Sunday, May 24, 2009

Writing the love scene

I know that love scenes vary depending on the type of story. Obviously, an erotic romance is going to have LOTS of love scenes. A romantic suspense might have less because you don't have a lot of time for sex while running from a killer. A good old homespun yarn about a small town school marm and the local sheriff might not focus too much on the love scene either. Not that I know this for sure, not being the sort of reader who typically reads the small town stories. :)

It also depends, at least in category, which line you write for. Blaze will have a high level of sensuality, of course. Desire seems to indicate in the title of the line that you can have a lot of sensuality. Romance, edited out of the UK, closes the bedroom door.

My line, Modern/Presents, has a wide range of sensuality levels. My editor has never, ever told me to tone it down. Heck, I even got away with what I considered a taboo naughty word in my last accepted manuscript. I thought: no way will this fly. This is a Blaze word, not a Presents word. (You'll have to read CAVELLI'S LOST HEIR to find out the word! It's out in the UK in December, but I still don't have a North American date yet.)

As you can guess by this post, I am currently writing the love scene for my 3rd Presents. And it's gotten quite long. I'm shocked, actually, by the pages and pages of sensuality here. I think it's necessary, though. I have two people who are mortal enemies from birth, a situation in which they might not make it out alive, and the heroine is a virgin. Yeah, takes time to resolve all that.

I also spend a lot of time worrying over every word choice and every nuance. Love scenes should be easy to write, and they kind of are because you know what MUST happen, but they are also tough for me because I don't want to say the same thing the same way, and I want to show beyond a doubt the growth of these characters as they engage in the most intimate of acts. It's not simply a Tab A Slot B performance. (No romance novel really is, is it?)

I don't do anything special when writing these scenes. I don't light candles or play music or any of that. (Some people do, I hear.) I just sit and write and agonize and surf the web and return to the WIP and type some more, etc.

What about you? Do you do anything special when it's time to write that scene? If you write erotica, I want to know how you can keep in the moment for each scene. I love the love scene, but I find it emotionally draining too. Because the characters' emotions are at their most vulnerable then. How do you keep it fresh and original? And if you don't write love scenes, if you write sweet, how do you convey all that tension and angst and how do you resolve it without the sexual release?

I'm curious!!!


Karen Beeching said...

Hi, Lynn. I saw this title and said, "Woohoo! This should be a good blog!"

When I first started writing love scenes, I had to drink a couple of glasses of wine to get me through them. Thankfully, I no longer have to do that.

I usually don't write a love scene until the middle of the book, and by then I know my characters very well. I try not to plan out the love scene in detail, so when it finally happens, what ends up on the page is new and fresh and sometimes surprising. In my last book, the heroine reacted totally different from how I had originally planned that particular love scene, and when my characters start writing the scenes, I know I'm on the right course with the book. Plus I have paranormal elements in my romantic suspense, which always adds something different.

I have no idea how people write inspirational, creating sensuality without anything sexual. This baffles me, and I would love to hear someone talk about this as well.

You have me curious about that word.

Christine said...

I wrote my first book thinking it would be a Desire. But despite the characters and family element, the sexuality was too open so no go. I don't know how many ways there are to write the words associated with the body parts--like really? It's a "******". Period.

How does one not echo those words?

In my first draft, depending on my mood, I usually write INCREDIBLE LOVE SCENE BLAH BLAH here. Then I go back and add it. It's just emotionally draining and darned hard work to write one.

I've changed my approach as well, trying to layer in deeper emotion and unique ways to demonstrate the *ahem* rocketing climax. Not an easy task at all.

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the heat in the HQN Presents book I am reading. It is very sensual.

Oh, and when I do get into the meat of the scene, I plunk it out like any other scene. No music, candles or incense here.

Great Post!

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Karen! Wine is good, LOL. I have done that before too!

I agree with you about the planning. I never plan mine either. I think it's best when it grows out of the characters and who they are. In the past, when I thought I would write a love scene a certain way, at a certain time, it never worked right. I tend to write them at the midpoint too. :) It just seems to happen naturally that way.

Hey, if I got you curious about the word, my evil plan worked! *gg*

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Oh Christine, you should hear me discussing this with Kimberly Lang. The two of us lament our word choices because we can't call a you-know-what a you-know-what in our books (unlike Kira Sinclair, who gets all the good words in Blaze). And yet I DID use a strong word, ahem. ;-) I was sure it would get edited out, but it didn't.

You are so right that it's not easy to write a love scene. And now I should return to mine once more and see if it's horribly cliche or if I can keep moving forward. :)

Thanks for the comments, y'all!

Louisa Cornell said...

My CP and I were just discussing this. Love scenes are TOUGH!

I mean you want it to be realistic (I write Regency historicals - try writing realistic sex for 200 years ago!) you want to turn up the heat, you want to portray passion and desire. You want to show what these two people are thinking. You want to create a mood and use all five senses.

Sheesh! I never worked this hard to have sex myself let along write sex for two characters who don't always make it easy for me!

I can usually write with all kinds of chaos around me, but for love scenes I have to put on the headphones, tell the dogs to chill out and lay down AND I have to have music.

Some of my picks for love scenes are :

Adagio for Strings - Samuel Barber

Nessun dorma (From Turandot) - Puccini

Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra - Joaquin Rodrigo

Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis - Ralph Vaughan Williams

The only music I use that has words is the Nessun dorma aria. The rest is strictly instrumental.

JoAnn said...

Someone who writes great sexual tension -- without any actual sex -- is Jennifer Echols. Granted, they're YAs, so they're toned down a good bit, but "Major Crush" and "The Boys Next Door" have some of the best ST I've ever read! I haven't read her newest yet, but I'm looking forward to it. And I can't wait to see what she does when she breaks into the adult market. :) (And in the interest of full disclosure, Jennifer did NOT ask me to post this! :)

M.V.Freeman said...

I agree with everyone, I also think love scenes are the hardest scenes to write.

Like many, mine end up a good way into the book, and it also depends on the characters...for some it takes a good long while to get to that point (especially if one of the characters are trying to kill the other...)

Plus, I have to factor in, what is comfortable for me to write? I am not yet willing to be totally graphic which some genres call for (my hat is off to those who can write that--its a gift!)I like to build the senses with out actually discussing body parts...I want you to feel it, but I want your mind to envision don't need me.

Will I change the way I write, probably. Its just where I am at.

I'm fascinated how everyone deals with this :)

Cari Hislop said...

I write regency romances which don't have "sex scenes". They do have lots of sexual tension which increases through the story until they end when they end up in bed but the reader leaves them before they have sex, but the endings have to be satisfying...they have to make me go Ahhhh! :)

To me inspirational sensuality is more potent without sex. I almost never know when there's going to be a kiss (except for the ending), but they usually have a number of different kisses throughout a story. When they're not kissing sexual tension crops up in endless ways unique to each couple. Sometimes its sweet, sometimes it's more sugestive depending on the characters and situation.

I find romantic scense draining as well, it's like being stuck by lightening that leaves one feeling charged and drained at the same time.