Saturday, June 14, 2014

Passionate Ink

I like reading books about writing, and erotic anything is a hot genre these days, no pun intended. So when I saw Angela Knight’s Passionate Ink: A Guide to Writing Erotic Romance, released by Loose Id, I had to give it a try.

This book is ideal for writers new to the erotic romance genre. The author explains the distinction between romance (which relies heavily on sexual tension) and erotic romance (where the characters are having sex, and plenty of it). Under those circumstances, something else will have to keep the characters apart—either their own personalities or some external conflict, or both.

There are plenty of examples from the author’s books, with the author adding notes throughout to show what she was trying to do in terms of intensifying conflict and deepening the relationship. I also appreciated the warning about what can happen if you tease your readership too much. The more you build up the anticipation leading to the sex, the better that needs to be.

The example given here is of one book where this buildup lasted for hundreds of pages. When it finally did happen, it didn’t last very long (due to the author, not due to the hero) and the impression that gave was of an author who wasn’t really comfortable with writing about sex. Hence the protracted teasing which lead up to a fizzle. Personally, I’m fine with fade-to-black in novels like Gone with the Wind, but yeah, if I pick up a hot romance I want heat.

Another such EroFail is when the sex is too emotionally heavy—for insstance, one of the characters is severely scarred from rape. This can work great in other genres. But in erotic romance, the reader expects lots of exciting sex. If the sex comes off as difficult or heartbreaking because of the characters’ physical/emotional wounds, this might be tough to pull off.

One thing I didn’t like about this book was the author’s heavy reliance on alpha males—basically, 200-pound guys who sweat testosterone, who are always ready for “a fight or a fuck”. Even if these are common in erotic romance, I would have loved to see more nuances here. I’m not asking for a man who’s shy or passive. I just want to see someone who would rather outthink the villain than outfight him.

But I did appreciate the her suggestions for how to write an erotic novella or a short story. There really isn’t much room here for the hero and heroine (or other hero) to meet for the first time, so it helps if they have a past history, especially a past romantic history. I used to wonder about whether a romance could be compressed into a short story a la Ellora’s Cave’s Quickies, and this went far towards answering that question.

The book also includes notes on fight scenes, medieval battles, the difference between plate and mail and why the designs of swords changed—which I wasn’t expecting. It’s an unexpected bonus in an erotic-writing book.

From a physics standpoint, a gun that could send somebody flying would also send you flying in the opposite direction when you fired it. So resist the urge to knock somebody through a plate glass window with a bullet.

But it looked so amazing in Blade Runner!

Finally, there’s an appendix of non-fiction books dealing with sex, BDSM, etc. I didn’t go through this in any detail, but that’s because this is a very comprehensive book that covers a lot of angles, which meant I needed to finish it quick and return it to the library. Not a gotta-have-it-forever keeper, but definitely an engaging and useful read.

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