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e-maginings: What Is Erotic Romance?

August 16, 2009 by in category Archives tagged as , , ,

There seems to be a lot of different opinions about what constitutes erotic romance, so I thought I’d explore some definitions today. It’s a little more complicated than you might think.

Some believe erotic romance is all sex with no plot, so is it the literary equivalent of a porno flick? In order to answer that, we have to distinguish between erotica and porn. I discovered that the word pornography literally means “writing about prostitutes”, and in the 19th century, it was used for factual reports about prostitution. Erotica, on the other hand, comes from Eros, the Greek god of love. So a literal definition might be that pornography is solely about the lusts of the body, while erotica is about the longings of the heart as well. In practical terms, the definition is always somewhat subjective.

Erotica is a sex story; that means it has a plot with a beginning, a middle and an end. Pornography may or may not have a plot. In fact, I was reading recently that some porn stars are lamenting the fact that they don’t even get dialogue any more!

Generally speaking, erotica differs from erotic romance in that it’s the story of a character’s sexual journey rather than the story of a developing relationship. In erotica the main character may have more than one partner and a happily-ever-after twosome is not guaranteed. However, a HEA threesome is a definite possibility!

Like other romances, erotic romance is a love story and you better believe that your readers will expect that HEA. I got dinged by a reviewer for not providing one for my Revolutionary Way spy story, Seducing The Enemy. While the characters did develop a relationship, they were unable to be together in the end, so technically it was erotica, not erotic romance.

In Passionate Ink: A Guide to Writing Erotic Romance, Loose Id, LLC, 2007, regarding the difference between sensual and erotic romance, Angela Knight points out, correctly IMO, that what drives sensual romances “isn’t sex, but not having sex”. In order to maintain sexual tension between hero and heroine, the writer devises external and internal reasons why going to bed with each other is a bad idea. The actual act of making love often signals a significant drop in sexual tension and the writer then has to find a way to make the conflict kick in again.

So what drives erotic romance?

Obviously, there still have to be reasons why the happily-ever-after ending isn’t guaranteed, despite the fact that they’re having sex at any and every opportunity. Knight refers to this as “romantic tension”. Again, this means strong conflict, especially if you’re writing a full-length novel. I think I prefer to call if “dramatic tension”.

For a little more background, check out this article at my Lyndi Lamont website. And if you’re at all interested in writing erotic romance, I do recommend Knight’s book.

How would you define erotic romance?

Linda / Lyndi

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