Friday, April 20, 2012

Sex - what's the rush?

So as Stephanie pointed out, you'd have to be living under a rock not to notice the sheer buzz 50 Shades of Grey has created, and how suddenly romantica has entered the mainstream. Which, I do believe, will be good for a lot authors who write similar books, but write them better, sort of like Twilight opened up a world of YA novels.

And I'm only a third of the way through the book and yes, there is a lot of poorly constructed scenes and it definitely needed a better editor and the heroine is weak, but the one thing the book does well is create a nice sexual tension, and that tension drives a lot of the narrative. The author has a talent for creating that tension in a short number of scenes, and so even after the first sex scene, she keeps the sexual tension alive between her main characters.

There isn't a lot I miss about the old school romances, you know the ones from the 80's and early 90's, where the hero was very alpha and the heroine largely useless, but I miss the creation and sustaining of tension between the leads. If they hop into bed in the first chapter, it's really difficult for an author to create that tension again and few authors manage to do so.

It seems romance is becoming more romantica, which is great, but almost at the expense of sensual and sexual tension. That tension was the most enjoyable part of so many of my favourite novels. And I know it's a choice driven by sales results and it's possible I'm old fashioned, but some of the best YA novels have nothing but unresolved tension and it works so well there and even on TV.

Last night on the Vampire diaries, one extended kiss was the sexiest thing I've seen on TV in a long, long time, because they'd built it up and kept the audience waiting for it. And it was worth the wait.

Anyone else agree with me? Are we, as romance writers, giving up the goods too soon?

16 comments:

Sinead M said...

Not sure why, but the paragraphs in my post all disappeared so now it's one never ending sentence...

Eileen said...

But still quite cogent, Sinead.

I know what you mean about the tension. I don't want them to leap into bed too soon either. But I don't really want them to be kept apart by misunderstandings or silly things either.

Maureen McGowan said...

Yeah, I think the real magic is being able to keep sexual tension in there even once they're already having sex... or having a modern, plausible reason to keep them from having sex.

Even in YA that's tough in a contemporary, because let's face it, kids have sex. To me, one of the funniest (in a true way) plot points on the first season of Glee was that Quinn was President of the abstinence club. Loved the hypocrisy and "trueness" of that.

And... Ack! I think my DVR missed recording TVD last night. Oh, the humanity! Hope it's on demand.

Maureen McGowan said...

PS. I'll see if I can restore the paragraph breaks...

Sinead M said...

thanks Maureen, looks so much more readable with the paragraphy breaks.. True keeping two mature adults from having sex is difficult when they're attracted to each other, but no more difficult than re-creating the tension afterwards..

It's a choice, but the author has to understand the ramifications of each choice and I think what's missing from a lot of romances is an understanding that the tension has to be re-created once they have sex, especially early in the book.

Eileen said...

I am the mother of teenagers. Teenagers. Do. Not. Have. Sex.

Please allow me to continue keeping my head in the sand.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Great post! I totally agree. For me I don't really get "romantica". Or what is supposed to represent.

Erotica - is a different beast to me and the outcome between the couple is not always guaranteed.

But with romance whether the sex is mild, medium or huber hot the key is the couple.

And the tension should really come from the characters.

I think they can have sex but if issues still exist between them that tension should still be there.

"Should" being the operative word.

Stephanie Doyle said...

That was supposed to be uber hot.... not really sure what huber hot sex would be like.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Eileen that's so funny. As someone without kids I always loved to tease parents about this very topic.

It usually goes like this...

"Do you think your teenager is having sex or at least engaging in sexual acts?"

Parent - "Absolutely not. Not my kid. No sex what so ever."

"And when did you start having sex and engaging in sexual acts?"

Parent - silence....

"Exactly."

Eileen said...

Well, to be clear. Teenagers also don't drink, smoke or do drugs. They can't. They're babies.

Also, I am trying to imagine what huber hot sex would be like. It sounds like it might be sort of Norwegian . . .

So . . . in my last two romantic suspense novels, a couple of my friends told me they wanted the couple to get it on way sooner. That it has been killing them. I pointed out to them that the whole course of the book is about a week (maybe a little more or less) and that if I'd put them in bed any sooner she would have probably had to jump his bones at the crime scene.

And Maureen, as I recall it, one of the points of the abstinence club was for the girls to drive the boys absolutely wild.

Sinead M said...

Stephanie, if huber hot has anything to with Eric the Vamp, I'm in..

And Eileen, teenagers don't have sex.... yours don't and when mine are teens, they won't either.. I'm sure of it.

Fred Green said...

Amusingly enough, one of my favorite romances I've ever read had sex happen in the first few chapters. It's justified in my eyes, though, as the main female lead goes through at least three romances from beginning to end. It also had the advantage of being written well.

In the stories my girlfriend and I write, we usually have problems keeping the sexual tension going after the sex happens. We rush to write the sex, but afterwards it's very tempting to let the passion fizzle out and make new love interests for the main characters, so we can start the process anew. It's similar to a trend I see happen a lot in young adult series, come to think of it...

Maureen McGowan said...

Fred, I've read a few I loved where the sex is right near the beginning too. J.R. Ward's Dark Lover comes to mind. But the trick is to figure out a way to keep the sexual tension crackling and have some real conflict going forward even though the couple has already had sex. Otherwise the love scenes end up clinical or skippable. :)

Eileen said...

Maybe this is an age and stage thing? I like the sex scenes with a little humor where the couple has a comfort level. Then again, I'm an old fart.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Ha! I just finished the Karen Marie Moning Fever series - so much tension, they don't even kiss for the first 2? books. At some point I felt like what was keeping them from getting it on was all those misunderstandings - but the tension kept me working.

I think writing that tension is hard really hard. (HA!) I hope we get more like those books...

Molly O'Keefe said...

Sinead - great point about recreating the tension - it's like any other plot device, once they do it - things have to get worse... hmmm...lots to think about.

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