Monday, June 22, 2009

Defining Erotica

What's the difference between erotica, erotic romance, and romance? I'm asked this question a lot. It used to trip me up, but I've learned quite a bit over the past twelve years of writing romance and erotic romance. (I also write erotica under other names, but that's for another time.) So let me see if I can share what I've learned.

We all know about romance, right? Romance is fiction focused primarily on the relationship and romantic love between two people. No matter what else the story contains (sci-fi, vampires, suspense, space travel, etc.), it must follow the couple through great conflict and conflict resolution, and must have an emotionally satisfying and generally optimistic ending. That's why we read it, isn't it? Not all our relationships in real life will make it through those terrifying crises, but we know the couple we're following in a romance will. Somehow.

Erotica is fiction (or non-fiction!) meant to be sexually arousing. I've had people ask me what distinguishes erotica from pornography. For me, erotica has to offer an emotional connection with the characters--a story. In general, women want to connect emotionally with the characters they read about. (Not always, of course. This is just a general statement.) Inserting tab A into slot B is pornography. Needing, aching to insert tab A into slot B is erotica. (I'm not suggesting that pornography is always a bad thing, mind you.)

So, that leaves erotic romance: sexually stimulating literature about a growing relationship with an emotionally satisfying ending. Easy, right? But where do you draw the line between spicy romance and erotic romance? Much of it has to do with language and detail. If you want to be aroused but are easily offended by "four-letter words," then stick with spicy romance. However, the line is more like a fuzzy zone these days, and I don't spend a lot of time worrying about the difference when I'm writing. My characters decide the level of detail and what kind of language they will use. (If they don't have minds of their own, they aren't worth writing about.)

We need examples, don't we? OK. This is the beginning of a chapter from Carved in Stone, my latest release from Erotique Press:

Barely giving Lizabeth a chance to respond, Jeremy forced her mouth open again. His hand moved from her ribs to her back and then under her blouse.

She shuddered as he touched her skin, burning a path around her midriff. Then his hand moved up to the side of her bra and he caressed her breast through nylon. She pressed herself against him.

The knowledge that she'd aroused him fired her further and she rubbed her hip against the bulge in his jeans. For a moment, she thought he would take her right there in the yard.

She wouldn't have stopped him.

"Wait," he whispered, pulling his mouth away from her again. He slid his hand out from under her blouse.


"Christ, I'm not going to ravish you out here."

She looked up, stunned by the desire in his eyes that perfectly reflected her own.

Jeremy pushed the hair back from her face. "I work better indoors."

Is it spicy romance, erotic romance, or erotica? There's no way of telling with just this information. (You can be fairly sure it isn't "sweet romance" where sex is only hinted at, if that. In fact, I'll guarantee it isn't "sweet.") What gives it away is what follows.

Curious? I hope so. I really enjoyed writing the story of Jeremy and Lizabeth, set on the steamy Gulf coast of Mississippi. Jeremy is a stoic artist who carves stone, and Lizabeth is his unwitting model. When they get together, sparks fly!

Which do you prefer to read, romance, erotic romance, or erotica? Or are you like me—someone who enjoys them all? Are you into paranormal erotica (hinting at my other identity), or contemporary erotic romance? We authors really want to know. We love to share our stories with you, and we want you to enjoy them.

Carved in Stone is closer to erotic romance than anything else. Just so you know.

Happy, spicy reading!


Your friendly editorial goddess said...

I really liked this blog post, Sarah! Smart. You rock :)

Lisa Logan said...

Great post! (And sizzlin' excerpt.) I posted a virtual "Post-It" on my computer desktop with my own personal definition of erotica vs. pornography:

Pornography is hot sex with no story. Erotica is a good story with hot sex.


Anabel Blue said...

Hi Sarah!

I have to admit I'm still not real clear on the difference between erotic romance and erotica. But you know what? I don't really care! It's all good! :)

Loved the excerpt...


Sarah Storme said...

Thank you all for your kind words!

Angela Lee said...

Late, late, late, as always. I hope you find this comment anyway! I just wanted to let you know I found this, uh, deeply stirring. Deeply. Stirring. Sigh.