Ah February. Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air. My daughter said to me the other day, “Huh, I have a boyfriend now. Guess I should think of something to do for Valentine’s Day.”
You know one of us had to go there. Love. Might as well be me.
I am constantly amazed at how often this question comes up: How much romance do you like it your mysteries?
It’s been asked–and answered–any number of times on any number of blogs. You’d think the question would die down. But it doesn’t. It’s always there. How much passion can you tolerate between characters in a mystery?
And the answers run the gamut. A few anti-love folks say “none at all.” Cozy aficionados are usually okay with some romance, but please; close the door. Some are okay with a little bit sexier scenes, but don’t want the blow-by-blow (no “tab A in slot B” as a friend of mine once said). And others, bring it on, baby.
I don’t think it’s possible to write a story while ignoring human emotions. And one of those emotions–perhaps one of the most powerful (if not the most powerful)–is love. Love between families, friends, and yes, lovers.
Fortunately for readers, the amount of love is all over the map. If you’re a “close the door” type, there are books for you. If you like your love a little steamier, there are books like that, too. And not just erotica.
Then there’s the corollary question for writers: How comfortable are you writing about love? Sex in particular? Again, the answers are all over the place. For some, not at all. Others are okay with skirting the edges. And some can go all out.
As a police-procedural writer, I’ve got a bit more leeway in the “heat level” of my love scenes than, say, someone who writes about a mystery-solving quilting club. But writing it always got me queasy. What if my prose sounded like the script to some cheap B- movie? So in an online scene-writing class, I challenged myself. I was going to write an honest-to-God sex scene. So I did.
I wasn’t half bad. Actually, the teacher was surprised I’d never written a sex scene before. And I wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable writing it as I thought I was. And that made me happy. Because it means that if I have to, I’ll be able to write that scene.
And there, for me, is the key phrase. If I have to. Because although the procedural sub-genre gives me license to be a bit steamier, the story might not give me the same. And throwing a sex scene out there because I can is a yuckier idea than the scene itself. Every scene must advance the story. At least for a mystery. So that’s my key question: can this story proceed without the sex?
And hey, if you just want the steam I guess that’s what erotica is for.
So readers, tell me: how do you feel about romance in mystery and how much is “too much” when it comes to passion on the page?
Mary Sutton | @mary_sutton73