Sunday, July 3, 2011

How Far to Open the Door

Okay. I have to admit. I'm something of a voyeur. At least when it comes to love scenes in romance novels. I am definitely a leave the door wide open kind of reader and writer. I like to know what's going on. In detail.

If a love scene 'fades to black' I feel let down and disappointed. Books with no love scenes at all don't do it for me. A chaste kiss just isn't enough. Even when I'm reading something outside of the romance genre, perhaps a mystery or an action adventure, I like my hero and/or heroine to get a little action of his/her own.

In high school I cut my romance reading teeth on the Harlequin American line. Doors were all the way open. (Perhaps a little too wide for an impressionable teenager, but other than it shaping the way I write, there really wasn't any lasting harm in it.)

Because those were my romance roots, my writing today is usually labeled as spicy. The door is left open for readers to share the experience with the hero and heroine. Sometimes there's no door at all. I tend to include at least one 'out of the bedroom' love scene in each of my books: in the car, on the beach, at the swimming hole, and in the bed of a pick-up truck are places I've used so far. (I did a guest blog at Bianca Swan's on this very subject if you'd like more details!)

Going a little farther on the spectrum, erotica is a little too much detail for me. I like euphemisms for body parts, not anatomically correct ones or 'harsh' language.

Of course all of this is simply personal opinion. Not everyone feels the same way. What's so fabulous about romance is there's something out there pleasing for everyone. If you are someone who just likes a simple kiss with no consummation at all, there are books out there for you. If you like to read on the spicy side, there are books out there for you. And if you want explicit detail, there are books out there for you. Not to mention every taste between.

So, which do you prefer? Doors shut? Or doors wide open? And if you're a writer, do you write what you like to read?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!



  1. I like open doors, Debra. (I like your books!) I like lots of foreplay. But I also think I can generate heat by not showing every step by step. I have a scene in my WIP where my heroine is daydreaming about her previous evening's lovemaking. She is interrupted, and the interruption leaves the reader 'hanging.' The reactions so far are positive.

  2. Hi Debra. I like to read all kinds of romance--closed and open door. I also write both kinds as well. For me, it depends on the characters and the story. A Heart of Little Faith made more sense closed door. However, my upcoming one, Skin Deep, is completely open--wide open! :)

  3. I feel let down with the bedroom door closed. I read with the door wide open, including erotica, but write on the spicy level. I worried for a while that all my sex scenes would sound alike from one book to the next, until it hit me (duh!) that if I was truly in my character's head, the intimacy would be different, for my characters are different. Guess this qualifies as sexual pov. Great post!

  4. Great blog, Debra. I open the door wide. My books have at least two sex scenes. I like to write sweet and sensual, or passionate and sensual, or funny and sensual. Always sensual. But my sex scenes are never the same because they are integral part of each story.

  5. When I was writing novels in the 60's and 70's a chaste kiss was all that was allowed! So when I came back to writing fiction, my first bedroom scenes were 'fade-out to wafting curtain in the breeze' kind of thing, until I gradually became braver!

    I prefer the euphenisms too, and also sensual, emotional feelings to explicit and/or graphic description of what he put where etc!

    Agree with Verna and Mona that different characters create different kinds of intimacy.

    Great post, Debra!

  6. Good post and interesting to think about, too. I like the bedroom door ajar, but not wide open. Not because I'm a prude (though I definitely have my old-fogey moments) but because as a reader, I'm bored with love scenes.

    How ccol it is that there's plenty of room in the genre for all thoughts on what has always been an issue of great discussion.

  7. Hi Debra,

    Lovely post. I thought Barbara Cartland "no sex please we're British" type novels sailed with the Ark when Mary Quant fashions hit the high streets. Not literally, but certainly as skirts went higher and hot-pants took precedence literary bedroom doors in novels were suddenly flung wide open.

