. JD - I am glad I am not the only one whose kids roll their eyes :).

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  7. Susan, YA would definitely keep you in the "sweet" category, which is great. I've read some wonderful YA love stories.

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  8. My "heat level" tends to change based on my characters and my story. While I've yet to write anything that could be considered sweet or inspirational, the love scenes definitely vary widely.

    Jerrica, I'm usually not a fan of long or overdone love scenes either. I have recently read one that had me rethinking that. LOL. But in general, I tend to prefer to read the ones that are more suggestive than specific. I've come to admit though that any author can surprise me about what I enjoy. As such, I leave those scenes in my own work open to what feels important at that point in the story.

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  9. I write hot historicals but I read every heat level. I think what's important is that the intimate scene is compatible with the story. Authors shouldn't tease, lead up to the intimate moments, and then skip them altogether. That is so mean. LOL.

    And I agree, Amy, not every story requires a sex scene to be an enjoyable story. You write a great inspy romance - I've enjoyed all of them.

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  10. I believe I'm like everyone else and just love a beautiful love story. It isn't the sex or lack-there-of that gets me. It's the emotional pull. Sadly, I need to work on my intimacy. After a very long ten year marriage and divorce from a very unemotional man, I have a very hard time with emotion. So that's my weakness and I'm working on it. I'm toying with what works at them moment and hopefully soon, I'll figure it out. Great post Amy, really hit a good spot for me and leaves me with something to think about.

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  11. I grew up reading traditional Regencies where there was no sex, just gripping love stories. And since I was young at the time, I think that's appropriate. The books I write do have sex in them, and I like to think they're steamy, but I don't have to have it in a story I'm reading. What I want is a hero I can fall in love with and a heroine I can relate to.

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  12. If the story is written well then love scene or not I will enjoy it. My imagination can do the rest. :O)

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  13. Heat level doesn't matter to me. The biggest factor is the emotion in the story. It has to feel genuine, sometimes that involves an emotionally charged love scene and sometimes not. What I do NOT like is 1) sex with no emotional connection 2) emotional connection without any building of the relationship 3) neither character having admirable qualities to justify another person being gaga for them and 4) continual interruptions when the characters get ready to consumate the relationship.

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  14. Amy,

    Sorry to chime in late here. I love this post. So often writers feel like they've been shoved into boxes, forced to copy the latest bestseller. But readers are as different as writers.

    My 9 year old is the perfect example of this. She loves historicals. The kids' chapter book section of our local bookstore looks like vampire central. I am always astounded by the effort my daughter makes to get a new historical and how she cherishes it once she has found it. And I have to think the publisher, who has the only historical series in that store, is making quite a lot of money with this little niche market, hidden amongst the latest craze.

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  15. I thought I would write romances, but it turns out I'm writing humorous women's fiction with romantic elements - who knew?

    There HAS to be a reason for the intimacy, otherwise it's just there for smut purposes. That's one reason I prefer inspirational romance over general romance. And let's be honest - some of the sex scenes people write are just ridiculous!

    However, I have found an author that I like. She is incredibly funny, keeps the story moving, and always has sex scenes. The way she writes them, however, is amazing - they seem to blend right in with the tale. There was only one book that she wrote where it felt forced - the other times it just happened. That being said, I spent YEARS reading general romances and I would truly consider her 1 in a 1000 when it comes to writing the scene well.

    Just another reason why I think most people should avoid writing it...

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