Archive for October 6th, 2007

Ménage? What is the appeal and how do you write one?


You know, I really wasn’t exactly sure how to answer that question before I started writing my own ménage romance. As I plotted my latest book, Decadent (Berkley Heat, October 2007), I wanted to make sure there was plenty of the steamy stuff, but I also wanted the book to be very much a romance. When I started plotting, I wasn’t sure how I’d get there.


First, there was the question about what kind of ménage. I quickly latched onto the MFM ménage, as it’s called. Male/Female/Male – In other words, the heroine is sexually involved with two men at once. The men are not sexually involved with one another. A beefcake sandwich. *g* There are MMF ménages, which is like a full-circle ménage—everybody has sex with everybody. I’ve seen a few that are MFF ménages. Yes, that’s a man and two women. But most readers I spoke with both before and after writing of Decadent prefer the MFM.


Okay, types of characters, check. Plot? Well, a lot of ménage romance answer the question how it happens. Like a committed couple decides they’re not quite happy without that other person they both admire, or best friends seduce someone they’ve both lusted after or…whatever. These are all perfectly fine plots, but I’m a WHY? girl. I had to know not just how everyone got into the relationship, but WHY—on an individual level—did these people make these choices. The difference is subtle, but in the former, it’s the inclusion of another person into an existing bond for the sake of forming something new and ostensibly more fulfilling. In my case, I wanted to explore why each of these three people thought an alternative arrangement was right for them, either temporarily or permanently.


So this got me closer to my theme, but I didn’t want to lose what appealed to readers. Some people have even asked me, what’s lure of a ménage romance? I knew the appeal for me, but I was coming at the question from a more clinical point of view. So I asked readers for their take.


What heats me up is the concept of two men solely devoted to the pleasure of one woman… And knowing that doing so provides them even more pleasure. The challenge of taking on two men. The complete physical sensuality that all three participants take in it.”


I expected to receive a lot of comments along this line—and I did. This is the obvious and undeniable appeal of the MFM ménage. But then I began receiving other comments that was both interesting and intriguing.


“The feeling that you are attractive to more than one man. That there isn’t just one man that finds her sexy, that she draws men to her.”


This was something I hadn’t originally considered, but I can see that as a valid point. Another reader added something that rang so true to me, yet I had never actually considered it:


“How many times does a woman get to be the center of attention, be completely catered to sexually if not also emotionally, and have nothing to do but receive?” I don’t know about anyone else, but my days are spent doing virtually nothing but putting out – and not sexually. Taking care of kids, clients, the house, the pets, anyone and everyone who has a legitimate demand on my time… When I finally get to lay down, the exhaustion has little to do with what I’ve gotten and everything to do with what I’ve given. For me, the ménage is about the fantasy of doing nothing but receiving. And being exhausted by pleasure, not by chores.”


Amen, sister! J


But the comments weren’t just about pleasure.


“I can’t read just any ménage and get hot. I still need more than a gang bang. It has to be more than just each of them taking the pleasure. Their has to be a connection between the woman and at least one of the men. If it’s just a bunch of random screwing, it doesn’t flip my switch.”


“There also has to be an emotional connection that is big enough and strong enough to be able to accommodate activity that some would consider betrayal or infidelity. That kind of connection is, in my personal experience, the exception – not the norm. That makes it incredibly moving.”


Emotion was a big theme with these readers. The comments came again and again. There had to be something real bonding the characters to one another or the humpfest was dull, dull, dull, no matter how novel the concept of ménage may seem on the surface.


So, back to outlining the plot for Decadent. Characters and plot, check. Fantasy, check. Answering the big WHY question, check. Emotional connection, check. Because I like to provide myself extra challenge, I added a suspense element and a few big bombshells to reveal later in the book.


By the time I finished Decadent, it was the hardest of the 15 books I’ve written. But it was also one of the most satisfying. If you’ve never tried a ménage romance, I hope you’ll give Decadent a try! If you enjoy ménage romances, then you know exactly why they appeal…

  Shayla Black

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