The thought of writing a love scene often has the power to make a writer moan, and not in a good way. I used to feel that way, but then I took my normal approach to writing problems and studied the heck out of them. I read many, many love scenes—oh how I sacrifice for my art! I also listened to every workshop I could get my hands on. In the end, I came to greatly respect the power of a love scene. Now I look forward to writing them.
After all that research, the most important thing I learned about love scenes is that, like any scene in your story, they should have a purpose, reveal something about the characters and their motivations or conflicts, and advance the story. Love scenes aren’t an excuse to take a break from the story. In the romance genre, this is especially true. Romance is all about emotion and what could be more emotionally revealing than a love scene?
Beyond that I have a few more tips to help you build emotional impact into your love scenes.
Subtle is sexy.
Often times it is the non-sexual intimacy leading up to the love scene that builds anticipation and tension and ultimately serves to heighten the impact of the main event. It may be something as simple as the heroine noticing the way the hero moves as he shrugs off his coat or the thrilling first contact of fingers brushing across the character’s wrist. Take an innocent physical contact and turn it into something secretly carnal and you’re sure to get your reader’s attention.
Love scenes are not about sex.
You can use physical intimacy to show a great deal about the characters, but always keep in mind that it is the characters’ emotional journey that must be the focus of the scene. Whatever character or plot problem you are exploring in the scene should be advanced or revealed along with the physical intimacy.
Emotion trumps realism.
Love scenes are action scenes, but they should also include a blend of introspection and dialog and both of these should be focused on emotion. In reality, most lovers aren’t thinking or talking a great deal during love making, but reflecting that reality is far less important than delivering an emotional punch for your reader. Your characters don’t need to profess their love in dialog, but it can be revealed in how they talk to each other and even by what they don’t say. What they are thinking should be even more revealing.
It is all about the characters.
The love scenes from one story shouldn’t work in any other story. Because the characters are unique, complex beings their love scenes will also be unique. Below, I’ve excerpted brief moments from two very different stories. I think these two excerpts reveal a great deal about the differences between these heroes.
In my contemporary romance, Ladybugs and Fireflies, the hero is deep and brooding. He is troubled by his feelings for the heroine and he is just coming to realize that he longs for a lasting connection.
Taylor tried again to move, but her fingers still gripped him tightly.
“Stay,” she whispered. “Sleep here tonight.”
His already aroused body hardened in an instant. “I’m not a saint, Callie. If I stay, we won’t be sleeping for a good long while.”
“Stay,” she urged again.
Lust, hot and strong, scorched through him. He looked down into her face and saw a hint of desire there. It was enough to rip away any thoughts of going back to the futon in his office.
He’d wanted her too long. From the moment he’d seen her. With other women that initial flare of intense lust faded with time. With Callie the need only intensified—never completely gone, it lay banked within him like a sleeping dragon she could call forth with a single word. Stay.
The word echoed through his thoughts as he threaded his fingers through her hair and lifted her face for a kiss.
Their lips met with slow, tender tastes. Go slow, he reminded himself. They had all night.
The word “stay” is emotionally important to the character and to the plot. Taylor must decide whether to stay in Florida or return to New York. The word is used several more times in this love scene—the repetition and rhythm designed to build emotion.
In my Viking time travel short story, In Time for Christmas, the hero is open and funny and ready to commit to his heroine, but maybe not quite ready to say it outright.
When he slipped onto the thick pile of furs at her side she couldn’t resist the urge to touch. She stroked her hands across his chest, tracing the muscles until he stilled her hand, pressing it to his heart.
“Enough, little gift, or I will forget that I needs must persuade you.” His lips tilted in a wicked grin.
Beth slapped his shoulder with her free hand. “Jerk.”
“Nay,” he said capturing the attacking hand in his much larger one. “You are always misnaming me. I am called Gunnar.” There was only laughter in his words as he rolled over her, pinning her to the pallet. “Think mayhap you can remember it?”
Beth met his laughter with her own teasing. “Maybe if you used my name I’d use yours. I don’t think you even know it.”
Gunnar lowered his head, rubbing his cheek against hers, releasing a warm breath against her neck.
She squirmed, which only served to rub her breasts against the broad expanse of his chest.
Gunnar kissed a trail of tiny kisses along her jaw line, ending a hair’s breadth above her lips. “Beth,” he breathed. “You are called Beth.”
When the hero uses the heroine’s name for the first time the scene turns from funny and sexy to intensely emotional. This story is short so the love scenes are not drawn out or overt, but I get many comments about its sexiness and emotion.
I hope you’re now moaning in pleasure at the thought of diving into your next love scene! I’m always eager to discuss this vital part of the romance, so your comments, questions, and thoughts on love scenes are welcome below. I’m also planning a second related post, so look for more on love scenes later this month.
About Ladybugs and Fireflies:
Taylor Powers’ big city law career has brought him success, but a trip back to his home state of Florida has him wondering if it might be time to think of coming home for good. The sweet, sexy woman he’s drawn to only confuses matters. Callie Roberts’ career has made her a pro at keeping secrets and that plays havoc with his zero tolerance for deceptive women. Yet she attracts trouble like a magnet, kicking his protective instincts into overdrive. When Callie and Taylor end up on opposite sides of a case, their budding relationships seems doomed. To put things back together, they’ll have to leave their pasts behind and learn to see each other as clearly as a Florida summer’s day.
Cheryl Alldredge is a self-proclaimed craft junkie whose idea of a good time is rereading a book for the third time to analyze what makes it tick. Her most recent release, Ladybugs and Fireflies, is a contemporary romance set in small town Florida. You can find out more about Cheryl at www.cherylalldredge.com