Saturday, March 29, 2014

HOT OR COLD? Phew! It Can Be So Confusing!


When it comes to sensuality ratings in books, the hot or cold designations have always confused me.
 I’ve read wonderfully sensual passages where the couple reached the bedroom door and then..well, the rest was left to the readers’ (often very fertile) imaginations.

And I’ve read scenes where the writer has tried so hard to be outrageously hot that the love scene reads more like a sex ed manual.
And then there’s the totally I’ll-write-erotic-or-die scenes where I’ve wound up giggling in amazement and thinking, gee, that would be physically impossible unless you were eight feet tall and built like an Orangutan.

And who but another Orangutan would find that kind of sexy description hot?

Yep, in my humble opinion, writing really hot and sexy scenes that make the reader all hot and bothered is an art form and is done well only by really exceptional writers who have a knack for it. These scenes are usually highly emotionally charged as well as very physically hot.
I write romantic suspense, so the sexy hot and the murderously hot have to balance. It's also a mistake to try to forcer oneself to write hot - at least, it never works for me. Possibly because when I get to a certain point where it’s obvious I’m trying too hard to get  erotic - I’ll read it to my DH and we both fall about laughing.

My books usually have a couple of sensual scenes in them, but also a lot of banter between the hero and heroine which is both funny and sexy. I’ve been amazed when a couple of reviewers have described my heroines as bitchy, when they’ve actually been showing irritation or standing up for themselves with an Alpha male who’d swamp them if they didn’t. I wonder if these reviewers think women should always be meek and submissive and hide their true feelings?
Still, I’ve always considered my books to be in the ‘mild’ rather than ‘hot’ category, and I’ve often wondered if I should make them hotter. I’ve been surprised when publishers have put them in the ‘sensual’ category. And even more so with reader response. Here’s a few of the reader comments I’ve got:

“Phew – that book is sooooo hot!” Reader fanning herself with said book.
“Gee, I didn’t know sex could be like that!” Uhmmm, wistful reader….

“I marked the sexy parts in yellow highlighter to read to my partner.” What could I say to that?
"Hey, if you ever want help with the research, you know where to find me." Yeah, and I know where to find your wife, as well.

And the all-time most embarrassing of all? “I just loved the sex in that book. Do you think your husband would give mine some tips?” Okay, my poor DH is still squirming from that one, spoken loudly at a party.
Going sort of off-topic: when I was a kid, I used to watch old war movies with my dad. (Yes, I was a Daddy’s Girl). One of them involved a battleship slowly sinking in the freezing cold Atlantic. The Captain talks to the crew about abandoning ship. “We can either wait and hope we get rescued before she blows up, or we can take to the life boats. Would you rather freeze or fry?”

Freeze or fry. Be cool or hot. It’s a question I’ve wrestled with ever since.
Maybe I’ll solve it in the next book.

I'd love to hear comments about how other people feel on the hot/cool/cold issue! To get an idea of how I'm coping with the 'heat', click here to read the first chapters of  some of my books. :-)









Leah St. James said...

Great topic, Glenys. And you're right--one person's hot is another's tepid. I once read a review of a friend's sweet romance where the reviewer had called it pornographic. (The big offense was the heroine catching glimpse of the hero's, uh... you know.) :-) Anyway, it was nowhere near pornographic, to me. I left a comment to that effect, and so did others. I think writers should be comfortable with what they write, regardless of the heat level, because they're the ones who have to talk about (or defend) it. Loved your first chapter to "Marry for Money" -- it's going in my TBR stash! (Must check out the others as well!)

Jannine Gallant said...

I'm not a huge fan of writing bedroom scenes. I struggle with how to make them original. Let's face it--there's only so many ways to, well, you know, without turning it into erotica. Definitely not going there! I focus on the emotional impact of what they're doing instead of describing body parts--not that there's anything wrong with that. LOL Yep, we all have to write (and read) what we're comfortable with.

Margo Hoornstra said...

The only thing I have to add is I agree completely with what you've said, Glenys. Been there, done that myself. Also agree with Leah and Jannine. Surprise! I write sensuous, definitely NOT erotica, and had a reviewer talk about objecting to the child porn and rape in one of my books. Then went on to say she hadn't read it! Amazing, huh?!

glenys said...

Margo - I've heard a few complaints recently about reviewers reviewing books they admit to have not read - how weird is that? Author Anne Rice has put in a protest to Amazon about reviewers who 'gang up' on writers, giving bad reviews just to see their names in print....

glenys said...

Leah - you're right, the hot and cold is really quite subjective. The big thing is to have a really good story, yes? I find it disturbing that reviewers say things that can really ruin a book when their views are also subjective. Remember the Victorians, who even covered their piano legs with fabric?

glenys said...

Jannine - I struggle with this as well - it's possible to be quite clichéd! To me, emotions are more important than who does what to whom with what body part .I think readers can imagine pretty well what we're hinting at.

Diane Burton said...

Sometimes we don't give readers enough credit. They know what goes where. We don't have to spell it out for them. That can be more sexy than erotica.

Alicia Dean said...

Enjoyed the post! I completely agree that you should write the heat level you feel comfortable with. I have a problem with the emotional and the physical aspects of love scenes. Just not my strong suit, although I do have love scenes in my stories, but only if they fit. I won't have the hero and heroine jumping one another's bones just because it's a third of the way into the story. :)

glenys said...

Alicia & Diane - that's exactly right! Our readers know the mechanics of sex, what they really want to feel is the emotion. And a couple of lines of loving feeling can trump three pages of what goes where :-)