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View Full Version : What makes a novel erotica?



Branwyn
07-26-2008, 06:14 AM
What pushes a regular steamy--sexy--hot--romance novel into the realm of erotica? I went to a site(erotic book reviews--reviewed erotic books not erotic reviews) that had S. Kenyon's Bad Attitude listed. I have not read that particular book, but I've read her Dark Hunter series.

There are plenty of romance novels--matter of fact most of them--that I would consider erotic. What gives?

Cybernaught
07-26-2008, 06:36 AM
Erotica, like porn, is just one of those things that you recognize when you read. I can't define it, but I can pick it out.

Alpha Echo
07-26-2008, 06:43 AM
That's an interesting question. There are plenty of books, either romance or women's fiction, authors like Norah Roberts, Sandra Brown, Danielle Steele - they aren't erotica, but they have some incredibly hot, steamy sex scenes.

Where's the line?

All I know is I've never read anything that would be classified as erotica.

But I'm interested to see what the responses are here.

Irysangel
07-26-2008, 06:45 AM
I think (and I could be wrong) that there are two different flavors that you're thinking of: erotica and erotic romance.

Erotic romance still has the standard romance tropes of happily ever after, etc. The steaminess of the plot is just extremely amped up.

Erotica itself is pretty much about the sex. It doesn't have to follow standard romance conventions at all. Anything goes.

That's a real brief nutshell, but I bet one of the erotica authors can explain it better. :)

Branwyn
07-26-2008, 06:50 AM
I would think the inclusion of certain sexual acts (oral sex for instance) in a book erotic. Traditionally, that area of sexual intimacy was usually omited in 'regular romance'. But has it become the norm? Genres are tricky.

Alexandra Little
07-26-2008, 06:55 AM
The only solid definition I've ever heard is that, if you take the sex out of erotica and you still have a plot, it isn't erotica. I'm not an erotica reader, though.

SPMiller
07-26-2008, 07:00 AM
I use a much broader definition than the industry does. I consider any fiction written primarily to sexually excite its audience to be erotica. All other fiction is not erotica.

Note that non-erotic fiction can still arouse its readers. The distinction is that in such cases, the author either didn't intend it or that it isn't the primary goal of the fiction.

I also use this term interchangeably with porn. Yeah, I'm aware of the negative connotation of the word porn, but the denotational identity overwhelms that negative connotation. Therefore, IMO, erotica = porn. Now I'm going to get shredded by the erotica writers ;)

Mind you, I'm not knocking on erotica. I like porn. I hate the negative connotation of it, because a lot of people have and enjoy porn. We shouldn't be ashamed about what we enjoy, damnit.

chevbrock
07-26-2008, 10:38 AM
I picked up a collection of erotic short stories once in a book shop. The plot pretty much revolved around sex, but it did have a plot. It used baser words (F, C - that kind of stuff)

I think the difference between porn and erotica is that erotica does have a plot. It may be a plot based very much on sex, but it still has a protagonist, an antagonist, and some sort of conclusion.

Not an expert, in any shape or form! :)

roseangel
07-26-2008, 12:01 PM
I always figured that the difference was erotica is porn with plot, porn is erotica without the plot. And that if you reduced the amount of sex in erotica, it could be placed in the regular romance section.

pretticute80
07-26-2008, 12:53 PM
I would think the inclusion of certain sexual acts (oral sex for instance) in a book erotic. Traditionally, that area of sexual intimacy was usually omited in 'regular romance'. But has it become the norm? Genres are tricky.
Well unless Iím reading an inspirational romance, oral sex seems to be a must in most romance (a must I do agree with;)). However, odds are good you wonít run across anal sex in most if any, erotic romance.
IMO erotic romance doesnít purple prose sex, it explores sex and doesnít gloss over it but rarely will you find a erotic romance that push sexual taboos. You rarely will see bdsm fully explored (although some may make reference to it) or it being acceptable to have a HEA with male-female-male.
Erotica is more explicit and a little edgier, sexual exploration is at the forefront but there is a driving plot to it. In erotica, things considered to be taboo (bdsm, orgies, anal sex, etc.) are acceptable to write about. And oh yeah,a good deal of sex scenes.

Mr Flibble
07-26-2008, 02:59 PM
OK, I'm not great with genres, but I've always thought it was this:

In the same way that a romance story would have no plot without the romance, an erotica story would have no plot without the sex.

I think.

veinglory
07-26-2008, 05:58 PM
Romance: a love story with a happy ending
Erotica: scenes written to sexual arouse
Erotic Romance: a love story with a happy ending including scenes written to sexually arouse.

Erotic romance is erotica.

