preliminary thoughts on two types of erotic novels

Happy Friday!

I am beginning to have a theory about different types of erotic novels which are meant to appeal to different tastes or moods of their readers. One type privileges the sex scenes over other types of scenes, which may be given short shrift. To me, this type of book seems more easily broken apart into a series of scenes meant to be read one at a time, perhaps one each night. Forward motion is less important than dwelling in each scene as it happens. The reader can get to know the characters, and added familiarity with them adds to the enjoyment of each subsequent scene, but there’s not plot-fueled rush to find out what happens. Examples might be Passion by P.F. Kozak and Kate Douglas’ Wolf Tales series, or Emma Holly’s Velvet Glove.
There’s also a type of erotic novel with a driving plot; it doesn’t have to be a complex or elaborate plot, but there is a problem the characters must solve, with the sex scenes advancing them towards that goal. The goal might be a romantic relationship or sexual discovery or might be something else. The sex is likely to be part of the problem and its solution. Examples might be sEmma Holly’s vampire books or All U Can Eat, or Kate Pearce’s Regency Simply series.
I have to think more on this–it’s still a vague shape in my mind. I’d appreciate comments if you have them.

The picture is of Johhny Weismuller.

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Erotic Journeys and Bodice Rippers.
Defining Erotic Romance, Romance, and Erotica.

Published by Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s writing showcases her voracious lifelong love of books. She reads over 120 new books each year, especially historical romance, fantasy, and space opera, and incorporates these genres into her erotic fiction. Her first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. When not writing, Victoria conducts research in libraries and graveyards, lectures about writing and selling erotica, and speaks at literary conventions on topics such as paranormal romance, urban fantasy, erotic science fiction/fantasy, and the empowerment of women through unconventional means. Her daily writing blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and author interviews. She also guest blogs for Heroes & Heartbreakers and The Criminal Element. She lives in Philadelphia.

9 replies on “preliminary thoughts on two types of erotic novels”

  1. I edited to include some possible examples:

    Examples, maybe some Emma Holly or Kate Pearce for plot-driven and Kate Douglas and P.F. Kozak other Emma Holly for episodic.

  2. Jennifer, I figure a lot of things won’t fit exactly; I think most of the episodic stories do have an overarching plot, for example.

    It’s helping me to think about my own writing, though.

  3. It’s interesting that you picked me and Emma Holly for the plot-driven scenario. It was reading Emma Holly that made a light bulb come on in my head about how I wanted to write and structure my own erotic romances.

    For me the sexual development of the characters is ‘the’ major plot point. The more books I write, the less big outside plot I find I need and the more it becomes about each individual characters drive toward a happy relationship.

    I also have to say that I like to read all types of erotic romance and I’ve never thought of characterizing them this way. I’d also add that there are differences between sex-driven plots and character-driven plots, which .ios kind of what you are saying, I think LOL

  4. Kate, reading Emma Holly is what did it for me too. :)

    Victoria, I understand what you’re saying, I’ve never thought of categorizing them this way. I think even the first type you were talking about should have some sort of unifying storyline if we’re talking about a novel.

    Interesting discussion.

  5. Oooh, interesting. This is especially interesting because now I’ve written one of each of these types as a romance novel (MIND GAMES is the plotty one, THE HOT STREAK built more on the rising action of the sex between the characters… both from Ravenous Romance).

    It occurs to me I’ve done it in erotic sf/f also and that the series-of-scenes kind of plots are a challenge to invent and write. You need a plausible plot reason why the characters have to have sex every chapter, or it will be dull to read even if the sex is hot. This form may have its roots in serial novels, where one chapter was published at a time, so each one had to have a hot scene in it! (That’s how my book The Velderet was written and published initially, too, before it appeared in book form.)

    Some of the serial novels I’ve read get repetitive if you try to read more than a chapter a night (I’m thinking of the Beauty books by Anne Rice), but if done well, they shouldn’t feel repetitive. Each sex scene should be advancing somehow, either deepening our knowledge of the characters, getting kinkier as they go, raising the emotional stakes, etc…

  6. Cecilia, that’s an excellent point about novels intended for serial form. *ponders what Dickens erotica would be like*

    Each form has its own challenges. I think The Duchess is more episodic (the plot is an escape and return plot, fairly perfunctory) and Moonlight Mistress a bit more plotty–the sex scenes aren’t incidental, but they fit into the plot in a different way. I’m still parsing what I did in that one, actually. I need some distance before I can try to analyze what I did.

  7. Kate, I used one of the more episodic Emma Holly novels as the basis for my duchess novel proposal…and I think it’s more episodic as a result. I also think it was harder to write than a “plotty” book (even though both forms have plots, of course).

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