The lovely couple in this picture is my oldest daughter Leah and her wonderful husband Tom, on their wedding day. We like to tease them that this photograph looks like the pictures of models that come with the empty frames.
Normally they are not that perfect. Normally Tom is happy to hang out in his work clothes, with a hammer in his hand and a room to remodel. Tom is an electrician and is handy to have around the house. Leah has her own chair in a local salon, Fresh Salon and Spa and is successful in her career. As the mother of a four-year-old, all of Leah’s attention is on raising the boy. Together they are providing wonderful, secure home for their son.
The point is, no one looks this good all the time in real life, not even this lovely couple.
When it comes to romance in a story, the author’s task is to make the protagonists look this perfect and good no matter what the circumstances. There is a bit of escapism in all of us. We want to escape to a world where adventures lead to romance and no one gets dirty. A grand adventure with a good romance is the sort of story I will gravitate to in a heartbeat. That is why Mercedes Lackey ‘s Valdemar series rates so high on my list of favorites.
Lackey manages to take her heroes and heroines through the most amazing and exciting adventures and still make the romance between them special. They get dirty, and they get sweaty, and she makes them feel like real people, but somehow her reality is romantic and exciting to read.
That is a skill, writing romance into a scene, and not going off the rails. Do I keep it restrained or do I get graphic? Would my characters really get graphic? And then there is the ever popular question of how much graphic is too much graphic? When do I go from writing fantasy adventure to writing erotica. And would I be any good at writing erotica? I really don’t know the answer to that question, and I don’t really see myself venturing into that area of writing.
As for what is too much, it depends on what story I am trying to tell. In my current work in progress innuendo and allusion is the appropriate direction. But in The Last Good Knight a certain amount of graphic detail was required to advance the plot. For me there is a fine line as a reader between enjoying and feeling involved in an erotic scene and feeling like a voyeur. It would be easy to write graphic details, but would they be romantic?
That is the whole issue in a nutshell. If I am going to write a variation on a love scene, I want the reader to feel like the scene was worth the time they took to read it, and make them want to see what happens next in that couple’s relationship. I have read several books on the subject, one of which has been quite useful to me, called ‘On Writing Romance’ by Leigh Michaels. Even though I do not write romance novels, my characters are people and as such romance occasionally happens. Another, much more graphic book is called ‘Be A Sex Writing Strumpet’ by Stacia Kane. This book was quite illuminating, but erotica is not really my style. Still, it gave me a lot to think about in creating a love scene. The key is for me to define my style of romance, and perfect the art of creating it in such a way that it adds zest to my novel without taking it into a direction that I personally am not prepared to go in.
As a writer I want to be able to stretch myself and still tell a good tale. I try to do that by finding the works of other writers that moved me and discovering what it was about that scene that made me glad I had read it. Then I keep that feeling in mind as I am working on my own scene. And if it doesn’t work in the way that I have it written, my beta readers will graciously tell me so!