I started writing Regency romances because I didn’t have to put in all the “nasty” details of what happens after the first kiss. But suddenly most romances have gotten hotter. Fine, I stepped up to the challenge and learned to write romantic smut. It’s not that difficult.
The difference between your regular, Penthouse Letters smut and romantic smut is that the reader should care about the two (or more) characters involved, and want to see what happens to them when they aren’t thrashing around trying to be discreet but needing to explore their sexuality. And it’s rather easier in the Regency period to write suppressed, inhibited characters who suddenly find an outlet for all that sexual tension. Then there’s the guilt, pain, etc. afterward. Oh, what fun.
I received excellent advice from a great teacher of romance writing with regard to writing these no-holds-barred scenes. Find what you like to read, and copy it out. Type it on your computer, then find another. You aren’t going to use these scenes, you are just learning the pacing, the style, the nuts and bolts, as it were, of depicting sex.
I’m comfortable with writing this now, between a man and a woman, but I am reading much more same sex romance these days, and it would be a challenge to try that genre. I would certainly have to attempt to copy others for practice.
At a recent meeting of the Romance Writers of America local chapter, I learned that almost all publishers are looking for hotter writing, original characters, untried story lines. Of course they are. I had also heard, years ago, that romance novels were the only porn allowed in prisons. Seemed to fit right in with the Romancing the Stone story line where the drug lord was a fan.
Back to history, where no one automatically associated love with sex. You married for duty or safety and security, and you had sex to procreate and insure the succession or have help around the farm or business. Romantic love existed in songs and legends, but in real life it was rare. Lucky the married couple who realized one day that they had grown to love each other. Especially since divorce took an act of God and the government.
This explains, I think, the custom of a man keeping a mistress, and of women having affairs. Satisfaction had to be found outside of marriage. For men, usually satisfaction was just about the act of sex, not so much the emotional attachment. For women, satisfaction could only be found if love appeared to be involved. I say appeared because women were not often educated well, and could be fooled easily by any man who said the right words.
Uncle Wiki says: Historically, the term “romance” originates with the medieval ideal of chivalry as set out in its Romance literature. Think Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde, but without the betrayal aspect of those two closely-related stories. Then along came Jane Austen, and while keeping herself unmarried, she created six incredible heroines and the men they loved or thought they loved, or changed their minds about and then loved again. That really started the Romance genre, and established a formula and style that I, and many others, cherish.
But these days, we cannot go on at length about the style of one’s household, the carriage, the clothes, or we will bore those who are kind enough to read the story.
I just listened to Emma, on audio books, and enjoyed the 56 chapters on 13 CDs very much. I even loved that we heard the whole of Frank Churchill’s letter to Emma, and then went over it one more time when Mr. Knightley read it in her presence. But an author just could not get away with that with today’s readers.
How much do movies influence the Romance novels you see today? If a man and a woman can meet, overcome huge issues standing between them, save the world, and fall in love in two and a half to three hours, do we have a chance with a 30,000 word book? And maybe that’s the reason publishers want more sex, hotter story lines, from authors.
All the same, there are those of us as readers who are in it for the story value. The emotions, the characters who feel real to us, and the twists that we never saw coming. And the books we’ve read that don’t live up to those goals are what drive us to be writers.
My very first Regency romance is titled Emily’s Heart, and it won a local RWA chapter contest called The First Seven. The first seven pages of the manuscript were awesome! The rest of it, not so much. It was rejected and put in a box to rest in peace. I used the time-honored Regency formula, no blatant sex, just longing and falling in love. The plot was pretty good, but based too much on my own life, so I was not open to enough criticism and not willing to rewrite with diligence. Maybe someday I can take it out again and look at it. And figure out where to put the sex.