Branwyn
07-26-2008, 06:49 PM
Thanks veinglory, I thought perhaps that was the way it went.

So it's possible to have an erotic paranormal romance?

Thanks all!

Calla Lily
07-26-2008, 07:05 PM
I sure hope so, Branwyn, because my vampire book turned that corner several chapters ago! :eek:

veinglory
07-27-2008, 02:11 AM
I certainly think so.

Aglaia
07-27-2008, 04:06 AM
I'm working on writing a romance, and one of the things I read (can't remember where, sorry) was that one of the primary differences between erotica and erotic romance is the number of partners the MC can have. In erotic romance it's only okay for the MC to have sex with the one true love happily-ever-after person. Maybe an ex or something at the beginning, but even that is tricky. In erotica, it's okay for the MC to have multiple partners because the focus is more on the sex. At least, that's what this particular instructional book said, though it was more about the romance side than the erotica side. :Shrug:

veinglory
07-27-2008, 04:18 AM
Except erotic romance can include romantic units larger than two (3way or more), and at least one of mine is published as erotic romance and has a sex scene with another person, not an ex, right in the middle.

Aglaia
07-27-2008, 05:10 AM
Maybe the writer meant just regular ole romance then? Or maybe she was just wrong? LOL

I'm writing my first, so I've just been trying to gather a lot of info. Some of it's been crap, and some of it's been good. Maybe that fell into the crap category. :D

Irysangel
07-27-2008, 07:55 AM
You can definitely have oral sex in a regular ol' romance (no 'erotic' tag necessary).

For erotic romance, you can also have multiple partners. Emma Holly is a great example of this, and she sells about a bajillion books.

And erotic paranormal romance? Happens all the time - Lora Leigh, Angela Knight, Larissa Ione's newest one... there are tons more but I'm drawing a blank at the moment (it's late). To be honest, a lot of paranormal romance definitely pushes the boundaries nowdays. I think it's an easier book to market (NY-wise) if it's sexier than if it's not.

Susan Gable
07-27-2008, 05:00 PM
You can definitely have oral sex in a regular ol' romance (no 'erotic' tag necessary).
.

Yes, exactly. My Superromances are totally NOT erotic romances, or erotica, but my characters have been known to engage in the act listed above. <G> It's just not written to the degree of decription and focus required to push it over into erotic romance.

Susan G.

veinglory
07-27-2008, 11:08 PM
I agree. The sex needs to be described clearly and at length to the point were it is clealry meant to arouse.

Mr Flibble
07-27-2008, 11:15 PM
erotic romance it's only okay for the MC to have sex with the one true love happily-ever-after person. Maybe an ex or something at the beginning, but even that is tricky.

Oh crap. How about if a guy gets drunk and boinks the wrong person accidentally?

Aglaia
07-28-2008, 12:13 AM
Oh crap. How about if a guy gets drunk and boinks the wrong person accidentally?
I think that's been pretty heartily and substantially rebuked here. Believe veinglory and Irysangel, not me! I'm totally new to this, and all of the subgenres of romance make me feel like I'm back in college cramming for finals. :Headbang: I'm just glad I can come here and get set straight. :D

veinglory
07-28-2008, 12:24 AM
Infidelity is a touchy subject to be romance, for sure. But not definitive.

Melenka
07-28-2008, 12:28 AM
I think that's been pretty heartily and substantially rebuked here.

So it is getting drunk and having sex that is looked down upon, or using it as an excuse for WHY you had sex with the wrong person?

My MCs get dosed with a drug, beat the crap out of each other and end up in bed. Certainly not what they were expecting to do, but believe it or not, it moves the plot forward.

veinglory
07-28-2008, 12:37 AM
I don't think you're following the conversation, what was rebutted (not really rebuked) was that romance could not have infidelity.

My 2c on the getting drunk and sleeping with someone is that I would think they guy who did it was a drunk or a putz. But that may just be me ;) I have read this scenario in two other books and didn't think it was a great one either time because I lost most of my respect for the hero.

Mr Flibble
07-28-2008, 12:38 AM
So it is getting drunk and having sex that is looked down upon, or using it as an excuse for WHY you had sex with the wrong person?

What I was wondering. I mean my guy thinks he's boinking the woman he's in love with. He's drunk because his cousin has just spent the afternoon lying and telling him how he's boinked said lady. Of course he has more to deal with than a hangover in the morning :)

And my stuff isn't erotica -- not very graphic at all, it's all more to do with the emotional impact than the plumbing. Does that make a differeence too?


I don't think you're following the conversation, what was rebutted (not really rebuked) was that romance could not have infidelity.

