Writing love scenes can sometimes be difficult and a little awkward for the writer. What to leave in, what to leave out, does it make you squirm when reading it back? Like any scene in your story, it has to move the story forward, it has to have a purpose. But how do we do it well? Love scenes can be a powerful part of a story, in any genre. The writer needs to think more about the characters themselves than the choreography of the scene. Emotion drives this.
Author Tracey Wolff says ‘Writing an emotionally compelling love scene is all about the connection between your characters. Whether it is a kiss in a young adult novel or a highly explicit erotic scene, there needs to be an emotional payoff for the reader. And that payoff only happens when you’ve stoked the flames between your characters—not just sexual tension, though that is hugely important, but also the emotional connection between the characters as well as the high stakes that should be keeping them apart.’
As the writer, you have to get into your character’s head and know where the story is going. You can then let the characters make the choices about what happens. Tension and attraction have to pull the reader in and they need to connect with the characters to believe in the love scene. But, do you need to include everything in the scene or is it best to leave some things to the reader’s imagination?
I have put together some articles and podcasts on writing love scenes:
In this article, twenty steps are given for consideration when writing a love scene, including making them real, starting the sexual tension right from the start, and using exaggerated awareness. Exaggerated awareness is when every look, touch, and sense between the characters must be made larger than life.
Helen Halme talks about the importance of choosing the right point of view when writing a love scene. How to use place in your scene and the all-important tension and attraction in convincing your reader that these two people are meant to be together.
This is an important article discussing how to avoid those awkward cringe-worthy love scenes. Emotion must take centre stage. The well-storied blog advises the writer to set up the emotional landscape of the scene so that it isn’t necessary to give the reader a physical play-by-play. Matching the rhythm of the scene to the rhythm of the action is key in writing love scenes.
This article, along with plenty of bad puns and double-entendres, shares ten secrets including avoiding purple prose and throwing your embarrassment to the wind. Secrets like how to build sexual tension and variety being the spice of life are also discussed.
The guest editor of this post is Jessi Rita Hoffman, and she warns against the flaw of excess. She says that for a love scene to move readers, ‘it must embody the principles of restraint – in dialogue, in the description, and in the characters’ actions.’
Romance author, Denise Williams, gives the writer her top five tips in penning a romantic scene that hooks your reader and avoids cliché.
This podcast covers how love scenes must support the story and the importance of tension in setting those scenes up. They also talk about how difficult it can be for those writing in the POV of the opposite sex.
Fantasy author Freya Marske believes we should ‘lift joyful romance and healthy, fun romances in genre fiction to leave the reader a warbling ball of happy feelings.’ She addresses questions such as do you need a sex scene in your story? Does the scene belong here? And, what purpose does the scene serve?
Although love scenes can often be the most difficult to write, you should put any sceptical thoughts aside and just give it a go. Get the words down on the page, and have fun. Try different scenes until you find something that flows.
I hope this week’s column has been helpful for you. If there are any particular writing topics you want me to cover, please get in touch.
(c) Lucy O’Callaghan