Friday, December 20, 2013

Writing powerful love scenes

By Vaness Hart
Writing about a couple making love can be hinted at, implied, or described in detail. How the writer chooses to handle love scenes is an individual decision. If you prefer the behind-closed-doors approach, fine. The principals for writing the love scene apply to all scenes because the behavior needs to be properly motivated. From The Joy of Writing Sex by Elizabeth Benedict (©1996 Story Press):

  • A good sex scene is not always about good sex, but it is always an example of good writing.
  • A good sex scene should always connect to the larger concerns of the work.
  • The needs, impulses and histories of your characters should drive a sex scene.
  • The relationship your characters have to one another…should exert more influence on how you write their sexual encounter than should any anatomical details.
Good points, all. First, good writing. The pitfalls of writing a love scene include repetition and purple prose. There are only so many ways to describe the physical mechanics. It's a challenge to avoid overused phrases or flowery euphemisms for body parts.
EXERCISE #1: List 5 nouns used to identify the mouth. Then list 5 adjectives you'd use to modify a noun identifying the mouth. Finally, list 5 verbs describing the action of a mouth.

(There are many, but only two are romantic: lips and mouth. Although you should vary your words, stay true to your tone. She pressed her oral cavity against his isn't very romantic)

EXERCISE #2: Name 10 overused phrases or euphemisms for male and female anatomy. Don't think about this, just write whatever pops in your mind.
(These are words you should eliminate from your writing. If you're tired of reading them, others probably are, too.)

Next, it's not just the sex, stupid. A love scene should be about more than the moment. It can reflect the mood, the weather, the tension of the main plot, or the progress of the relationship. In a romantic suspense, the trouble or danger lurks just outside that bedroom door. In Cheryl Norman's Storms Of The Heart, David and Stephanie get sidetracked from their vigilance when they give in to their passion. Only the barking dog saves them when he alerts them that danger lurks outside their hideout.

Third, the sex must relate to the characters' personalities. Lisa Renee Jones, author of A Dangerous Attraction (©2003 Liquid Silver Books), says: "For example, a woman hiding behind sex from love might be aggressive while the guy tries to get her to make love not have sex. A timid woman who is coming out of her shell might hesitate and work up the nerve to act out what is in her mind."

An example in my own work is my novella, A Losing Proposition. (from Resolutions, ©2003 Liquid Silver Books) The first time the hero and heroine make love, it's a metaphor for their individual growth in self-esteem as a result of their weight management course. Their joining has to be as slow and cautious as their growing relationship. If your heroine is inexperienced and shy, she's not going to turn bold in the bedroom unless you motivate her sudden change in behavior.

Finally, the scene is about the characters' emotions and reactions to the intimacy. It's not an engineering job (insert Tab A into Slot B). Don't give the reader a rundown on every little touch; give the reader the character's reaction to every little touch.

Weak: He French-kissed her ear.

Better: His tongue brushed the delicate shell of her ear. He blew a light breath over the moist spot, and she shivered. How could she find the strength to resist him when his nearness alone drove her to distraction?
Flowery? Yes, but in the second example we know what's going on besides the mechanics. He's seducing her even though she tries to resist him. We can't get that from the first example.

Use internalization and dialogue to show what's going on in the hero and heroine's minds. In the above example: How could she find the strength to resist him when his nearness alone drove her to distraction?

Dialogue during love scenes reveals much about the relationship. In the movie MAJOR LEAGUE, Lyn and Jake start kissing while he's asking her about her upcoming wedding to another man. She tells him "this doesn't change anything," telling us and Jake that she's still attracted to Jake but intends to follow through on her plans. She then asks him if he really read Moby Dick. "Cover to cover, babe," which we all know means he read the comic book version. Still, in the midst of kissing and pulling off each other's clothes, Lyn quizzes him on the book. The cameras never show them nude and making love. That isn't the point of the scene. The point of the scene is Lyn is longing for Jake to be the guy she can marry, one who understands that books are her life.

To sum up, the objectives in writing a love scene should be the same as in writing any scene: move the plot, show character / relationship growth, etc.

If you're going to write the hot stuff, the erotica romance authors (from Liquid Silver books) I interviewed had these tips to pass along:

"Don't be afraid to be messy, funny, or real when writing love scenes. Sex is sweat, aching joints, and saliva exchanges. It's also avoiding the wet spot when it's all over." --Michele Bardsley, Cupid, Inc. (© 2003 Liquid Silver Books). and are two websites used by Leigh Wyndfield, True Seeing (© 2003 Liquid Silver Books) for inspiration. Amatory-ink is a thesaurus for body parts.

"Listen to your characters. They'll tell you how they want to do it." --Jasmine Haynes, More Than A Night (© 2003 Liquid Silver Books)

"I love the build up, the anticipation, so I try to have lots of that. After that I just imagine what would feel good to me or my hubby." --Dee S. Knight, Cinderella Curse (© 2003 Liquid Silver Books)

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