“To write is to descend, to excavate, to go underground.” Anais Nin
Why am I including a quote from one of the first women writers to pen female erotica? Simple. Anais Nin was a profoundly adept writer of human emotions – both male and female. That she chose to write about emotions as they related to sexuality and sexual awakening is a point that can be debated in a college literature course. For my purposes, she helped me understand the underlying themes of human sexuality and emotions with regards to my romance writing.
There are as many different categories in romance writing as there are romance writers. I happen to like writing stories about people finding love and companionship in a contemporary setting. The here and now. I’ve mentioned before that I like to read Regency Historical romances. It’s a time period I know I can’t write, but one that gives me a great deal of pleasure to read. Some romances are considered “Inspirational,” some defined as “Sweet.” There is a very large market now dealing in romantic female erotica. There are paranormal, urban, suspense and thriller categories as well.
The one thing all these diverse types of romance writing have in common is emotions, and the number one emotion is of love. Now, love doesn’t necessarily have to translate to sex, but for my writing purposes, it does. People have sex. Even your parents, gross as that may seem to you. (How do you think you got here?) My characters have sex. My characters have emotions. Those two facets – emotions and sex – are very important themes for my writing.
Anyone can write a sex scene. It’s basic anatomy and algebra 101: part A goes into part B and you wind up with C. I’ll let you figure out what the letters stand for. To be able to write a love scene and not just a sex scene, and make the reader feel the emotions coursing through the characters, is a talent I have been trying to develop for years.Romantic fiction isn’t about the sex – although that plays a large part in it. No, it’s about how the characters feel about, and respond to, one another. It can be just an askance look that heats up the emotion, a simple touch of hand against a cheek, or a knock you out of your socks kiss.
Look up the word love in any dictionary and you will get descriptors for emotions, such as, an intense feeling of deep affection; a romantic or sexual attachment. Notice the first definition states an INTENSE FEELING… The words intense and feeling both denote something more than the ordinary. To be able to delve into the deepest emotional troughs of a character’s psych and explain it so that the reader recognizes it as an emotion that they themselves have felt – or want to feel – is the mark of an exceptional writer.
Nin’s quote explains that the writer must dig deep down into the emotional well of characters. To excavate, which literally means to extract layer upon layer to get to the core, the underground storeroom where true emotion lives. As writers, we need to strip away at our characters to find the essence of what makes them who and what they are. As writers of romantic fiction we must be able to express those rolling emotions effectively when love, sex, and conflict come about. Your reader needs to understand what the two love interests mean to one another – during sex and after it. To do that convincingly, we, as the writers, need to delve deep down ( per Nin) and unearth our own true and hidden desires. That’s a tall order.
If you’ve never read any of Nins work, don’t worry. You don’t have to. She was pioneer and the time period in which she wrote makes reading her a chore if you just want to kill an hour. But her quote is a profound one. To write, is truly to descend into our own and our character’s inner emotional true selves and then express those emotions in a way common to all who read our work.