Let’s Be Frank


Though to be honest, I’d rather be Karenna…

Okay, bad joke. Seriously, I’m talking today about frank language in an erotic romance story. You know, the terms that might make your grandma blush, if she’s alive and reads erotic romance. Though actually, if a grandma read erotic romance, she probably wouldn’t blush.

In some romance novels, the type that might be sold in your local supermarket or corner store, the language isn’t so blunt. There may be mention of genitalia, possibly even being inserted into other genitalia, but the descriptions are relatively vague. The scene may be glossed over entirely, the so-called “closed curtain” version of a sex scene, where you know darn well what the characters are doing but don’t get to see it.

Even if the author follows the character into the bedroom, slightly euphemistic terms may be used. “His hardness”, “her softness”, that sort of thing. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Some romance publishers require things to be couched in tamer terms, and some readers prefer reading them.

In erotic romance, however, things have to be a bit more in-your-face. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be erotic romance.

One thing authors have to be careful of when writing a sex scene, whether it’s the vague version or the explicit, is purple prose. Even though purple is a pretty color, purple prose is not so attractive. Such sentences as “He sheathed his fleshly sword deep within the warm folds of her” live within the purple prose story. (Disclaimer: I have no idea whether that particular sentence is in any book. I made it up, though it definitely fits “purple prose”.) While that sort of writing may have its place, that place is not in an erotic romance novel.

Different publishers have different requirements for language in an erotic romance, so as an author, it’s important to keep up with the guidelines. As a reader, it’s helpful to know which publisher uses terms that won’t offend you personally. For example, a friend of mine told me that a publisher I’m submitting to prefers the “C” word for female anatomy. A lot of people are very offended by that word, and at least two other publishers I’ve worked with won’t allow it in their books. Personally, I prefer it; the other frequently used word for that genitalia sounds silly to me. I can understand it bothering people, though.

When writing a romance, particularly an erotic romance, it’s sometimes hard to write the sex scenes without being repetitive.  After all, there are a finite number of words that can be used to describe anatomy and acts, and some of those words aren’t allowed at some publishers. Some words are too “purple”. Some just plain aren’t even used in this century.  As an erotic romance author, I want the sex scenes I write to be realistic. I want them to be frank, because that’s what erotic romance is.

I just probably ought to buy a sex thesaurus. And yes, those do exist.

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4 responses to “Let’s Be Frank

  1. Great insight Karenna. I enjoyed it a lot. As a writer of erotic romance, I do sometimes have to scramble for different words, etc. I have a few more to use since I write historical erotics, though. They had some interesting terms back then! Just wanted to stop by and say hi and put in my two cents.

    Brita Addams

  2. Well, I’m going to have to buy a sex thesaurus as well! I did not know there WAS such a thing.

    Good blog. Oh, but that “C” word. Ay-ay-ay. It could be the factor that makes me or breaks me as an erotic writer. LOL….

  3. Sheila Gallagher

    As a reader, I’m glad we’ve finally started to use the correct/slang words instead of using euphemisms. I hate euphemisms. If you’re reading erotic romance or erotica, you’re old enough to use the words. Using the adult words is more realistic. Now if we could only stop using pixels to cover the genitalia on TV, we’ll have started growing up..

  4. I don’t like the “c” word, or the “p” word either, and yet I write erotica.

    I don’t know if my grandmother would blush at what I write, she usually didn’t blush at much of anything. But my mom on the other hand has told me she wish I didn’t write about that stuff. “Stuff” being sex.

    She’s the only one in my family though, the rest of the family don’t care what I do.

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