Sweet, Sexy, or Smokin’: What Makes A Story Hot?


At a recent book signing I attended, I stopped by the table where one of my writer friends was stationed. Wanting to lend my support I told her I’d buy one of her books and suggested she recommend one among the several available. She drew one out and said, “Well, you read a lot of erotic romance. Try this one. It’s hot, but without the words.” Saaaay what?!

I haven’t read the book yet, but a quick flip through the pages revealed plenty of “erections” “nipples” and “spilled seed.” Those are the words I’d expect to see. So it got me thinking: what exactly makes a story hot?

The book signing took place at the New Jersey RWA annual conference, and at one of the panels an editor talked about an upcoming book that had her squiming in her seat because of an erotic hand washing scene. That’s right. Hand washing. No kissing, no petting, no nudity, just a girl and a guy washing their hands together. The editor said the description of the slippery soap and the hands intermingling and sliding around could’ve lit a bonfire in her office.

So if a story is hot “without the words” – and without the sex! – what’s an erotic romance author to do in order to appeal to the widest possible audience? To get her readers squirming in their seats? Tastes and perception of what turns someone on vary from one reader to the other. One gal’s desire for a hero’s six pack abs gets her as revved as another girl does from full, soft lips.

When I think about what makes a scene hot, I also consider the length . . . of the scene. 🙂 Erotic romance love scenes are generally more descriptive and longer than those in sweet or sexy romances. They are also, often, more graphic. That, too, is something to ponder. Is it hot if the scene includes a detailed description of the heroine’s juices flowing down her thighs? If we’re informed that the head of the hero’s aroused cock is so hard that it’s purple? For me it can be . . . as long as the emotion is there. If I know how much the couple is really into each other, on an emotional level, that in itself is arousing. I understand that they’re hardly going to be in love if they’ve just met, but if there’s an emotional connection on some type of level, the desciption of their sexual experience can be arousing in lots of different ways.

In the end, I imagine there’s a tipping point in any given erotic romance in which the description is too long, or too graphic, and the scene fizzles faster than Kim Kardashian’s marriage. The challenge for the writer is to walk that fine line and get our motors running without making us run away.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Elizabeth

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5 Comments

  • madelineiva
    October 26, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    What I like about Lora Leigh’s writing is that she does this great build up to the sex scenes. She makes you wait for them, and she cranks the tension while you wait. The emotional connection is often at stake in some way in the build up to the scene and in its culmination. Often the heroine doesn’t know if she really can do what she’s about to do. I’m often half-way gone before the first kiss lands.

    So I love what you say about the emotional connection.

    I remember Angela James mentioning the handwashing scene too. What was the author’s name? Was it a paranormal series coming out? I’ll check my notes.

    I remember seeing the movie Aliens — I mean, Aliens! Not the most romantic movie ever — but when Hicks put his watch on Ripley, and said he could always find her with his tracker if she was wearing the watch — it really got to me. More than a lot of the romance I read. She looks all funny and he says “it doesn’t mean we’re engaged or anything,” but they WERE connected from that point on. Sigh! No kiss, no hot pounding sex, and not even quite sexy-handwashing, but still it satisfies.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      October 26, 2012 at 5:19 pm

      If your notes have who the author is let me know. It’s not written in mine. I don’t remember that Aliens scene, but it’s a good excuse to re-watch the movie!

  • LizEverly
    October 26, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    I think if the scene calls for “language” we need to go for it. There’s nothing worse than some of those strange euphemisms that either make me cringe or giggle. That said, there’s some words that rub me the wrong way, no matter what. I think some ER writers tend to over use some words and I always feel like less is more because it has a much greater impact the ONE time you write COCK, as opposed writing it every time… Anyway, great most– a lot to think about!

    • Elizabeth Shore
      October 26, 2012 at 6:36 pm

      So his “fiery love sword” doesn’t do it for you, Liz? 🙂
      Ha ha! I’m totally with you.

      • LizEverly
        October 26, 2012 at 7:04 pm

        LOL! I also really don’t like rod or shaft. Which both make me want to giggle.

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