The Difference Between Romantic, Steamy And Erotic Scenes In Your Novel (Tips & Examples)
You guessed it, today we’re going to try and tackle these key aspects of the Romance genre, so just a little heads up, this article has explicit content and aims to shed some light on the (sometimes) thin line between romantic, steamy and erotic scenes in novels.
We’ll even have examples of each for possible readers or writers who may want to breach the comfort zone for something a little more daring. As a Paranormal Romance writer myself, I’d just like to clarify the views expressed in this article are my own and should be taken accordingly.
Romance Genres, Subgenres And Variations
We can’t talk Romance without profiling genres and subgenres. When writing Romance, you can be your own alchemist, playing with subtlety or raw emotion in the proportions of your choice, with the level of maturity or emotional development your characters allow.
Let’s have a look at some popular Romance genres & variations, and keep in mind the age of your readership/protagonists will bend the scale one way or another (YA, NA, etc.)
- Historical Romance (the story takes place in the past)
- Contemporary Romance (the story takes place in the present day/time)
- Fantasy Romance (whimsical, magic, etc. or the story takes place beyond the real world)
- Paranormal Romance (one or more characters involved in set romance have certain powers that are out of this world or the story takes place beyond the real world)
- Inspirational Romance (directed to a specific niche: Amish, Military, African-American, etc.)
- Romantic Suspense
- LGBT Romance
- Science-Fiction Romance
- Clean / Christian Romance
- Erotic Romance
There’s no exact recipe, but the degree of explicitness and graphic display of romance will have a direct impact on the genre of your novel. What you want as a writer is to keep your novel as close as possible to your genre in order to better profile your readership.
In any case, this is what you should expect from a Romance novel:
- The focus is on the developing relationship between two main characters
- Sex is optional
- Despite the many obstacles, the characters are bound to have their Happily Ever After
How To Write Romantic Scenes + Examples
Romance feeds the heart and there’s absolutely no need to get physical to make a heart skip a beat. When writing romantic scenes in your novel, it’s all about the build-up, the moment, the intensity of the feelings and sometimes angst.
First person narrative is excellent when creating momentum and helps the reader place themselves into the now. The short sentence structure helps accelerate the pace even more.
Examples of Romantic Scenes With or Without PDA:
I hope Peter’s still out there. I don’t want to lose my nerve. So I quicken my pace and that’s when I spot him, alone in the hot tub, his head tipped back with his eyes closed.
“Hi,” I say, and my voice echoes into the woods.
His eyes fly open. Nervously, he looks over my shoulder. “Lara Jean! What are you doing out here?”
“I came to see you,” I say, and my breath comes out in white puffs. I start taking off my boots and socks. My hands are shaking, and not because I’m cold. I’m nervous.
“Uh…what are you doing?” Peter’s looking at me like I’m crazy.
“I’m getting in!” Shivering, I unzip my puffy coat and set it on the bench. Steam is rising out of the water. I dip my feet in and sit down on the ledge of the hot tub. It’s hotter than a bath, but it feels nice. Peter’s still watching me warily. My heart is racing out of control and it’s difficult to look him in the eyes. I’ve never been so scared in my life. “That thing you brought up earlier…you caught me off guard, so I didn’t know what to say. But…well, I like you too.” It comes out so fumbly and uncertain, and I wish I could start over and say it smoothly and confidently. I try again, louder. “I like you, Peter.”
Peter blinks, and he looks so young all of a sudden. “I don’t understand you girls. I think I have you figured out, and then…and then…”
“And then?” I hold my breath as I wait for him to speak. I’m so nervous; I keep swallowing, and it sounds loud to my ears. Even my breathing sounds loud, even my heartbeat.
His pupils are dilated he’s looking at me so hard. He’s staring at me like he’s never seen me before. “And then I don’t know.”
I think I stop breathing when I hear him say “I don’t know.” Did I screw things up that badly that now he doesn’t know? It can’t be over, not when I finally found my courage. I can’t let it be. My heart is pounding like a million trillion beats a minute as I scoot closer to him. I bend my head down and press my lips against his, and I feel his jolt of surprise. And then he’s kissing me back, open-mouthed, soft-lipped kissing-me-back, and at first I’m nervous, but then he puts his hand on the back of my head, and he strokes my hair in a reassuring way, and I’m not so nervous anymore. It’s a good thing I’m sitting down on this ledge, because I am weak in the knees.
He pulls me into the water so I’m sitting in the hot tub too, and my nightgown is soaked now but I don’t care. I don’t care about anything. I never knew kissing could be this good.