    ROFL: euphemisms are O.K., but some can kill what might otherwise be a hot scene by being utterly ludicrous. That said, there's no reason for "erotica" to be crude and base throughout, nor for lack of "romance/romantic element". But, even in a historical there are times when euphemisms can seem out of place. I have two historical characters who speak in a manner that might be taken as crude to one reader while quite fitting to another.

    For instance, the Earl of Moorby refers during a risque (rape) scene to his asset as "A fine upstanding cock, do you not agree?" Sleazy git!

    On the other hand Lord Gantry refers to his asset during a love scene as, his cocking dandy appendage!

    In a contemporary an American Secret Agent thinks a cock a deadly weapon, and has every reason to think that when its fully charged...!

    So yeah, if a door's closed I feel I've been cheated out of sex, the hero and the novel then gets the thumb down signal to other readers. ;)


  8. I personally like the door open. I like sensual and I like erotica. The nature of the story, the characters, the all has to play a part if the style used seems appropriate or not for me. And I'm just a reader...I don't write romance...I do love to read :)

    Cheers, Jenn
    Estelle Series on The Short Story Gal

  9. Hello All,

    Everyone is up bright and early today. Thanks for coming by to comment.

    Ana, I agree...there can be heat without 'going all the way'. Sometimes those scenes are the best because they just leave you (and the heroine!) craving more.

    Jennifer, variety is good!

    Vonnie, oooh, I like that! Sexual POV.

    Mona, sensual is a great word to describe a good love scene!

    Paula, good for you for being brave!

    Liz, when love scenes start sounding too similar, they do get boring. I guess a closed door would be good then, as we can let our imagination run wild!

    Francine, as always...loving your phrases!

  10. Hi Jenn,

    We love readers! And yes, the love scenes do need to fit with the overall nature and style of the story to make them work.

  11. Oddly enough, I prefer either the door shut "fade to black" with a little hint of tenderness and passion OR door wide open, explicit erotica (and I write both). I can't imagine door wide open erotica getting boring (although I've read some that is) but then I write from slightly to extreme kink/gay/bisexual/transexual p0rn so there is always something new and wild to explore. ;) Of course, I don't write romance, I write erotica, adventure, mystery, thriller so the sex or romance is either part of the story, or not. And I think that is what dictates whether I leave the door open or shut. Is something going on behind that door that is going to move the story or be important to it?

  12. Summer, yep, variety is the spice of life! And it is so important in a romance to have what's going on behind that door (whether we get to see it or not) be integral to the story.

  13. As you can see, I'm not a morning person.

    As for doors- I like to read them open at various levels. I write with them cracked a touch to half open. However, my paranormal series is pushing my comfort zone. Those wolves talk rough, act tough, and therefore, I believe the love scenes need to reflect a characters nature. Door closed wouldn't work for them.

  14. Sometimes it helps us to grow as writers if we push our comfort zone. And we always need to do what's right for our characters.

  15. For me, it depends on the story. I can go completely closed, to wide open. Once upon a time, I blushed to write open door scenes, myself; now they're fun to write. Except for the silly terminology. I am *not* personally offended by terminology, except for the purple kind. I don't mind calling a cock, a cock; it's fine with me. The one thing that I don't like, Re: open door scenes, is when it detracts from the story. Stopping the story simply to dump the characters into bed (or a truck, or a beach, or an open kitchen table) makes zero sense to me, and I find myself (as a reader) skimming, and downright skipping, those scenes. As a writer, I work very hard to try to work my "open door" scenes in as comfortably as if it was actually taking place irl. (A cop simply wouldn't stop in the middle of a car chase, to ...ahem, with the gal, after all. If he did, he'd be fired). Otherwise it seems....contrived and inauthentic. Still learning, there.

  16. Hi Julianne,

    I definitely agree. There can't be sex just for the sake of sex. It has to be there for a reason, and has to flow with the rest of the plot.

    When we critique love scenes in my RWA group, one of the things we look at is where are the characters at the beginning of the scene, and where are they at the end. (And I'm not talking physical location like the kitchen table!)