Are you ready for a quickie? How about ten quickies? Author Cindy McDonald is here today to tell us ten quick tips for writing loves scenes. So grab something to keep you cooled off and take notes!
Hey writing is a tough business! Whether you write mysteries, suspense, romance, or thrillers it is hard to stand out in the crowd, and you definitely want to stand out in the right way. I’ve talked to so many writers who tell me that they struggle with or perhaps even shy away from love scenes. Truth is most writers avoid it at all costs because they feel awkward or lack the confidence to write so intimately. So with the timid writer in mind, I’ve compiled a list of ten quick suggestions to help you throw your inhibitions aside and write a good love scene.
1. Define your comfort zone: What are you comfortable reading/writing?
Not everyone (authors or readers) are comfortable with such strong scenes as those that E L James penned for Christian Grey’s “playroom”. Perhaps you are more at ease writing suggestive scenes: your characters touch, feel, explore, but you will only take the reader to the bedroom—not between the sheets, and that’s okay. When I began writing the Unbridled Series in 2005 suggestive scenes was where my comfort zone lived—I have since tossed some of my inhibitions aside to go farther with the First Force series, yet I’m still not as bold as some romance writers.
If you struggle with the idea of writing intimate scenes then you should take care to start slowly and build up. If you start out writing beyond your comfort level your scenes will reflect your unease, so it’s best not to force a scene that you are simply not prepared to illustrate.
2. Write for yourself, not your family, friends, or your pastor.
As I’ve said in past blogs, I have very conservative in-laws—my books are a taboo subject at family gatherings—they are simply uncomfortable with the subject matter of my books in general. That said I have discounted how they feel about the love scenes that I pen. Some writers are concerned that their minister or church members will frown upon sexual scenes in their books. Hmmmm, then why are they reading your books? I’ve noticed that if I don’t bring up my books at church neither does anyone else—although I do have fellow parishioners who will approach me to tell me how much they enjoy my books—they never mention the love scenes—for whatever reason. 🙂
3. Make sure the cover of your book matches the story inside.
The cover is so important to the marketing of your book. If your storyline is really smokin’ hot, then definitely put that erotic half-dressed couple immersed in a sensual kiss on your cover. If your storyline is more on the suggestive side—find something a little less provocative for your cover. You don’t want to promise something that you don’t deliver because then you could possibly upset two groups of readers: those who are expecting and looking forward to more than you are giving, or readers who are not comfortable at all with sexual scenes. The wrong cover can ultimately turn both sets of readers away from your books permanently. So make sure your cover sends the right message.
4. Heat it up! Sexual tension adds sooo much to the storyline.
Build the sexual tension between your characters from the very first moment they meet. The hero is bound and determined to win her heart, but the heroine isn’t exactly ready to give it—make him work to win her over and for that first kiss to be scorching hot. Sexual tension isn’t exclusive to those who write love scenes. You can use sexual tension even in the most innocent of books where an author doesn’t go any farther than that kiss.
5. Develop your characters well before tossing them into bed.
Your audience will find the story more believable and sensual if you have taken the time and effort to develop your characters before that hot love scene. Readers want to know that the love scene is right—that the hero and heroine are meant to be. Tossing them into bed before developing their relationship and personalities will leave the reader feeling cheated, and your carefully penned love scene could fall flat.
6. One POV please!
Only reveal one character’s POV during the love scene. Alternating thoughts, feelings, or sensual sensations from one character to the other during a love scene can confuse or frustrate the reader. Allow your reader to experience the sensual encounter through one character’s POV only.
7. Use subtext.
What’s subtext? Subtext is when a character says something without coming right out and saying it. Example: He leaned across the table, his hot gaze burning into hers. “You know I just love caramels.” He whispered, “I can’t help myself, I always end up eating the whole bag.”
8. Whoa! Watch those descriptions!
Most recently I began to read a book that actually started out with what the author considered a “hot” love scene. I put the book aside by page sixteen and haven’t picked it up since. Why? Because the author was using car parts to describe body parts. Can you guess what the gearshift was? Yep. Please, keep your automotive paraphernalia where it belongs—in the garage.
I had one author tell me that he liked to refer to the woman’s most intimate area as a… wait for it… “honey hole”. E-gads!! One must be careful as to how to describe intimate body parts or it completely destroys the experience for the reader.
9. Use the senses.
Absolutely! Touch, taste, and smell—candles burning, the shadows dancing about the room, the smell of his skin, the gentle caresses over smooth silky flesh, and the taste of the wine still lingering on their lips. These descriptions (if done correctly and compassionately) will deepen the readers experience by drawing them into the moment.
10. Make sure it fits!
The scene I mean. Don’t write a love/sex scene just to do it—make sure the scene moves the story forward. The characters should share something during the scene: a deeper sense of their relationship, a secret can be revealed, or information that you have not shared with the reader can come forth during or as a result of the scene, but make the scene count. Love/sex scenes that are thrown into the story for no apparent reason are annoying, and yes your readers will notice!
So there you have it…some simple ideas to help you write a love scene. Here’s one more: read love scenes. The more you read love scenes the more you will learn how to write them—it’s really that simple. What did like about the love scene that you just read? What didn’t you like? Learn from those who do it well.
About the Author
For twenty-six years Cindy’s life whirled around a song and a dance. She was a professional dancer/choreographer for most of her adult life and never gave much thought to a writing career until 2005. She often notes: Don’t ask me what happened, but suddenly I felt drawn to my computer to write about things that I have experienced with my husband’s Thoroughbreds and happenings at the racetrack—greatly exaggerated upon of course—I’ve never been murdered. Viola! Cindy’s first book series, Unbridled, was born—there are four books to that series thus far.
Cindy is a huge fan of romantic suspense series’, and although she isn’t one to make New Year’s resolutions, on New Year’s Day 2013 she made a commitment to write one, Into the Crossfire is the first book for her new series, First Force.
People are always asking Cindy: Do you miss dance? With a bitter sweet smile on her lips she tells them: Sometimes I do. I miss my students. I miss choreographing musicals, but I love my books, and I love sharing them with you.
Cindy resides on her forty-five acre Thoroughbred farm with her husband near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
For more information, book trailers, and excerpts for all of Cindy’s books please visit her website: www.cindymcwriter.com