Friday, May 6, 2011

Should a Writer Write at a Consistent Heat Level, Whatever the Story?

Please feel free to comment on the subject of my post this week. I'm offering a download of the reader's choice of my books to the commenter with the most interesting post. I hope you'll join the conversation!


As a reader, are you disappointed when an author writes a story that has a different heat level than the rest of his/her backlist? I've read more than a few reader reviews where the reader complained that the author didn't maintain the expected heat level in the story. I know one of the reasons readers do repeat buying of an author's work is because they know and like the writer's style and have an expectation for what they're getting.

I understand that. I'm a reader too.

But speaking as a writer, I feel strongly about staying true to the story that unfolds as I write it. The mark of a good writer, IMHO, is the ability to create a truly unique story each time we write a book. When you LOVE the writer's world and characters, cookie cutter stories can be fun through a few books, but eventually you get tired of reading essentially the same book over and over again.

Plug in hero name, heroine name, change the location a bit, and hit print.

Nuh uh. That's not interesting to me as a reader or a writer. I'm willing to give up a certain level of foreknowledge to enjoy the delight of being surprised. I'd be disappointed if every character in a series had the exact same way of looking at life, of dealing with challenges, of falling in love, of acting on that love. Each of us approaches sex differently. We don't all want sex every day...or multiple times a day. Some of us like fairly straight sex with a high level of emotional connection. Some of us like the uber-hot hook-up with a virtual stranger. Some like sex anywhere but in a bed. Some can't stop thinking about getting crumbs or sand in strategic places if we go "off roading" with our intimacy.

Yes, the whole idea of reading is to escape reality, I get that. We read to escape our own reality. The characters in a book have a reality and a unique world view too. They have to honor that world view or the story doesn't ring true. It isn't realistic to believe that all couples in a writer's body of work approach sex with exactly the same heat or creativity.

So, as both a reader and a writer, I work hard to celebrate each unique story on its own merits, with its own world view. I know, first hand, how hard it is to make each book unique and create each character with his or her own set of characteristics. But those are the things that make a story sing and make characters likeable.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Do you get upset if you buy a book expecting a certain level of heat and find something entirely different? Are you willing to give up being surprised to have what you were expecting? I'd love to hear your opinions.

Thanks for stopping by!


Anonymous said...

Great topic, Sam! Personally, whether it's reading it or writing it, I like it hot and sexy. If I like a particular writer's heat level, I would be disappointed if it didn't live up to my expectations. That's not to say I don't want variety and a difference in their locations and such. I have read some authors in the past where all their "scenes" are the same. That I don't like, no matter how steamy it may be.

As an aspiring author, I try to be very conscious of that. It's harder than one might think, but I think that's what separates a writer from a great writer! As a reader and a writer; keep it hot, fun, sassy and original!


She said...

Consistency in heat level does not bother me. I'm interested in the story. I want consistency in the writing. Not every book will have the same level of consistency(sometimes personal lives have a way of getting into the way of deadlines and some stories have to be rushed) but if I know you are a good story teller I'm going to buy your book. I'm finding when an author has achieved a certain reputation either the books are few and far between or, more likely, they become cookie cutters. I would rather an author write the best story they can than put out the same story (with different names and towns) with each book. Sometimes I want a cookie cutter (when I feel the need for comfort or safety) but usually I want a story that will push my comfort zone (and I hope push the author's comfort zone.) I want to be surprised. You, as an author, have many stories to tell. I, as a reader, have many stories to hear/read that will expand my imagination and world.

Kelli Scott said...

I think different stories, characters, for different levels of heat. I write under two different names - erotic - and non-erotic. But I did get a lot of angry Goodread reviews for a non-erotic free read and I think they expected sex within the pages and only got a kiss at the end.

Cathy M said...

I have a long list of auto-buy author's, and appreciate it when I am a bit surprised with each story I read. That would include changing up the heat level, adding new characters, and giving me a unique storyline. Just don't mix it up by giving me a cliff hanger. That kind of storyline is just too extreme for me, and takes away the HEA or HFN conclusion that I enjoy the most in the romance stories I read.

caity_mack at yahoo dot com

Harlie Reader said...

Actually I like it when an author mixes it up with the heat level. I read everything from BDSM to inspirational from Harlequin. The heat level is not important to me as the story itself. The characters, dialogue, plot, setting and do I even like the characters enough to keep reading the book. Sex in a book has always been secondary to me. While I appreciate heat in my books, when an author mixes it up its even better for me.

I have auto buy authors that write for Harlequin and also erotic romance under different pens and I'm always in awe on how they go from one extreme to the other seemlessly. Amazing, to me.

I review for two major review sites and I pick my books based on the story not how "hot" I think the book is going to be. While heat level for some authors is paramount to their writing, its not a major deal for me.

Sorry for the length but I can be very opinionated. LOL!

Ann Jacobs said...

I'd be disappointed if I picked up another book by a favorite author and found the heat was pretty much a carbon copy of what was in her other books.

When I write a story, the heat has to flow from the characters and the story line--my BDSM books are going to be hotter than my MODERNEs, and my futuristics are the hottest of all my work, because of the characters and the worlds they live in. I don't plan it that way, but that's how it happens.

bearaboo said...

A good writer will let the characters take the story in the direction the book is supposed to go. Some characters may desire hot, steamy get-it-on now while other characters enjoy stationary-in-bed. If an author is good (and he/she is if I am reading another book of theirs), I won't care about the heat level as I am too absorbed in the book to notice!

desitheblonde said...

me i think the author has what they want to write and then if it is different form other so what some do gay some do m/m f/f i love them all you can add the temp Gage in side of the book say sexy hot to trot or out of the world

flchen1 said...

Hmm... Interesting question, Sam--in general, I read all over the spectrum when it comes to genre and heat level, so I tend not to mind mixing it up. I do understand people having expectations though, and not wanting to have those messed with. I think the bottom line for me whether it is an author I've read before or with a new author is that the marketing of the story match the story itself--I know that isn't always controlled by the author even, but I prefer when the blurb, cover art, excerpts, etc., all give me a consistent feel for what to expect for that particular story. Otherwise I know I might be disappointed to find something entirely different. If the blurb and cover say "sweet," then I might not be prepared for super-HOT; conversely, if the cover/blurb/etc. read scorchingly hot, it might be disappointing to get just some kissing ;)

Hope that makes sense!

flchen1 said...

Oh, and that's not to say that I wouldn't finish the story or that I'd ultimately be super upset--if it's a great story, that'll carry the day!

Becky said...

I don't mind reading essentially the same book over and over again. I am willing to try new stuff from my favorite authors too though. Reading to me is an adventure. I don't get upset if I buy a book expecting a certain level of heat and find something entirely different. Sometimes when an author does this the story actually turns out real good. It might not be what I was expecting, but usually I still find the story to be interesting and very good. I don't think it is a bad idea for authors to try writing a different style. I like being surprise more than seeing the expected being there.

Sam Cheever said...

Such great comments! Thanks to all of you for your input! I'm glad to hear that, for the most part, you value a great storyline over expectations. That's how I view the subject too. I'd much rather have a really great story than formulaic writing that makes sure we have 1 part plot to 2 parts sex. #:0)

You've made my decision very difficult, but I've decided to award the book to Harlie Reader! Congratulations Harlie!

Harlie Reader said...

Thank you so much. I thought it was a great post and you got alot of feedback.

I would like Dancing with Tad. Thanks again.

Harlie Reader said...

Probably help if I left my email: