Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sexy Premise

My coffeemaker broke - this morning!!! I nearly cried. Is it wrong that I view every morning as simply a reason to have coffee? Anyway - the lack of caffeine will be felt in this blog post.

So, I've got all these rita books and some of them are short erotica and Blaze books and they hinge on the sexy premise. Gotta get them in bed as fast as possible. And, not one that I've read has worked. It's either 1. actions and dialogue that are SO just gross. A hero saying something that despite his looks in real life would get his head knocked off. Or the heroine being so aggressive that in real life despite her looks it would get her classified as crazy. It's true however that in real life most men would sleep with her and then call her nuts and never return her phone calls. But my question is - is this sexy? Is this really working?

And 2. Throwing sex into a situation where there is no place for it. A car is under attack - rockets are being launched at the car - it's simply not believable and not even believable in "it's a fantasy go with it" sort of way (And trust me - no one can suspend disbelief like I can.) That a man and a woman are going to be lusting after each other - noticing the six pack abs or the erection! Who is going to have an erection when you're under attack?

I'm all for a sexy premise - and to me there's nothing like a sexy premise in a historical. That is good fun genre. Remember Susan Johnson's Silver Flame? Heroine sells herself at the brothel? Sexy premise all over the place. But, in contemporary romance the sexy premise has to be elevated - it has to be a real plot situation and it can be a great device - otherwise - it's just bad.


Stephanie Doyle said...

Sing it sister! I can't say how many books I've picked up that are supposed to be sexy and just fall flat. And you think - it's describing the same act and using the same words - but no.

For me hot in paranormal and histories have worked because it is easier to set the stage of fantasy. Kresely Cole did a spanking scene in her last book - and I'm like there is no way she gets away with this - but she does. Because you like the characters. You're invested in their story. You know why the hero is doing this. All of it leads to the act - which then becomes hot. And I have an easier time with a demon spanking a soceress because that's what demons do than I think I would if it were two modern day characters set in a contemporary.

Any Blaze I've read that's worked for me has done so because the relationship worked.

And the only contemporary author I can think of that pulled off hot was Tara Janzen. Again - you were invested in the charactes. In these uber males, larger than life, so when they took you in the car - you weren't thinking man I bet that's got to be cramped - you were into the scene itself.

Hot scenes are an art. And I think authors think that by just "getting to it" and using course language they can pull it off and they can't.


Amy Ruttan said...

Usually in my contemporaries, which are short, my premise is not rocket launchers or weird behaviors. Usually I set up some sort of "fantasy" and then give them a Happily Ever For Now ... meaning they are going to "try" to be together. I've only written 2 contemporaries.

My others have all been historicals or paranormals. My favorite being Historical Paranormal. Like the series I'm writing now for Linden Bay. I'm playing around with Arranged marriages and Fey people. It's been lots of fun!! AND it explains the sex a lot easier, rationalizing my characters behaviors.

It's not just the "act" that does it for me. I like build up, the sexual tension. There's only so many ways to write the act itself.

I'm working through my RITA's and I'm having a hard time getting hooked.

Sinead M said...

For me sexy works because there has been a building of sexual tension.
Think of those great Judith McNaught's, or Iris Johansen historicals, where the first half of the book is nothing but sexual tension, and then the payoff is a sex scene that totally works.
I miss those..
I'm finding too many authors these days rush to the sex scene and eliminate the tension.

Maureen McGowan said...

The more I learn about this genre, the more I think that contemporary is the hardest sub-genre in romance to pull off. But I think that's also why, when they're done really well, they end up so popular.

I haven't read many Blazes... but it's been my belief that the sexy premise is hard to pull off that's kept me both from reading and trying to write one.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Maureen - I'm with you. They say a lot has changed with line and they're exploring all types of story ideas - including historicals (which I actually want to check out). But for me Blaze will always be the "erotica writer whose diary gets found by the guy in the apartment downstairs" or "the lingerie shop owner who has a secret admirer." Or "the woman who has lived one way all her life and now has decided to break loose and starts having sex outdoors with the guy who used to think she was a prude in high school" - I'm exaggerating here not using actual stories. But too many back covers like this have turned me off.

I've definitely read some amazing Blazes - but I like them SO much better when they don't have that "hot hook". I find it usually comes down to a writer I've read before and trusted.

I remember one in particular - the woman breaking loose story - she had anonymous sex with a "hot stranger" in the first 5 pages. I thought who does this? And who EVER ends up falling in love and marrying someone like this? Either her or him?

If you're going to do contempories - and I agree they are a lot harder - you have to give me people I can resonate with. Susan Elizabeth Phillips stands out because I buy into those people - even though they're fictional.


Maureen McGowan said...

"...she had anonymous sex with a "hot stranger" in the first 5 pages. I thought who does this? And who EVER ends up falling in love and marrying someone like this? Either her or him?"

You know... I think women do do this. But you're right that they don't usually end up falling in love with that man (or even seeing him, again.)

