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:~: Tuesday, February 20, 2007 :~:

Writing Love Scenes

I like the theme this week, since about ninety percent of my published books are erotic or very sensual romance. :grin: My post today isn't exactly about sexual tension, but it does tie into that.

I gave a talk at an RWA chapter meeting a few years ago on crafting love scenes. One thing I said that surprised a lot of people was that the most important aspect of a love scene is the emotion. It’s not the actions, but the emotions that make it a love scene. Without them, the scene is really just a list of actions. Love scenes are a terrific place to show the reader the characters falling in love. If the scenes have no emotion, the reader might skim them or skip them completely. The emotions need to be tied to the actions for the scene to be complete.

The love scenes should also be integral to the plot. If the scene doesn’t advance the story, it probably isn’t a necessary element. In that respect, a love scene is like any other scene in the book. It needs to somehow move the story forward.

There also needs to be a big build-up of sexual tension well before a love scene. As a reader, I would much rather see a lot of tension first rather than having the hero and heroine just jump into bed together. Without the sexual tension between them, putting them into bed together too soon doesn’t make a lot of sense. The reader should want them to get together even more than the characters themselves do. That’s where the payoff moment comes for the reader—when the two people they’ve been rooting for finally get together.

One more thing I want to touch on briefly—when writing love scenes, make sure the actions and thoughts of the characters stay true to the characters. If the hero or heroine suddenly starts doing something out-of-character, the reader is going to notice and wonder why they’re suddenly acting so different. A love scene can be great for strengthening characterization, and keeping the actions and thoughts true is also part of what will help keep the love scenes unique to each book, and to each set of characters.

What authors do you think do love scenes well? Do you ever skip those scenes when you're reading? I know I skip them sometimes, if I just don't feel like it's a necessary part of the story or if there hasn't been any tension leading up to the scene.


Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

I don't skip love scenes generally. That's not because I want to subject myself to bad scenes but more because I'm OCD and read everything - including the dedication and "thank you" pages at the front of the book. LOL

Generally, if a love scene is bad, I'll skim through it, but I don't usually skip them all together. In my opinion, the best love scenes cause more problems than they set out to cure. After a love scene, there should be MORE tension between the main characters, not less.

Authors who do love scenes well? JR Ward. Definitely. Hot and spicy and full of tension before, during and after. Cindy Gerard, Roxanne St. Claire...even Nora, depending on the character and book. (I loved the last book of her vamp trilogy and the tension between the hero and heroine - though I could have tossed the two earlier books in the trilogy.)

Great post, Elisa. And something I'm constantly aware of in my own writing as I'm building the romance between my main characters.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Sk-sk-skip love scenes???? Are you crazy???? In a bad book I'll skim the entire thing LOOKING for the love scene.

Okay, maybe I'm a little...sick.

I definitely believe in making the love scene pull its weight in characterization, conflict, even plot. It gets double or triple duty just like every other scene, so in a way, it has to pull even more weight.

E, you and your vamps. ::eye roll:: I'm not crossing over any time soon. ::g::

6:40 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...


this was great. I particularily love the emotion bit, because you hit the nail on the head. The emotion is what makes a love scene a love scene rather than a sex scene.

As for skipping love scene-- I do that quite often. IF the scene is hum-ho, been there--done that. I'll skip it to get back to the story.

The only other thing I'd add that I think a love scene should accomplish-- is to set the characters back in some way. Make things more difficult to achieve their goals.

9:22 PM  
Blogger Edie said...

Ditto everything Theresa said. And, Elisa, you're so spot on about the important part is the emotion. I think that's true about any scene, but especially in a sex scene. We want more than Slot A fitting into Slot B.

Nora does sex scenes well. So does Christina Dodd.

8:04 AM  

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