Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Physical Intimacy in a romance is like....

I was watching a movie that could best be described as a suspense recently, and as I was watching it, I had a wee epiphany.

Physical intimacy in a romance is like the danger in a suspense. It raises the stakes and puts the characters in jeopardy. In a suspense, it is often literally a matter of life and death. In a romance, it's the life or possible death of the relationship that can be at stake.

And then I thought, physical intimacy in a romance is also like the scary parts of a horror movie -- a time that provides, for both the characters and the reader, a heightened emotional response.

Those are also the times, whether it's making love in a romance, running from the bad guys or facing a monster, when the characters are shown in high relief. All pretense, all their social masks, are stripped way. In the case of romance, they are often literally naked, but that's not nearly as important as the laying bare of their emotional selves -- their hopes, their fears, their needs and lust and longing -- just as in a suspense, a chase can show the characters at their most determined, most clever, most self-sacrificing. Facing the monster shows a character's bravery and urge to protect others.

But let's not be all gloom and doom.

Physical intimacy in a romance can be like the pratfalls in a comedy -- when the characters do something embarrassing ("Oh, my gosh, I kissed that guy and now I find out he's going to be my boss!") and we laugh because, well, we're not them. What's happening may be painful to them (emotionally) but we know it's a romance (comedy), so it'll all work out in the end. If a character slips on a banana peel (real or figurative), we can chortle safe in the knowledge they won't suffer serious, debilitating consequences.

For some people, physical intimacy in a romance is like the forensics in those CSI shows. They expect it, and a lot of it. Don't have it, and they simply aren't interested.

You know, I can spend hours on this sort of thing. However, I have a book I should be writing, so I leave further comparisons to you. :-)


Kimber Chin said...


I've noticed that most of the great writers (you're included in that group, of course) try to keep the sensuality level in your writing fairly constant from novel to novel (i.e. you're not writing sweet romances one novel and erotica the next).

I'm trying to do the same.

The issue I have is with novellas. Obviously I'm not going to have my same three or so love scenes in a novella but if I have sex scenes in all of my novels, are my readers going to expect at least one sex scene in the novella?

Are the expectations different with novellas? Or not?
I don't want to disappoint anyone.

Jen L. said...

Excellent question Kimber!! As usual, hehe. :-)

I'm sure Margaret's answer is what you are looking for, but just to comment:

The romantic novellas I've read, at least the ones I remember from the authors who write novels as well as novellas, contain the same style of writing, but the flirtations are higher, the intances of "almost" are higher (the suspense of almost kissing, almost touching, etc), and the characters are kept in closer proximity for a shorter span of time. For instance, a lame example, snowed in at a party.

I notice that usually the heroes are more alpha as well, really pursuing the heroine.

I can't imagine reading a Lori Foster novella in a compilation book, and her not having at least one sex scene. So if your writing has sex scenes in your regular novels, your reader would probably expect at least one in the novella.

Just my two cents. :-)
Novellas remind me of the "Ultra" version of detergents...smaller bottle, but gets the job done the same.
-Jen L.

Kimber Chin said...

Dang, Jen, that was what I thought (or at least my gut was telling me).

I have a space for a love scene. I do have "extra" info I could add during that love scene. Yeah, might as well put it in.

And here I thought this was one work my Mom could actually read (though she has six kids so she might know a thing or two about sex).

Thanks for the valuable and generous input! I've been struggling with "should I or shouldn't I?" for a bit.