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Writing Love Scenes

[ Edited ]

When we talk about love scenes, we don't necessarily mean going all the way. Sex is a very small part of love, and these are love stories, not sex stories.

A kiss, a hug, or a touch between hero and heroine are all love scenes on a smaller scale. Even a look can sizzle with sensuality, and a foot massage can -- if properly written -- be as arousing for the reader as a consummated sex act.

The most sensual romances aren't those in which there's a lot of sex, but ones where there is a high level of sexual tension.

But sexual tension is not synonymous with foreplay. The characters do not need to be touching in order to create sexual tension; they certainly do not need to be kissing or in other intimate contact. And sexual banter isn't the same as sexual tension, either.

Sexual Tension

Sexual tension is the unsatisfied attraction of the hero and heroine for each other.

Why can't they act on their attraction to each other? What's keeping them from getting together? The stronger the reason, the more emotionally involving the story will be.

In many stories, as soon as the characters have made love, the tension evaporates because the reader recognizes that they're on the same wavelength and it's only a matter of time until they solve the rest of the difficulties and get together. (In fact, the main difficulty in pulling off a very sensual romance is to maintain legitimate suspense about the characters' feelings while allowing them to indulge in sex.)

You can lose the sexual tension in your story if the lovers admit their feelings too early. Once the reader knows that he's wild about her (and he knows it) and she's wild about him (and she knows it) -- even if the hero and heroine haven't told each other -- the sexual tension evaporates.

Another way to lose the sexual tension is to let the lovers consummate their relationship too early in the story. The unwritten rules of the romance novel don't allow casual sex, and therefore, once the hero and heroine have made love, even if they're still shown as having doubts about their relationship, the reader knows that at some level they're committed to each other -- and the tension is lessened. Only a very strong conflict will keep the reader's doubts going at that point.

Delay the Love Scene

A love scene which is delayed is a love scene which is enhanced, leaving the reader wishing for more.

Delaying a love scene doesn't mean we avoid the subject, though, or that we simply keep the characters apart. Instead, we show the lovers' feelings developing. We share their questions and their doubts, using every moment they're together to heighten their desire for each other.

And we don't break off a love scene just to titillate the reader. There has to be a darned good reason why two people who are ready to make love suddenly change their minds.

The Satisfying Love Scene

Love scenes are most effective when they build in intensity from the start of the book to the end. In a sensual romance which contains several consummated love scenes, the first one should not be the most exotic, titillating, or intense. If you start with intensity, it's difficult to build from that scene to create later ones which are even more exciting.

When you plan the first love scene, think about how you can to continue to build the emotional intensity between the couple -- and for the reader. Save some of the good stuff for later.

Emotion, Not Sensation

No matter how sweet or spicy the sexuality, the most important factor in a satisfying love scene is the emotions evoked by the lovers. It isn't who puts which hand where, it's how their feelings -- and those of the reader -- are touched. The goal of the love scene is to make the reader feel good, warm, and cherished.

That can best be done by using language and images which evoke the reader's five senses. Sight, scent, sound, taste, and texture are all important and can be used to great effect.

Avoid euphemisms (his throbbing shaft, her womanly fullness) or clinical descriptions (it's hard to feel romantic about words like cervix and scrotum).

The very best love scenes don't evoke generic images of fire or lightning. Instead they use images which are appropriate to the specific character's outlook, mind set, and past experience -- even his or her hobbies or job (a chef may compare lovemaking to food).

The level of sensuality, physical description, and acceptable vocabulary varies from line to line. But no matter what the line, the emphasis is on feelings rather than technical description. A catalog of body parts is pornography, not romance.

How much sex and description is too much? That depends on the publisher and the line. But it depends even more on the kind of story, the age and experience of the characters, the setting, and the reader's comfort level with any societal or moral issues.


To be effective, love scenes have to fit into the course of the story and heighten the tension and conflict. Even if the actual love scene is a calm interlude in their disagreement, the act of loving should lead to increased difficulties later. Once our lovers have kissed / touched / made love, they may try to pretend it never happened, but they and the reader cannot forget.

Two people who have slept together are going to behave differently afterward. They will not hop out of bed the next morning acting as if nothing happened the night before. Their actions have changed them and the situation and, inevitably, the rest of the story.

The most important thing of all about love scenes is that heroes and heroines cannot simply have sex. They make love.

Discuss This Topic

Click on the discussion topics below to go to that thread.

The Writing Exercise

Write a love scene appropriate to your characters and your chosen area of the romance market. It might be anything from a back rub to actual intercourse.

To share your passage with the group, create a New Message and use "(Your Book Club User Name), Love Scenes -- Writing Exercise" in the subject line.

Enter your writing sample. How difficult was it to write your love scene? Was it easier or more difficult for you than writing other kinds of scenes?

Message Edited by Jessica on 05-24-2007 01:40 PM

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