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The Difference Between Romance and Erotica

Rosa Marchisella is the author of the gripping "Touch of Insanity" series and the bone-chilling novella "The Greatest of Books."

The Big Scary Romance Genre

I have to admit, I was scared of writing romance for a long time. I had a collection of story ideas and even started several romance manuscripts and screenplays. I wrote a couple of stories which were supposed to be romance, but ended up being darker tales that didn't qualify as dark romance .Even my novel, Eyes of the Hunter is, in my mind, an adventure story that happens to have some romantic elements in it.

Sadly, I lacked the confidence to expanded into actual romance - in any sub-genre. So, I decided the best way to over come my fear was to remove the element of "the unknown". I learned more about how to write good romance which gave me more confidence to try it.


One of the things I discovered is that Romance is a huge category with many sub-genres, including sweet romance, historical romance, paranormal romance, and reverse harem, etc.

According to ebook distributor, Smashwords, Romance was its best selling genre in 2017 (73% of the top 200 best-selling titles) with Erotica at #2 and Fantasy at #3.

Once I started being serious about writing romance, I hit a question that I've noticed a lot of other authors have:

What's the Difference Between Romance and Erotica?

Erotica is often listed as a sub-genre of romance, but some people disagree because of the basics of what makes a story qualify as "romance". So, what's the difference?

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Keeping it really simple, this is how it was explained to me:


Romance is driven by the story. It focuses on the characters, their relationship(s) and a full plot with growth, conflict, and conclusion which is either a Happily Ever After (HEA) or Happy For Now (HFN) ending. Readers expect a good story that leaves them with "the feels".


In contrast, Erotica is sex driven. There's no real character or plot development as the plot revolves around the characters having sex. Because the relationship isn't the focus, it doesn't matter if the characters stay together. While it's nice to have a semblance of a story to keep it from being flat-out porn, what the readers are expecting is the sex. Lots of it ... with details.

Or, as the Romance Writers of America website puts it: Erotica stories are "... novels in which strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an inherent part ... and could not be removed without damaging the storyline." [Source Link]

Does Having Sex Scenes Make It Erotica?

No, adding sex does not automatically move your story into erotica. If the story still contains the elements required for romance (as described above), adding sex classifies the story as "steamy" romance.

After I wrote my first romance, one of my beta readers mentioned my sex scenes were "a bit more Nicholas Sparks and a bit less Anne Rice". Huh? Obviously, I had more to learn. I was personally uncomfortable with the language and details level of those scenes, especially since I tried to keep my previous books PG for language and sex.

The way sex scenes are written depends on the author's style and the biggest thing I learned is that you, the author, need to be comfortable with what you've written. So, I rewrote those scenes in a way I felt was more true to me and the story's voice instead of what I thought the readers might want.

If you'd like some awesome advice on writing quality sex scenes, I highly recommend reading "3 Ways To Write A Better Sex Scene" by Robert Wood and "The Making of a Novel: 7 Rules for Writing Sex Scenes" by Jennie Nash.

© 2019 Rosa Marchisella

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