Good romance vs. Page porn

One thing I love about writing fiction is doing research.

Because I am working on writing romance novels this semester, I’ve been reading a whole lot of romance novels lately.

It used to be that romance novels were “beneath” me. I used to think that romance novels were cheesy. It was porn on paper and not much else. I used to be embarrassed to even walk by the romance section in book stores.

Well, I am embarrassed no more.

What I’m discovering, however, as I read through various genres of romance – contemporary romance, romantic comedy, paranormal romance, historical romance, etc. – is that romance novels are much more than I’ve given them credit for.

These are very strongly character driven books. The story is more about the relationship between two characters than the actions of these characters in the world around them. A good romance pulls a reader in because the people are intriguing and worth getting to know, not because things start sizzling on page 23. While it’s true that most (if not all) romance books have very sexually explicit scenes, these scenes are more than just porn on paper.

I readily admit to giggling like an immature pre-teen when reading these scenes, but the smaller, more mature part of my brain recognizes that the scene is also a catalyst that helps push the story along. This only applies to “good” romance, not necessarily the red cover Harlequins’ that I’m pretty sure really are just porn on pages.

So the question I ask myself is how, as a writer, do I know the difference between a sex scene that serves as a catalyst for the story and a sex scene that’s not?

The answer is actually pretty simple.

If the sex scene can be removed and the story can continue without it, then it’s page porn. If, however, the sex scene is removed and the characters can’t come together in a way that feels genuine, well then, keep it.

A few days ago I wrote out my first sex scene. Afterward, I reread the chapter in order to see if it was necessary for the story. Though at first glance it may not seem necessary, because I know where these two characters are going later on in the story, I think it is well placed and is something that needed to happen.

…but that doesn’t mean I didn’t giggle like crazy when I was writing it.

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3 responses

  1. You can’t have romance without a good love scene. Those scenes that give you goosebumps and make you wish you were the FMC during writing it 😉

    September 29, 2010 at 8:13 pm

  2. Pingback: Question of the Week: Getting to the Heart of the Book: Romance vs. Porn « LM Dershem

  3. Excellent post!! I totally agree with your point about knowing whether an intimate scene works by taking it out.

    September 30, 2010 at 7:07 pm

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