Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Romancing the Words

I have an ongoing argument with a writer friend over the use of language in erotic romance. We’re both male authors of contemporary straight romance but we approach the job differently. I like to treat my readers to steamy sensuality and extensive foreplay; he prefers to throw in every four-letter word he can think of and get it over with in one or two paragraphs.

There are a few words I don’t like to use when writing sex scenes. One is the “F” bomb because I think some writers overuse it for shock value and it doesn’t really add anything to a realistic romantic encounter. I say that because not many women have used that word with me during sex unless it was followed by “off” or “you.” Another is a term used to describe part of the female anatomy (begins with “c,” rhymes with “hunt”) because I’ve heard from readers who said it offended them. I conducted a survey on a few chat boards to see how people felt about this, and the results indicated that a majority of women find it offensive. I’m in this game to win readers, not lose them.

Here’s where it gets tricky – how do I depict a hot sexual encounter without wallowing in the gutter or resorting to purple prose? It forces me to be ultra creative, coming up with euphemisms that make my point without being crude. This is an example from my interracial romantic thriller Memories Die Last: 

Nick stood and approached Felicia. He pulled her close and ravenously kissed her, his tongue challenging hers to a passionate duel. She rubbed his shoulders and back then moved down to slip her hands under the elastic waist of his shorts, kneading his butt. Nick moved his hands to caress her firm breasts then ran his palms along her torso. Her perfume and natural scent acted like an instant aphrodisiac, turning him into an animal. Felicia put her arms around his shoulders, hoisted herself up and wrapped her long legs around his waist, bringing her groin in contact with the bulge forming in his shorts. Nick kissed her more deeply, probing her mouth while she did the same to him. He moved his hands down to her firm ass and rocked against her, getting harder the longer they dry humped.

Nick carried Felicia into the bedroom and gently deposited her on the bed. He slipped off his shorts and lied next to her to resume his kissing and fondling. Felicia placed both hands on either side of his face, pulled his lips to hers and rammed her tongue into his mouth. Nick’s hand went to her breast to pinch and tweak her nipple until it was as firm as a gumdrop. Felicia moved one of her hands to his groin, grabbed his cock then squeezed and stroked him into complete hardness. Nick’s hand snaked along her belly to her crotch. He slid his fingers along her pussy, making her wetter then slipped two of them inside her. Felicia’s breathing rate picked up the longer he played with her and she stroked him faster.

Nick slithered along her body and planted his face between her legs. He hungrily devoured her moist pussy, savoring her taste. Felicia pressed her groin against his active tongue and lips, moaning her approval at what he was doing to her. Nick honed in on her clit, pulling it between his lips to suck on it while massaging her with his tongue. It swelled in his mouth the longer he sucked until Felicia gave out a loud moan and climaxed. He continued licking her after she came, enjoying her musky taste.  

Nick got on his knees and assumed his position between her legs. She pulled her legs up toward her torso, grabbed his erection and forcefully guided him in. He made a long slow thrust until his entire length was imbedded inside her. Felicia closed her eyes and gasped while Nick thrust his hips.

“You fill me up,” she breathlessly murmured then began rocking against him.

                                                                        * * * *

Another book I wrote a few years ago, Anywhere the Heart Goes, presented a different scenario. I was looking for a unique angle so I made the heroine a well-schooled pupil of the Kama Sutra. This created a wealth of possibilities. Here’s one of the scenes between the leads, Rachel and Sam:

Rachel disappeared into the bedroom while Sam selected some CDs, settling on Tony Bennett, Errol Garner and Dean Martin.  He returned to the dining room, took off his blazer and draped it over the back of a chair, wondering what Rachel was preparing. His stomach fluttered slightly in anticipation.  He took another sip of wine as Rachel sauntered down the hallway toward him, having changed into a short red satin robe that came to the top of her thighs.  She locked her eyes onto his, giving him a smoldering gaze and a look that broadcast the words “I want you.”

She held out her hand. “Come with me,” she softly commanded.

Sam took her hand and followed her to the bedroom, which was lit by three strategically-placed candles, all emitting the scent of mandarin.  The bed had been turned down, revealing white satin sheets.  Rachel took hold of Sam’s shirt, pulling it from his waist.  He slid it over his head while she unbuckled his belt, followed by his pants.  Sam kicked off his shoes, stepped out of his pants and briefs and dropped his shirt on the floor.  Rachel untied the sash to her robe, letting it flow open and stepped closer. She pulled his face down toward hers to kiss him, moving in so close that her breasts made full contact with his chest.  Sam felt himself involuntarily respond, his hardening erection rubbing against Rachel’s pubic area. Rachel pressed her mouth against his like his tongue was the vermouth to complement her gin.  

