Sunday, January 20, 2008

Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone - Pt. 3

Let's talk about sex.

Aha - that got your attention, didn't it?

But seriously, when it comes to romance novels, sex obviously plays a very important role. And it is definitely defined by the author's comfort zone.

There are varying degrees of sensuality when it comes to romance. Some are "sweet" - which means that all love scenes end with the closing of the bedroom door, with the reader on the far side of it. There may be kissing, but not much beyond it. Sure, it might be alluded to, but there is nothing graphic. You, the reader, know the characters are having sex, but it all happens off-camera and in the reader's mind alone.

Then there are moderate sensual romances - there's some sex, but not much. Maybe there's a little on-screen nudity but again, not much.

Then there are spicy romances - not necessarily graphic sex, but definite sex. And nekkid people - described enough to let the reader know that the heroine is, in fact, a woman. And considering what her hero usually looks like - she's a very lucky woman, at that.

And then there are erotic romances - which tends to lean towards no-holds-barred, explicit sex. Maybe group sex, oral sex, BDSM, sex toys might be brought into the mix - all graphically described - a lot of the time using slang instead of technical terms - and leaves almost nothing to the reader's imagination.

Now each of these sub-genres pose a level of comfort for a particular author. Some might not be comfortable with graphically describing their characters making love, while some authors have no problem with describing the sexual gymnastics of their characters. It all depends on their comfort zone.

When I first began writing, my love scenes tended to fall on the sweeter side. They were easy to write, as love scenes can be tough. But then, as I kept writing and the stories grew more complex, those sweet scenes just didn't fit in. So, despite wondering what my mother would think if she ever read them (confession time: I still blush when my mother reads one of my books), I wrote the scene as the characters dictated it. When it was finished, it was really a pivotal scene in the book, as it showed the hero's gentle side, which had been hidden before that. Though the attraction between the hero and heroine was initially physical, their first love scene gave her a bit of insight into him and set them on the road to really discovering each other.

I've found that characters' true selves tend to come out in my love scenes, because of their vulnerability at that point. Now, my love scenes tend to be rather spicy. It isn't always easy to write them, but sometimes it's important that they are written that way. The story itself might dictate it and it might expose an entirely new facet to a character.

Sometimes, as a writer, you have to push yourself just a little further out there. Try new things. Who knows, maybe you'll learn something about one of your characters that you didn't know - and again - the book will have that added dimension.

Next installment - plot.

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