This article is by Elaine White. All opinions are her own.
Let’s get into the sticky subject of ‘romance’ and ‘disclosure’. When you write a romance, you are always faced with the impossible task of deciding whether to include that three letter word, sex, and how far you want to take it. When you write Erotica, there's also a fine line between being descriptive enough to make a visual and getting so descriptive that you're heading into porn territory.
Personally, I've written everything across the board. Not all of it has been published yet, but I've written it. The porn, the erotica, the YA friendly "off page" sex and the NA "it-happens-on-page-but-you-don't-see-anything" sex. I like the mix of NA and erotica. The porn is actually really hard to write, but it was necessary as I was writing about a porn star. The YA "off page" is really easy to write, but I always feel it leaves something lacking. There's so much chemistry you can include in a sex scene.
I’m not one of these who have read, or are in love with Christian Grey. I've never read it, never seen it and don't plan to do either; it's just a personal choice. I have no interest in reading that kind of book. I like Alpha males, but I also don't approve of stalking or emotional abuse, which are vibes I've got from reading snippets of FSOG. Of course, this could be because it was out of context, but again, I choose not to read it to find out.
I have read my fair share of ‘dodgy’ or ‘descriptive’ sex scenes, in some detail. You can’t avoid it if you want to read Game of Thrones, and the books are far more tame than the TV series, believe me. I’m also a fan of the Carpathian novels, by Christine Feehan, despite their heavy influence of sex used as a bonding mechanism.
So when, in a story is enough really enough? When do you decide to add more, take some out, or avoid it altogether?
Well, in my vampire series 'The Secrets of Avelina Chronicles', there are varying degrees of description on this subject. Most end with the door closing, or a refocus on ‘love’ or talking. That’s because I aim to allow my books to be read by any age. I don’t want to alienate a younger audience by being graphic or putting in too much detail where it really isn’t necessary. And, having released book 1 and recently book 2, I've found that the audience is primarily YA, so I want to keep it broad.
I also have a book based for teens or younger, about a magical school…can’t have sex in that. The kids in the book are 16, for sure, but I’m not getting caught up in that tricky web of what is and what isn’t appropriate. I still remember when Harry Potter came out. It was banned in countries and states because of its MAGICAL CONTENT! Could you imagine how much worse it would have been had it actually contained even a mention of sex? I mean, everyone was scandalised when the movies came out and there was that scene with a naked Harry and Hermione, to torment Ron. It exploded with criticism!
Which is why you always have to ask yourself when you write, the following questions –
Who is the intended audience?
Is it going to be read mainly be teenage girls or can guys enjoy the story too?
What is the age range, likely to be drawn to the cover and story plot?
These are important. Even when you write erotica, you still have to take these things into consideration. An innocent looking cover, for whatever reason, can land you in hot water if the wrong person buys it for the cover, without reading the 18+ warning. I've seen it happen many a time.
They may all come under ‘intended audience’ in any other aspect of thinking, but not when it comes to sex. You have to think about those readers who love a good romance and buy it not expecting explicit sex scenes (yes, even after you put big bold red letters warning them!). There are some readers who are happy with a little sex, but turn into a 12-year-old when they read it and realise how detailed it actually is. Shocking, I know, but everyone has their limits and - as an author - it's impossible for us to know where this line is drawn.
There are some people who have read my 18+ raunchier books and complained that there wasn't enough sex, when there's quite literally 5 big scenes. There are also some who claim there's no chemistry, just constant sex, because their limit is lower than the other reader.
It’s the burden of a writer to accept responsibility for these things. Sex is still a subject that makes some people uncomfortable, others angry, and some who just don’t care. Enough is enough very quickly, when it comes to sex in literature. There isn’t much wiggly room between ‘just right’ and ‘enough’.
But, for me, I want to give them a story they will enjoy first and foremost, and secondly, I want to make sure that they get a little heat with that plot. It's about providing a balance between page-burner and page-turner.
Enough is enough when it steps that last step before crossing the line between being erotica and porn. I write romance, so I want the love story to take prominence, but some love stories require more heat than other sand I'm just going to listen to my gut instincts about when to stop, when to keep going and when to try something new.
Elaine White is the author of YA paranormal romance Runaway Girl and Reckless Abandon, books 1 and 2 in The Secrets of Avelina Chrinicles; MM Romance author of Decadent and The Other Side, books 1 and 2 in The Decadent Series, both available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords; and her first nonfiction book An Unpredictable Life, detailing her teenage strugle with cancer, coming soon. She is also the author of The Alpha and the Oracle, in The Belesone Pack Trilogy,
coming May 31.
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