He placed his hands under the robe, running them along her smooth back.  Rachel put her hands on his upper arms and gently pushed them down so that his hands rested on her butt while she continued kissing him. Sam fondled her firmness, enjoying the feeling. She moved her hips against his, alternately making contact with his hard-on while grinding her ass into his hands. He let Rachel take charge, getting more into her slow seduction.  After several minutes, she pulled away, took his hand and led him to the bed, where he stretched out waiting for Rachel to join him. 

She stood next to the bed, the flickering candlelight highlighting her features as she maintained steady eye contact. Her hazel eyes were still glowing softly while a trace of a smile stayed on her lips. Rachel shrugged off her robe, letting it fall to the floor, and then she picked up a bottle of massage oil from the nightstand, pouring a small amount into her palm. She leaned over and began massaging Sam’s shoulders, rubbing the oil on him in a circular motion. He inhaled the fragrance but didn’t recognize it.  “What is that?” he softly inquired. “Patchouli,” Rachel replied while kneading his upper arms. “It increases arousal.”

Sam closed his eyes as his breathing shifted into a relaxing steady cadence, enjoying her touch. Rachel applied a little more oil to her palm before moving to his pecs, steadily moving her hands down his torso, relaxation overtaking his body like the soothing waters of a Jacuzzi.  Sam felt himself responding, even though Rachel didn’t touch his groin. She kneaded his thigh muscles, and his legs went limp. After a few minutes, she stopped her massage, knelt on the bed beside Sam and lowered her head over his chest. Rachel let her long hair barely touch his chest and stomach, then rhythmically moved her head from side to side, slowly, her hair tickling his skin as she moved downward along his body.  Sam felt a sense of anticipation building within. The fragrances of the candle and oil combined with Rachel’s sensual touching techniques hit him like a freight train, derailing all control.  He gasped as he felt Rachel’s mouth envelop his cock, not taking him completely in but concentrating her lips on the tip, working him as though she were sucking the juice from a piece of fruit.  The longer she continued, the harder Sam’s pulse beat. His level of arousal increased with each move of her lips, long-dormant senses being awakened.

“You’re making me crazy,” he softly moaned.

Rachel chuckled wickedly. “That’s the idea -  make you crazy so it’s the best ever.”

“It’s working.”

                                                                        * * * *                                                                        
I’m put off by the opinion some people offer that erotic romance or erotica is merely “porn with a plot.” There’s a lot more to it than that and if it’s done correctly, it shows the most natural evolution in a relationship between two people. I don’t really care for gratuitous sex scenes when I read a book, though. That makes me think the author ran out of ideas and said “I don’t know what to have these people do next, so let’s throw in some hot sex!”

And that’s porn with a plot.

Author bio:

Tim Smith is an award-winning bestselling author whose books range from romantic intrigue to contemporary erotic romance. He is also a freelance photographer. More info about his work can be found at his website, www.timsmithauthor.com


Tina Donahue said...

Speaking as a woman, I can honestly say that using 'colorful language' in an erotic romance doesn't bother me. I'd never have the hero (or the bad guy) refer to a woman as a cunt, which is an insult. However, using the word to describe her vagina - yeah. It's less clinical, more erotic - and it's okay with publishers of erotic romances (they should know their audience, right?). Frankly, the word pussy makes me snicker every time I see or use it. It sounds dumb to me, almost little girlish. But hey, that's me. For some, it might rock their world.

We refer to a guy's penis as a cock and that doesn't seem to be a problem. As for the word fuck, used properly during a sex scene it has a lot of power. I suspect that those individuals who are offended by this language probably are more into traditional romance than erotic. I've never had anyone comment to me about use of these words in my erotic romances. The key is to use them appropriately, sensuously, not simply to make the scene crude (which btw isn't erotic). I think that's where the delicate balance lies.

The porn with a plot comment makes me laugh. Tell that to the 50 Shades of Gray author (nope, didn't read it - but read a lot about it). She's laughing all the way to the bank.

jean hart stewart said...

I write erotic and find it a lot of fun. Nothing is forbidden if it's done with a little taste. Almost any word can be used if it truly applies to the action. Certainly my erotic books outsell my others.

Fiona McGier said...

I'm with you, Tim, and not only do I read erotic romance, I write it. To each their own. I guess that's why I like your books.

As for "The Book That Shall Not Be Named because she doesn't need more search engine help from me"...I've had friends who read it tell me that they skipped over the errors and after a while they started skipping the sex scenes because they got boring. Excuse me...in an erotic novel, the most important part, the sex scenes...were boring? No wonder she's laughing all the way to the bank! And here I thought the essence of writing was to hone my craft, producing a well-written book that has been edited to perfection. Who knew?

Tim Smith said...

All good comments and a livley discussion. There's no right or wrong, merely personal preference and comfort zone.

I have no objection to any words in erotica unless they're overused. I've read some stories (not by anyone on this site) where the author bombarded the reader with crude language to the point where I lost interest after the first paragraph. It was boring.