by Lise Horton
For those who do not read erotic romance, with its full-contact, graphic sex scenes, they may not immediately appear to be all about love. In some cases in fact, the story may NOT begin with a couple (or more) who are already “in love”, or already falling emotionally, before they indulge in the physical; one difference from less steamy romances. But they are always people who are embarking on a relationship because of an immediate attraction or growing into a committed love relationship, even if it may stem from an initially sexual relationship. I think it’s important to note this initial attraction is unlike anything they’ve ever known – there’s chemistry, but also something “more”. This lets a reader know which way the wind WILL soon be blowing, emotionally.
I strive in my stories - complete with HEAs – to illustrate just how romantic, emotional and psychologically satisfying a sexually graphic love scene can be. In order to convey this truth, I need to make sure my characters – and their actions - are immediate and believable. So I do tons of research about providing emotional and psychological detail in my characters and their love scenes.
For example, using kink means showing why my characters are kinky. How that sexual preference evolved, and how it ties into their emotional make-up. I have read a lot of kinky erotic romance that contains things I would not personally want to participate in. However, that doesn’t mean the author was not successful in making those scenes really hot and erotic for me! (I’m one of those whatever-blows-your-skirt-up kind of gals, after all.)
Or if I am using Dominance and submission elements (D/s) (I’m not a creative “switch” – my heroes are always the dominant ones, my heroines always submissives) I need to do a psychological study of my characters to show why they are the way they are. In particular, with a heroine who is a submissive (which can mean many different things, but it doesn’t mean that she is not a strong, independent character). Is she a submissive only in the boudoir? That means she can be a total take-charge woman in other aspects of her life. I love the dichotomy of a female who loves being controlled in bed, but woe betide the man who tries it any other time! Or is she a submissive personality 24/7, meaning that her hero will dominate her both in bed, as well as be her protector in life? I have a character in a current WIP that is a 24/7 submissive personality. She has been physically wounded, emotionally tormented, and is adrift and alone. Finding a masterful man who takes care of her and helps her regain her stability is a relief and a blessing for her. It is a big plus that he is a wonderful, caring lover who helps her understand her feelings in bed, allowing her to blossom and enjoy her true sexual nature. But my hero’s proclivities and motivations must also be made crystal clear. He is not simply a megalomaniac out to control a woman’s life. He will be the masterful man she needs, within the context of his dominant, protective nature, especially when it comes to their sex life. He is compassionate about her desires and dreams, and helps her achieve them. He doesn’t use force or coercion to make her do what HE wants!
I do a lot of research. I read BDSM lifestyle books. I read books on alternative sexualities and their psychological aspects. I also read a wide selection of erotic romance for tips and to see if other authors successfully (to me) create emotionally gripping, kinky characters.
Before writing, I create a character sexual biography for each protagonist. It contains every single element of my characters’ sex life, from family teachings, to religion, first lovers, as well as all the negatives – bad experiences, fears, taboos. I include “worldbuilding” elements which impact their belief systems, or dictate sexual development. When I get to “present” circumstances I clarify their likes, dislikes, desires, and their own feelings (Curious? Scared? Embarrassed?). I log possible reactions to new lover(s) and new sexual experiences. I catalogue how these events will change them, emotionally and psychologically – filling unfilled needs, resolving old issues, revealing new sides of their sexual selves. And I go in depth clarifying their motivation and conflicts as they apply to the sexual plot, as well as how they tie into the overall plot: Her growth and how she’ll be helped to surmount these conflicts to achieve happiness on all fronts.
Once I have a clear picture of exactly what the character is like I can make appropriate plot choices and/or appropriate choices for characteristics, and actions & reactions in sexual situations. My goal is to have honest, believable, understandable characters whom a reader can travel along with on the sexual journey - a journey entwined with the emotional and romantic one.
Then I ramp up the fun and make sure everything is hot hot hot! Because, after all, as a famous hedonist once said, “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful!”♥
Lise Horton is the new RWANYC Chapter President. She is currently writing in her two favorite genres, and keeping abreast of the fascinating changes in the world of publishing. Find out more about the industry on her blog, The Publishing Game, http://publishinggame.blogspot.com/