And certainly any emotions during that first sex scene would NOT be about the other person... They'd be about whatever drove the woman to have sex with a stranger in the first place. Maybe anger or sadness or de-stressing from their bad day at work, or imagining they're with a previous lover, or with a crush. (Hmmmm that's just given me an idea)

But having any kind of emotional connection in a sex-with-a-stranger situation is slightly implausible and makes most readers roll their eyes.

I think it comes down to: sex scenes need to be about something besides the sex. In a great romance, they're about the building relationship, building intimacy and working through conflict...

This can't happen in a sex with a virtual stranger situation... so i think the writer needs to make the scene about something else... (Maureen says having never read a Blaze... or not for about six years.) But I can imagine how it could be done well...

But... now I'm on a ramble... I just read one of those Spice Briefs and the story is 80% sex -- and the heroine isn't someone I could relate to, at all, but the sex scenes were about something besides the sex. The characters were actually working out their conflict through their, shall we say, sexual actions. Thought it was so much better than most erotica novellas I've read -- where it's usually "get the couple into a sexy situation and let them go at it using as many dirty words as possible". and then have them think about the conflict, and what's going on in the story, after the sex...

Oh, and I need to see that spanking scene in the Kresley Cole book... Is it in the new one with the dark blue cover? I just bought it the other day... Haven't opened it, yet.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Maureen - Yes on the Kresely Cole. Kiss of the Demon King I think? All I can say is YUM. But I love her stuff and her humor.

And good point about the reason. Anonymous sex can be done well - and can come back to mean something later when the characters know each other. But give me a reason. A good reason. Not just - I want to break free. And for me it's a harder sell in a "romance" novel - than it is in erotica.

I know this opens a MAJOR can a worms so I'll whisper it quietly... but they're different.

Romance is about the story/ relationship.

Erotica is about the feeling it invokes. I don't need a happy ending with Erotica. I don't need to like the characters in Erotica.


Molly O'Keefe said...

One Blaze author that I love is Kathleen O'Reilly. Her series romance manages to be hot and emotional and right on the money every time. And she doesn't totally do that sexy premise thing - that totally contrived situation or maybe she does and she's just that good at making it fresh.

I read last year's RT best erotica winner - can't remember the title but it managed to be both hot - interesting and really compelling stuff. The emotions were not always between the people having sex but there were very serious emotions at work. And it played really well. It was paranormal in flavor.

I think the rush to get them into bed does absolutely destory the tension and it's hard to get that tension back -

Maureen McGowan said...

You're so right, Steph... And that's probably why the Blaze books are challenging to write... they want erotic sex scenes inside a romance... or romance with erotic elements. LOL.

I'm moving that Kresley Cole book to the top of my TBR pile.

Molly... I've heard great things about O'Reilly's Blazes, too... But haven't read one.

Kathy Holmes said...

Now that is just too funny!

Stephanie Doyle said...

Kathleen O'Reilly is great. I read a series by her and none of the books had the "hot hook". My favorite was the accountant whose wife died in in 911. Really emotional, well done book. That was a keeper for me.


Corey said...

This is a funny post. I'm an avid video game player, and did a review of Prince of Persia on my blog (http://gamepundit.com). The prince is a total numnut, dialogue-wise. For the life of me I can't understand why the female protagonist would have any romantic interest in him whatsoever.

I know nothing about the Blaze books you're talking about, as I'm a newbie to the romance world (thanks to Maureen, who also pointed me to this blog), but I just read nearly the entire Kresley Cole Immortals After Dark series. And she works for me because of many of the same reasons Stephanie says. I feel invested in her characters, her females are strong-willed, usually physically strong, intelligent, quick-witted -- you name it. Her male characters are not quite as multi-dimensional, IMO (*always* over 6.5 feet tall, rippling muscles, enormous c*cks, makes me laugh out loud) but she knows how to write a rollicking good story with plenty of detail and motion. In her latest book, Kiss of the Demon King, she could even take the spanking further.

Cole does believable hot scenes from my perspective, although I'm not as well-read in the different romance genres as everyone else here.

Recently I read Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series (don't think this is in the romance genre, but don't know) and she does very believable sex scenes, with S&M and non-monogamy all over the place. Her writing is lush and detailed and the stories are pretty great.

Maureen McGowan said...

Hey, Corey! Thanks for stopping by!

Eileen said...

The thing is (at least for me), there's sexy and then there's sex. They often go together, but not always. A hero protecting a heroine in a dangerous situation is, in my opinion, sexy. Trying to feel her up while he's protecting her? Not so much. That's just sex.

Kimber Chin said...

LMAO about the spanking.
When I mentioned spanking was 'hot' in our chapter meeting, people laughed it off but I wasn't making a joke. If I read another spanking scene, I think I'll scream! A lot of people are into it but it is not my thing at all.

I've seen immediate hot work very well in contemporaries when the two people already knew each other. It is more challenging to do well when they are strangers.

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