― Jenny Han, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Romance is about the realization of it, the feeling, the torment, that moment when things suddenly become clear whether the characters like it or not, whether they’re aware of it or not. The touch itself is entirely optional.
She absorbed the terror and beauty of him and his world. Of every moment over the past days. All of it, filling her up like the first breath she’d ever taken. And never had she loved life more.
First person narrative places you, the reader, into the character’s shoes. Third person narrative places you right there with your characters, in the same setting like a spectator to their developing romance.
Romantic scenes explore both senses and feelings, smell, touch and experience:
Before she made sense of it all, he draped his arms around her and pulled her into the warmth of him. He squeezed a fraction harder and she gave into his chest, careful at the tightness of her hold. There was nothing but the smell of softener and rain invading her senses as she pressed her eyelashes onto his t-shirt.
And just like that, with a hand he cupped her head and worked his fingers in her curls while running a pressing arm from her lower to her middle back, burying his face in her hair and running his fingers over her shoulder blades until there was nothing except the sound of their pounding heartbeats cascading into each other.
And then he gives me a smile that just seems so genuinely sweet with just the right touch of shyness that unexpected warmth rushes through me.
Romance doesn’t only hide behind the characters’ actions. Dialogue plays a big role in the development of their relationship and inner turmoils:
“And now I’m looking at you,” he said, “and you’re asking me if I still want you, as if I could stop loving you. As if I would want to give up the thing that makes me stronger than anything else ever has. I never dared give much of myself to anyone before – bits of myself to the Lightwoods, to Isabelle and Alec, but it took years to do it – but, Clary, since the first time I saw you, I have belonged to you completely. I still do. If you want me.
Maybe we’ve lived a thousand lives before this one and in each of them we’ve found each other… I know I’ve spent each life before this one searching for you. Not someone like you but you, for your soul and mine must always come together.
“In a world full of temporary things, you are a perpetual feeling.”
Writing Steamy Scenes (Tips & Examples)
When your favorite characters move forward from platonic love, there will be fireworks. As a writer, you spend hefty amounts of time concocting the development of your characters’ relationship, the tension, the build-up, all for the glorious moment when they’re standing there, face to face, ready to dive in.
It could be just a kiss, but the intensity and description of the moment may evolve from romantic to steamy or erotic depending on how far your characters decide to go and how descriptive you get as an author.
The line between steamy and erotic is quite relative and it mostly depends on the reader. For me personally, if one does not get very graphic with the motion of the ocean and does not describe the private parts in generous detail, that is enough for a scene to be classified as steamy (even if there is sex involved).
As you know, sex is optional in any kind of Romance novel, but it is a must in Erotica. Take out the sex, and the Romance novel survives and strives. If you take out the sex scenes from Erotica, the story is bound for imminent collapse, due to the numerous sex scenes that sustain it.
Let’s Have a Look at Some Examples of Steamy Scenes:
There was no time for thoughts as she launched herself at his lips, letting go of whatever had taken hold of her seconds ago. Transfixed, his thoughts were silenced by her taste as if taking an adrenaline shot, as if her lips sunk in a perfect fit, as if it wasn’t wrong. She did it again under his wide eyes and benumbing brain, too astounded to mentally process her actions yet bewildered at the response of his senses and how they surrendered under the witchery of her lips. The air got thinner.
Jasper’s lips crushed on hers unrestrained, he cupped her face with both hands as her fingers slid along the sculpted forearms to meet his for a brief moment until she nudged him forward, propelling them both onto her bed. Unlocking his lips from hers, he pulled her further up on the duvet solely to immerse himself in another kiss under her dilated pupils a second later. Heat rose from every inch of himself he was no longer able to control. There was nothing but the sound of her gasps drawing him in, awakening something feral within.
Whatever this was, it was pulling her in, the urgency of those perfect lips sinking in as if consuming her core, the way his body pressed against hers, warm and untamed. If hearts could explode, hers could detonate right now.
Insane. This was insane and he was half-mad for allowing it to happen.
Instinct was not supposed to dictate over logic but, then again, that might just be another one of her superpowers. He’d never wanted someone so…violently. There was a little inner fight with every button he released from the buttonholes of her loose shirt starting from the last in line.
I wanted him. I arched my back, fully aware of how vulnerable that made me and that I was giving him an invitation. He accepted it and laid me back against the table, bringing his body down on top of mine. That crushing kiss of his moved from my mouth to the nape of my neck. He pushed down the edge of my dress and the bra strap underneath, exposing my shoulder and giving his lips more skin to conquer.