Not unusual for me. But crap, crap and triple crap. :(

Aglaia
07-28-2008, 01:13 AM
I don't think you're following the conversation, what was rebutted (not really rebuked) was that romance could not have infidelity.

Yeah, sorry about that. Rebutted is a better word. :D

I found my original source! I don't know if it helps or not, but here it is. From On Writing Romance, by Leigh Michaels:

"Erotic Romance: A story at the more erotic end of the romance spectrum, with detailed, explicit, and frequent sexual encounters between the main characters, but not usually involving anyone else. If a hero has a sexual encounter with another woman, it's typically brief, early in the story, and not emotionally meaningful; heroines are unlikely to share a sexual encounter with anyone but the hero. Also called romantica, this is a very sexy romance focused on the developing relationship between hero and heroine."

"Erotica: Stories emphasizing the details of sexual encounters between the main characters or between a main character and others. Though erotica is sometimes romantic in nature, erotica and romance are not equivalent. Romance emphasizes the growing emotional connection of one couple, while erotica emphasizes sex rather than love and may include characters outside the main relationship."

So, again, I don't know how accurate these definitions are, but this is what I was (poorly) trying to convey from memory regarding infidelity being or not being acceptable. As with everything else, I doubt these are meant to be seen as set-in-stone rules.


What I was wondering. I mean my guy thinks he's boinking the woman he's in love with. He's drunk because his cousin has just spent the afternoon lying and telling him how he's boinked said lady. Of course he has more to deal with than a hangover in the morning :)

And my stuff isn't erotica -- not very graphic at all, it's all more to do with the emotional impact than the plumbing. Does that make a differeence too?


Not unusual for me. But crap, crap and triple crap. :(
I've read several romances that include mistaken identity, but it usually involves the h & h ending up sleeping together. I don't know about him accidentally sleeping with someone else. If the story is written well, then I generally come to think of the heroine as my friend, and that would pretty much just piss me off. Maybe not so much the way to go if you want me rooting for them to get together. ;)

veinglory
07-28-2008, 01:15 AM
I think that erotica defintion is misleadingly specific. Erotica is to get people hot, beyond that it can be anything. I get very tired of articles which seem to focus on ensuring their romance doesn;t get the erotica cooties, when really they are overlapping sets.

Aglaia
07-28-2008, 01:21 AM
You know, I did wonder about that. The book is specifically focused on Romance writing, so it struck me as a little odd that she sort of tossed in a definition of Erotica. The rest of it (so far, I'm not through it yet) seems to be fairly decent, though. I'm an information-gatherer, just trying to learn what I can where I can. :Shrug: I figure the cream'll eventually make its way to the top.

SPMiller
07-28-2008, 04:09 AM
I have to admit that I'm surprised veinglory's definition seems to match mine :Huh: I thought I was going to upset erotica writers, but I guess I nailed it.

To me, some of the stuff shelved as "romance" is firmly in erotica territory. But as I said, like the word porn, erotica carries a negative connotation and for some reason people don't want to admit they enjoy reading or writing it.

Irysangel
07-28-2008, 05:13 PM
A really great (and recent) book is Angela Knight's PASSIONATE INK: THE GUIDE TO WRITING EROTIC ROMANCE.

It's pubbed by Loose Id so it's harder to find (my Borders had it) but here's the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Passionate-Ink-Writing-Erotic-Romance/dp/1596323906/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1217250679&sr=8-1

She talks a lot about the difference between erotic and erotica and what's going too far and what's not. To be honest, I've never read one of her fiction books but I thought this was quite a nice little writing guide (and I've bought a *lot* of writing guides).

citymouse
07-28-2008, 05:38 PM
Erotica is best when the reader knows what is supposed to be happening but to get the picture must substitute his/her own imagination. If the writer robs the imagination it becomes porn. Drunk or not, if the characters need reminding what has happened they clearly weren't paying attention.
That's the best I can come up with before my second cup of coffee.

"The difference between pornography and erotica is lighting."
- Gloria Leonard (porn star)

C

veinglory
07-28-2008, 09:28 PM
Call me egotistical, but I think the reader of erotica is buying what my imagination can come up with--so I share it in full. I don't feel that erotica is anything different from written pornogrpahy--except people call stuff they like erotica and stuff they don't like porn.

It really all seems to come down to a moral judgement about the evils of sex and so the evils of writing (primarily or at all) to sexually arouse. I am happily free of any such guilt. I also have no problem with calling things erotic that I don't personally find sexy, so long as some target audience does. Genre boundaries aren't tied to my kinks and taboos, after all--they are shared industry and shelving conventions used by a diverse and secular society.