Okay this is a segue from Rebecca's great alpha post on Tuesday as a chat a little about the evergreen topic of sex/love scenes in paranormal romance. These days the two are sometimes synonymous in publishing so I'll be coming from a little bit of a different area.
Is it necessary? Not at all. Some readers think the smexier the better but you don't exactly have to delve into the land of TMI to give the full force of a love scene or the connection between the heroine and hero. With a little description of emotion and characterization, a sensuous love tale can be told without taking the reader completely out of the story with shock value.
Put yourself in reader's shoes when considering your story. Is a love scene necessary at all? Does it fit with the characters? Some paranormal romance and UF books put on the sex to give conflict (or as the obstacles themselves) but many a times I've seen the story fall completely flat due to forced sexual tension between the heroine and her love interest. One story even started right off the bat with a kickin' action scene only to fall on it's face once one of the love interest(s) entered the picture. Realistically, would you stop in the middle of a fight just to make oogle eyes at the hot guy? Would you drop kick aside your job just to hop in with the next pretty face? Probably not, unless you want to die with one last smile on your face.
Focusing on the Paranormal Romance genre for now, romance has always depicted a relationship between the hero and a heroine. The couple works to overcome obstacles so they can be together and walk off into the sunset with an HEA. With the rise of the paranormal bit, there is an addition of an otherworldly nature. A bit of our own world but much more extraordinary. The world is open with all sorts of goodie magical creatures like elves, wolves, shape shifters, vampires and more in a battle for good and evil. The human world interacts with the magical world and often times an allegory of humanity itself. Urban fantasy doesn't exactly focus on the relationship but can also feature a love scene or two as well as a romance for the backdrop of the main story which paints the world. Most romance readers expect the hero and heroine to get together eventually and "consummate" their relationship. Nowadays the door is open on the bedroom, as so many editors and agents point out, which can be a good and bad thing.
Good because you can reveal a lot about how the couple feels about each other. Through a love scene, their feelings about each other and love itself can be revealed through how they touch and relate to one another intimately. Some psychologists say that how a couple relates outside the bedroom is just as important (if not more) as to how they relate inside of the bedroom. This is true for romance characters as well. How does he look at her? How does she treat him in front of other people? I love a good amount of sexual tension between my h/h whether reading or writing. I love to see the chemistry build over the course of the story along with that friendship that cements the bond leading to a satisfying HEA. A love scene doesn't HAVE to be there for me to enjoy the story and sometimes a love scene can even kill a story for me if it's too much and too soon. Which leads us to the:
BAD side of open door bedroom scenes and sex heavy PR. Most times I just don't want know or hear about weeping/crying/seeping orifices. Instead of dragging me in it can pull me away from the story and I've heard some readers voice the same feeling. I like sexual tension as much as the next gal but I believe the tension can be achieved and fulfilled without getting too in your face as it builds over time. Some stories rely on bedroom scenes to advance the story and I think this is a grave mistake, unless you're going for a certain audience. Plots often fall flat and the reader ends up getting mad if they are sold one story and end up getting something completely different. I've had this happen to me recently and I was not a happy reader.
Sexual tension and love scenes can't be used to advance the plot or as a way to skip ahead to advance the relationship if you are going for the romance, paranormal or fantasy audience. Every house needs a foundation to stand on and the story itself is the house. The characters, conflict, et al build that foundation for the story to stand on. If these are forsaken for random occurrences just to justify love scenes, that foundation is going to fall apart.
On the other hand, love scenes can still be achieved even if the bedroom is closed. Using wording to show the closeness of the couple can suffice even if you give a short summary of the couple finally coming together. I like to involve my readers body, mind and heart when they read one of my romances and I love it when authors do this in books I'm reading. More than just seeing how the h/h's body parts react to one another, I want to know how they feel. How soft their touch is, how tender they are with one another and how passionate and sweet the kisses are. Each character is different and how they treat others, especially the ones they come to care about, will unravel throughout the story with the love scene being a culmination of everything coming together.
A little goes a long way and with dialogue and some clever description, an author can have their readers on the edge of their seat with racing hearts and heated blood pressure without having to go completely into a drag out knockdown play by play. ;-)