— Richelle Mead (The Indigo Spell (Bloodlines, #3))
Writing Erotic Scenes (Tips & Examples)
You guessed it, it’s bound to get hot in here, so before raising your pitchforks, let’s have a look at what makes a novel Erotica:
- The quantity of love/sex scenes on display
- The graphic description of intimacy & chosen terminology
- Emotional satisfaction vs. Physical climax
- The main focus is on the sex rather than being an optional part of the story
- The ending is not necessarily Happily Ever After
- It can follow two or more protagonists
I have nothing but pure admiration for Erotica writers, they do a splendid job giving our imagination a ride (literally). A common stereotype is that it’s all sex and no plot.
There’s good erotica and bad erotica, just like with any other genre out there, but what is clear is that it’s not all dangling balls and dripping slits (let’s take a moment to recover from what I just wrote).
I recently interviewed two lovely ladies who enjoy reviewing Paranormal Romance, so try out Shhh We’re Reading Dirty Books where they review books in the Paranormal Romance genre.
They’re in for the light & medium steamy novels, as well as sizzling hot, so they may help you decide your next best read if you’re a fan of the genre.
To see exactly how graphic Erotica gets, check out some examples:
Dirty’s saying I’m going to make you come. Obscene’s saying I’m going to spread your pretty pink pussy lips open and spank your clit until you come all over my face.
— Kit Rocha (Beyond Shame (Beyond, #1))
“I want to stick my cock into your pussy. Don’t worry—I’ll get you nice and ready first. Open you up with my fingers, make sure you’re so wet and hot that when you wrap around me, it’ll feel like I’m fucking a goddess because you’re goddamn perfect, London. I can’t wait to feel your cunt squeezing me. Lick your clit, taste you . . . It’ll be good between us. You know it will.”
— Joanna Wylde (Reaper’s Stand (Reapers MC, #4))
“You already made your point,” I say with a mouthful of fruit.
“Oh, for the love of dick, yes. Now leave me alone.”
“Never. If you want, I’ll fuck you now.”
The gall. I wouldn’t fuck him now if my clit was on fire and needed to be doused with nub-saving cum. I roll my eyes at him.
“No thanks, we have a lifetime of fucking ahead of us,” I say mockingly.
He shrugs and starts to walk away as if it makes no difference to him one way or the other. He’s such a jackass sometimes. Before I can stop myself I throw my half-eaten banana at him and it hits him on the back of his neck.
He spins around, wipes his neck and looks down at the banana on the floor.
“Did you really just fruitally assault me?”
He thinks he’s so damned funny with his wordplay.”
— Ella Dominguez (The Art of Domination (The Art of D/s, #2))
I am coming. I can’t be coming. I’m fighting it, and that’s making it worse. I am trying to fake not having an orgasm. I wonder if he can tell…I feel a little sick to my stomach when I realize exactly what sensation has brought me to this unfortunate climax: the friction of a very fat man’s matted belly hair on my clit. This man I am on top of is the most repulsive person I’ve ever allowed to touch me. Sheer physics won’t allow him to be on top of me. In fact, I am not entirely sure how it is that he will get back up from his supine position. This man is my john. This orgasm and the wave of revulsion that follows quickly on its heels and makes my skin turn cold makes him my last client in my short career as an escort.
— Audacia Ray (Coming and Crying)
I believe Audacia Ray makes does an excellent job depicting an orgasm on the brink of revulsion. Her writing skills are undeniable.
What belonged to Jack McKenna belonged only to Jack McKenna, and the pussy he was feverishly sucking on was definitely his. He went in for the kill then, sucking her clit firmly and vigorously, growling low in his throat as she bucked up beneath him. On a loud groan she burst, her legs violently trembling as her nipples stabbed up and she drenched his mouth with her sweet climax. He lapped it all up, gluttonously sucking at her hole to get every drop of liquid her cunt had made for him…”MINE,” Jack murmured, causing her to seek out his gaze. “This pussy is ALL mine, baby.”
— Jaid Black (The Possession (Possession / Addiction, #1))
Well, now you know how I see things. Just like beauty, the erotic factor is also in the eye of the beholder. If your next novel is bound to be spicy, the hints need to be everywhere, from your cover to the blurb and book description, just to make sure your manuscript is going to land in the right hands.
As always, thank you for reading me & have yourself an incredible week!
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And check out Lost in Amber: An Out Of This World Paranormal Romance if enjoy girl power, adventure & a toe-curling love story.
She just wanted to mope over her breakup but the universe had other plans for Zoey Mills.
Read the full blurb here.