Willa Blair, Shauna Perigo, Tracy Wolff, and Mari Mancusi
Tales of the Heart: Writing Effective Love Scenes and Love Stories
How do you write a love scene? In some ways it’s like writing any other scene; key elements must be done well. Our panelists specifically mentioned character and tension. General considerations, such as the genre and the reader, must also be taken into account. On the other hand, the intimate nature of a love scene requires careful handling. Creating emotional connections, emotional payouts and sensory images are a few keys to writing quality love scenes. You also have to consider what you’re comfortable writing.
Memorable characters, whether we like them or hate them, stay with us because the characterization is done well. Before worrying about how your characters will consummate their relationship, work on making each person interesting on his or her own. (Need help? There’s a WLT workshop for that. On March 9th Brian Yansky is teaching “Building Character and Building Plot Through Character.” )
Tension is in every novel. By definition tension is “a strained relationship between individuals, groups, nations, etc.” It’s part of the larger conflict within the story. Romance writing also includes sexual tension between characters. They get together, then are torn apart. They want to be together, then they don’t want to be together. Maintaining this tension is essential to your story.
What kind of romance you’re writing affects how you handle a love scene. Contemporary, historical, paranormal, sci-fi, inspirational, fantasy, and erotic are just a few of the different types of romance novel. There are many subsets of the romance genre with over fifty shades of sensuality, including hot, sweet, sexy, nasty and dirty. Which shade you choose depends on the genre.
Who will read your book? This is closely related to the genre. If your reader is expecting a sweet love story, they may not appreciate a raunchy romp in the book.
This relates back to creating characters. Your well-crafted characters must have an emotional connection with each other before they connect sexually. Sex for the sake of sex is more like pornography.
Romance readers expect an emotional payout, a guarantee that no matter what happens these characters will eventually end up together. The characters can experience tension and satisfaction repeatedly through the story.
When writing a love scene, focus on sensory images, things that evoke an emotional response from the reader, more than just describing actions. It’s not about saying, “Put A into B.” It’s about maintaining the tension and the connection. The Romance Writer’s Phrase Book may give you some ideas. However, avoid the trap of purples prose.
Finally, what are you comfortable writing? What are you comfortable reading? These factors can help you figure out how to handle your characters intimate moments.
Thanks to our panel of romance authors who bravely demystified the mystery of love scenes. Please chime in with your take away from the evening in the comments near the bottom of the page.
Lexie Smith is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information through her blogs BloggingForWriters.com, LexicalLight.com, and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until a few years ago, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.