Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Not in the mood

What do you do when you reach that big, pivotal scene where your characters are supposed to finally explode with all that passion you've been building between them...and they don't want to cooperate?

I've reached that point in my WIP. My hero and heroine have been through many trials, revealed big secrets about themselves to each other, and they're primed to act on their emotions.

Only nobody seems eager to do anything about it.

I turn to my heroine. "What's the deal?" She buffs her nails and rolls her eyes.

I look at my hero. "You're the guy. Aren't you supposed to be thinking about sex, like, 58 minutes out of every hour?" He cuts his eyes at me and goes back to his case file.

Seriously, any number of things could be getting in the way of your big love scene. And, interestingly, those obstacles are the same things that get in the way of real-life relationships.

1) You haven't properly built the steps of the relationship. There are gaps in the growth of attachment between them. Go back and look at their interactions. Are they standing still? Moving backwards without moving extra steps forward the next time? Are they simply incompatible? Maybe you need to rethink the conflicts between them. Are they strong enough? Are the characters doing enough to face the conflicts and work through them, or is one or the other character not pulling his/her load? Just like a real-life relationship needs nurture, balance and commitment to work, so does the relationship between fictional characters. Make sure you're providing all the necessary building blocks for a lasting relationship.

2) Inhibitions. To some extent, we're all bound by what we're afraid of. Love, commitment, intimacy, sex—all of these elements of a love scene can be frightening to a writer. They're what I call gut-deep issues, elements of all relationships that make us vulnerable to the people we care about. Some people, myself included, are very emotionally self-protective. Breaking through those self-imposed barriers to open a vein and let our fears, hopes and desires bleed out onto the page can be a very stressful thing. (I think at the same time, tapping into our own fears and wishes can help us make characters, relationships and scenes more real).

3) Wrong setting. And I'm not talking about the story setting. I'm talking about your workspace. I don't know about you, but I can't seem to write a love scene on my lunch hour at the office OR when my young nieces are in the room at home. I need to be in the moment with my characters, and I can't do that when I'm thinking my boss or a nosy nine-year-old might be looking over my shoulder. So sometimes, just as busy couples have to set the mood for romance, you have to set the mood for writing your love scene. Maybe even make an event out of it. Some writers like to light candles, play romantic music and surround themselves with sensual textures and visuals. I haven't tried that yet, but I just may have to give it a whirl if my hero and heroine don't start cooperating.

4) Too many distractions. I work a full time job and live in a modestly-sized house with my retired, widowed mother, my disabled sister and her two adopted children. We have dogs and cats and a mortgage, car payments and credit card payments and worries about saving up for the girls' college tuitions. The house is messy, the garden needs watering, I'm addicted to LOST and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, I can't stop watching my new PRIDE AND PREJUDICE DVD, and now that I have a book coming out in June, I have to worry about promoting it and myself on top of trying to write something new. Oh, and there's that multi-book series idea I've been thinking about for a couple of weeks now. I'm lucky if I remember the names of my hero and heroine these days. Just like a real-life couple who can't find time for romance, my characters and I just aren't spending enough quality time together for me to be able to give them the proper romance they deserve. So maybe I need to take a weekend to reacquaint myself with my characters. Find out what they really want and what I can do to give it to them.

Those are just a few reasons why your characters may not be in the mood for love. I'm sure there are more. What are your stumbling blocks when it comes to love scenes, and what do you do about them?


Kathy said...

A major stumbling block is trying to write from the heart when concerns about what everyone else will think get in the way.


Carla Swafford said...

Stumbling block? For sure my mood. And my DH's mood. If he's having that time of the month, there's no way my heroine's in the mood for smooching, no less for any slap and tickle.

Thankfully that rarely happens. But I do have to be careful to bring out the emotion in the love scenes. Otherwise, it would all come across as mechanical. And that's not in reference to any...how to put it delicately...enhancement tools.

Each time my H/H make love, it's a turning point in their relationship. Duh! Makes sense doesn't it? For the woman, it's all tied up with giving herself over to someone stronger (physcially) and could easily hurt her - if she wants it or not. --insert grin here -- Instead of feeling more sure of her partner, she often wonders if he feels the same about their love making or does he feel that it's only sex. Does he want something from her? Is it to gain a throne, her cooperation in a case, or enact revenge?

For the guy? It's laying claim to his woman. Placing his mark on her. And ensuring that she never wants to stray from him. Plus it's the sex. Hey! He's all male. But he's wondering what does she want? An easier life, his money, a good time or revenge?

I love the mind games characters play with each other without realizing it. As authors, I believe it's all of our own insecurities (plus other people's) being set free in the written word.
That is, if we were in that situation.

Angel said...

For a long time I had difficulty turning off the voice that yelled loud and clear that some of my closest friends might eventually read this scene. Would I be mortified at the parts of me that came through? Eventually, that got easier to turn off.
Now I think I just have to have the right mood-not necessarily sexy, but secluded and relaxed. And I also have to turn off the internal editor for a different reason-trying to fit everything in the first time around. I like for my sex scenes to be very emotional and character-revealing. Which is wonderful. But sometimes it doesn't come out that way the first time. I have to go back and add a thought here or dialogue there.
This is actually strange of me, because I rewrite everything else several times. But for some reason, I feel more performance pressure for sex scenes (pun intended!). :)


Carla Swafford said...

Performance pressure!!! LOL!!
Love it!

Paula said...

I managed to get through my blocked sex scene by letting my character suffer the same performance anxiety I was suffering in the beginning of the scene. It actually made the scene true to her and her situation, let the hero be, well, heroic and ended up being a nice interlude that was more than just the perfunctory insertion of tab A into slot B.

So to speak. ;)

Christy said...

Okay, I have a confession. My biggest problem is keeping my characters out of bed. They're not sleazy. No, really! It's just they all seem to be highly sexed and so enjoy the physical aspects of their relationship.

What's a writer to do? Well, this writer has to say, "No!" a lot. Yes, they glare at me and tell me I'm no fun. And sometimes the rascals go behind my back and do it anyway.

My characters always seem to be in the mood. It's just sometimes, I'm not. So I make them wait. And if they were honest with me, they would admit it was better by having waited and thank me for being so wise.

But do you think they do that? No, they're too busy doing what seems to come natural to them. And I just roll my eyes and let them.

MaryF said...

I listen to a song - over and over and over. I stop hearing the words and just melt into the scene. The song - Point of No Return from Phantom.