Smart Girls Read Romance

Smart Girls Read Romance -- so do the bestselling and award-winning Authors who write this blog. Join them as they dish about Books, Romance, Love, and Life.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Is it the Story or the Sizzle?

--by Vonnie Davis

I love asking readers questions. Yeah, you could say I'm a nosy old broad. But how can I write stories for you, that you'll love, if I don't know your tastes? Our choices in romance reading are wide, from sweet to multiple partners and BDSM. The sexual bounds are nearly non-existent--and I often wonder how readers feel about this. Are these sexual boundaries being stretched by the author's rolling pin at the risk of making their plotlines too thin? Are readers after the sizzle or the storyline?
 
 

Back in the sixties when I started reading romance. We knew in the end there would be a hug, a kiss and a marriage proposal--hot stuff. But, oh the journey our heroine and hero took to reach that magical kiss. We waited and waited as they very slowly grew closer, turning pages, devouring chapters, agonizing over every problem that pulled them apart again, fearful they'd never experience their well-earned happily-ever-after.

Slowly sex entered our beloved genre. Euphemisms for body parts were used, and we were rarely privy to the actual sex scene. They occurred behind the closed bedroom door or had one measly sentence to tell the reader oh yeah, they did the wild thang.

Over the years, those bedroom doors squeaked open...farther...and farther. Now, we're lucky if they make it to the bedroom. Gee, I sound like a prude, don't I? I'm not. Truly. I write romances from sweet to downright spicy. The "heat level" depends on the characters. To be sure, the amount and placement of sex depends on my storyline, on how quickly--if ever--my characters grow close enough where shared intimacies suits their relationship. For my stories are character driven. If I don't follow my heroine and hero's desires, they wake me up at night and complain.

Recently, I've had a dream fulfilled. I sold a book to Random House. After eight titles with small presses, I've secured a tiny spot with the Big Six. While the editor "adored it", she told me she wants more sex scenes and she wants it earlier in the book. I'd made my characters wait until four chapters prior to the ending before they made love. "Sex sells," the editor said. Well, yes, I thought, but I was trying to build a loving relationship between Paisley and Creighton first before I led them to the bedroom. Was that wrong? Should I have sacrificed storyline for sizzle? Am I being old fashioned in thinking love--or a strong respectful attraction--needs to come before the sex?

What say you?

Meanwhile, one of my historical "sweet" romances is available on Amazon--A MAN FOR ANNALEE. I tried to write a more sensual story, but my heroine planted her hands on her hips and said she was having none of it. And no one pushes Annalee around.



BLURB:

When men fight over the feisty new arrival in town, the battle for her hand begins...

Annalee Gallagher loses her parents, home, and business in the Great Fire of Chicago. When she travels to Cicero Creek in the Wyoming Territory to start a new life, more heartache awaits her, and so do the attentions of several men--for good and for evil. Why was her stagecoach attacked, and was the shot that zinged over her head one night a wild bullet or a bad aim?

Boone Hartwell, the marshal of Cicero Creek, suspects someone is out to kill the new spitfire in town. She amuses him and touches a lonely part of his soul, but keeping her safe is a fulltime occupation. More importantly, can a white man raised as Cheyenne rise above her other suitors to win her heart? One thing is for certain in his determined mind: He's the man for Annalee.
 
So what do you enjoy most about your romances? The storyline or the sizzle? Or both?

18 comments:

  1. Vonnie, excellent question. As a reader, it's the story. As a writer, the characters must be true to themselves, which is why I write sweet to sensual.

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  2. I agree, Caroline, although I've read several stories that were thin on plot and character development and heavy on sex. Yet these stories were ranked quite high. It makes me wonder what readers most prefer.

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  3. Hi Vonnie,I agree, you have to go with the characters. I have the same thing sweet to sensual stories. It all depends on the characters and just how much chemistry there is between them right off and how much they cling to their morals or the morals of the time I'm writing about. That battle between their body and their conscience is great conflict.

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  4. Paty, you're so right. That conflict of "should I or shouldn't I" is so realistic.

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  5. Got to have both. Even sweet stories can have sizzle but without a story I lose interest fast.

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  6. I like my sizzle, too, R. E.. Even sweet romances can have a strong degree of sizzle.

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  7. I'd much rather have a good satisfying story and imagine on my own time what the sex was like, than have a story quickly thrown together to cobble sex scenes into a whole book. You've got my vote, Vonnie!

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    1. Thanks Lyndi. I love a strong storyline with characters that touch my heart. The sex is secondary.

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  8. Congratulations, that sale is incredible!!! WOO HOO! I love romance and yours rock!

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    1. Well now, Mary, aren't you just the sweetest thing? LOL Hugs and thanks for your nice compliments. I'm excited about the sale.

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  9. Story line and character development keep me returning to an author. Sounds as if I'm not the only one -

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    1. So true, Ashantay! Flat characters who don't think things through just don't do it for me.

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  10. It's the story, Vonnie, for me. And I loved your post. :)

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  11. Thanks, Beth. Sometimes change is good and sometimes it's bothersome.

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  12. Vonnie,
    Personally, I think the longer you put off the sex scene, the more tension there is. However, you have to please your editor. Maybe you could add another not too far from the one four chapters from the end, or maybe have them about to do it and be interrupted by a legitimate problem. Then the next one will be looked forward to.
    Carolyn Rae Author- facebook, Romancing the Gold, coming soon from Noble Romance.

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  13. Great question and timing, V. I find myself asking this a lot lately. I'm comfortable with closed or partially open doors for my sensual stories, my characters seem content as well. I'm torn between opening the bedroom door wide though when it comes to my paranormal wolf shilfter. They seem to insist (I think it's the animal in them). I'm the one holding them back because of my own comfort level. Will readers buy sensual or steamy shifter books? I don't know, but worry the answer is 'no.'

    A couple of weeks ago my daughter was speaking to an older lady in her camp site they now live at. The woman told my daughter she was sick and tired of all the sex in romance books, with no story besides the sex, and she loves her romances. My daughter took that opportunity to tell her about "her mother's" books that weren't filled with gritty sex. The woman was ecstatic to hear about them!

    So...I'm confused. What do readers really want?

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  14. I love your last question, Calisa. I ask it myself. As a reader I prefer the sex. It's just hard for me to write and make it different from everyone else's I mean, HOW many ways are there to write "in and outies"? There are three distinct camps, I think. Those who are tired of the sex. Those who are able to quickly scan over the long sex scenes. And those who love, love, love the "hawt" sex scenes. I like to have the characters dictate the heat level, but then along comes an editor who complains...sigh...

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  15. Vonnie, I think the sex/sizzle depends on the characters and their traits as well as the time setting. Women today do things early in relationships that most women 20 years ago wouldn't have done. There's almost a universal peer pressure associated with second/third dates.

    Authors who write HOT usually have a sexual premise going in which makes it easier to get the sex up front. It's all in the setup that sets up the readers expectations.

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