Friday, April 26, 2013

Love Scenes and (the writer)

When she writes loves scenes, Janet Evanovich sits alone in her dedicated writing room, drinks a glass of champagne and nibbles from a bowl of M&Ms. Her Stephanie Plum series of murder mysteries are rapid fire and have a dose of sex but she finds them difficult to write. How do you write love scenes or do not write them because you are hesitant?

There are many rules about writing love scenes and surprisingly most of them apply to Christian romance novels as well as “bodice rippers” and those general romance stories by Richard Paul Evans, Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, and Nikki Arana. (Forget the hard-core stuff. I do not know any authors and do not want to comment on it.)

1. Know your audience and yourself.
Write what you are comfortable saying.
Write the scenes your readers expect based on the plot.
Use words that appeal to you and fit the plot.

2. Make sure the scene adds to the story line.
Gratuitous sex just to sell a book or to nab a publisher is tawdry and  
demeaning to you and the reader. Write love scenes not sex scenes.
3. We all know the rules of building tension in a plot.
Sexual tension needs to be built up from the beginning of the story. You must show how the characters’ relationship gets to the point where they make love.           
Write the characters to have an attraction at their first meeting.
Keep them thinking about each other in a slightly sexual way.
“He noticed her lips right away.” “She loved men with red hair and he had long, curly red hair…. and a red beard!”
            There have to be consequences of having sex further into the

4. Balance your scenes between emotions and physical acts.
            Write so the actions are not too distracting.
            Rarely do characters have sex just for sex’ sake.
Understand that most of your audience knows how its done.
Make it part of the tension of plot as well as tension in the scene.
            Sometimes sex is not necessary for the story.
            Decide if the scene will be fast and hot or slow and romantic.

5. Use the five senses to enhance the setting.
            Are they in her childhood bedroom that is soft and pink and
            smells of her shampoo? Are they in the woods and
            the gentle breeze through the pine trees sounds like waves and 
            the air smells like fresh rain? Are they in a hotel room or car?
            Use descriptive nouns to set the scene. It can’t all be about
            body parts or actions, or it is boring and readers skip it.

6. Do not make the scenes long.

7. Make sure that the readers know that eventually these characters will make love. An out-of-the-air scene is not helpful.

8. Write love scenes from one person’s point of view. The other character can think about it later in order to give the reader the other half of the couple’s feelings about what happened.

9. Do not let the sex scenes overpower the main plot. It should add to the plot but not be THE element of the story. 

10. Avoid clich├ęs and foolish names for body parts.

11. Write the scenes as they are scheduled into the story. Do not save them for the last and insert them where you thought they would fit.

12. Have some fun. Think happy thoughts while you write even if you write in the closet by candlelight.


Jennifer Lamont Leo said...

Thanks for bringing up this topic! A helpful resource about how to write believable, moving, non-tacky love scenes is KISS AND TELL: HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE by Susan May Warren.

Jennifer Rova said...

Great add on to let us all know of a recommended book for this subject.

Nikki Arana said...

Oh my, imagine my surprise to be mentioned with such popular authors. I never thought about my books being remembered for a "love scene!" I would love to know which book or books you are thinking of. Please respond here and I will share a love scene in one of the books that 99 out of 100 people read and don't recognize that is what it is.

Jennifer Rova said...

I had no specific scenes in mind in your wonderful books. I was trying to refer to romance novels in general. You write Christian fiction well, so tell us about the "love scene" you wrote that most people don't recognize.

Ms Arana's most recent release, The Next Target, just won the 2012 Evangelical Christian Publisher's Award for Fiction Monday night at their conference in Tennessee. You must be so honored to have one the most prestigious national award in Christian Fiction. Congratulations!

Ms Arana has also won numerous other awards and teaches great workshops on the art of writing.

Nikki Arana said...

Okay, here it is. It is a scene from The Winds of Sonoma. It is based on a true story. My story. In this scene the hero, a Mexican stable hand who works for the heroine cleaning the stalls of her Arabian horses has been given a guitar. The heroine doesn’t know of the musical gift God has given him. He wants to play a song for her. He is in love with her, but she is the daughter of the rich ranch owner, his boss, so he doesn’t dare approach her. He doesn’t speak English either. (Yep, that’s all true.) In this scene he shows her his “new” guitar and begins to play it . . . . .

He lifted his eyes to hers. Time stopped. She was aware of the sweeping valley, stretched out below him and the cloudless, bright blue sky open behind him. An overwhelming sense of peace filled her as she stood beneath his gaze.
He pulled the guitar to his chest, closed his eyes, and his fingers gently passed over the strings, releasing a chord, breathy and sweet, as tender as a first kiss. Then another chord—slowly, gently, the music floated around her.
The touch of his fingers quickened, building, bringing the music to life—rich and full. As he played, the music became a living thing. It held her transfixed, increasing in intensity to a deep, penetrating, bass sound, rushing through the air. Her heart began to pound—feelings flashed through her—something she had never felt before, something she wanted to feel forever. Antonio’s practiced fingers flew, creating musical prisms of blinding beauty. Bursts of tonal color refracted through the notes, dancing around her, leaping to a crescendo, culminating in the rapid repetition of a singular treble note. She couldn’t breathe.
Then by degrees, through beautifully balanced phrasing, his touch lightened to almost a lullaby.
Spellbound, she couldn’t move. Caught in a vignette of time, she witnessed something she did not understand, something beautiful and powerful and pure.
His eyes were still closed as the last note lingered. The look on his face brought tears to her eyes—his love of the music revealed there. As she looked at him his eyes opened, connecting with hers. For a split second, the truth of the moment was unveiled before her. The love she saw reflected in his eyes was not the love of the music but of her upturned face.
For me, that is an example of a Christian “love scene.”