Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Single Writer's Guide to Writing "Those" Scenes

DEFINITION : Naked - You don't have on any clothes! 

DEFINITION : Nekkid - You don't have on any clothes and you are up to something! 

I am certain most "normal" people visualize some scenario out of a really bad movie when it comes to how we writers go about putting a sex / love scene together. (When I say "normal" I mean non-writers. If you're a writer, honey, the "normal" ship sailed without you a LOOONG time ago.)

They see us lolling on our chaise lounge in Victoria's Secret lingerie dictating said scene to our half-dressed sex slave (sort of like the guy who delivers the Miss Drag Queen results to Rue Paul in To Woo Fong, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar "I don't know who he is, but if there's a snowstorm tonight, he's going on my tires!") pausing only to dip a strawberry in chocolate, sip some champagne and thumb through the Kama Sutra or Debbie Does Dallas to decided what happens next.

And if this is how you write your sex / love scenes, you go girl !! And post some pictures! If dressing in lingerie helps you to write a hot scene, go for it. Frankly, that stuff is too itchy, cold and tends to creep into places I don't want it to creep for me to write in it. Lest we forget, if lingerie is working correctly you won't be wearing it that long.  

There are some romance writers who love writing sex / love scenes. There are others who cringe at the thought of doing so. Either way, writing sex/love scenes is something all romance writers talk about at one time or another. We talk about it with our critique partners. We talk about it at chapter meetings. We talk about it in hotel lobbies at conferences and cause Microsoft conventioneers to choke on their lattes. Not that I'd know anything about that. 

You'll notice I use the term sex / love scenes - two terms for one act. And I firmly believe both types of these scenes are possible and plausible in a romance novel. If you don't believe it read Sherrilyn Kenyon's SEIZE THE NIGHT - Valerius and Tabitha's story. These two are definitely attracted to each other from the time she stabs him during a fight with daimons. (I don't think stabbing a guy in the chest with a big knife is in the Kama Sutra as foreplay, but maybe I missed a page.)

However, if you want a great example of that getting to know you sex, that 'please, sir, can I have some more' sex this is a great scene to study. For those of you playing the paperback version of our game the scene starts on page 129. The reason I know this is because my copy seems to fall open at this page on its own. I have no idea why. But if nearly getting nekkid on the stairs and getting down to business against the closet door isn't great sex, I don't know what is. Put Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" on the Ipod, light some red candles, knock back a few margueritas and you will be ready to write!

Of course for a real love scene, you need to start with a great kiss. Check out Loretta Chase's LORD OF SCOUNDRELS for a great "DAYUM!" kiss. Jessica bursts in on Dain, who happens to have a lap full of hoochie mama, and dresses him down before storming out. He chases her down the street in the rain. She yells at him some more. He decides the only way to shut her up is to kiss her. Well. Really well. Really, really well. And it takes a bolt of lightning to break them apart. Now THAT'S a kiss. 

If you need to see rather than read a great kiss check out the train station kiss from BBC's adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskill's NORTH AND SOUTH.


By the time you get to @ 2:20 minutes in you will see what I mean. Can Richard Armitage kiss or what?

For this sort of kiss, and the love scene that follows you want some sensual music - try Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings - some soft lamplight, the scent of roses or gardenias and some hot chocolate or a great wine.

Delilah Marvelle, a great historical romance writer and a student of sex in history, says she prepares to write love scenes by making out with her husband and when she is good and revved up, off she goes to write the scene. I'm not sure all husbands would be as understanding! But it is a thought. 

I had a piano professor, at a Baptist college believe it or not, who gave a pretty good definition of the difference between having sex and making love. He was referring to a performance by a much touted young piano prodigy. The young man's teacher brought him down to a master class with Van Cliburn. He played a very passionate, showy piece with so much energy and flash he literally moved the piano across the stage. Once he was done and everyone had applauded loudly Mr. Cliburn said "You played that very well. When are you going to start making music?" My piano professor took it one step further. He said "Playing the piano is like sex. You can jump in the back seat of a car or tear each others clothes off on the beach and go at it like it's your last day on earth. Or you can lay down in front of a roaring fire and spend hours learning every inch of each other before you ever actually join your bodies. Either way the end result is the same. It's the getting there that decides what kind of music you're making."



The bottom line is no one can tell you how your characters are going to finally become intimate. The characters will tell you if you listen hard enough. And there is no right way to sit down and approach the writing of these scenes. It's not about the mechanics. It's not about how many positions you can squeeze into your book. (Some of the Kama Sutra stuff can land you in the hospital. Some of the Fifty Shades stuff can land you in jail in some states, but we won't go into that here!)

I think it's about what you want to tell your readers about romance, about what it is, how it starts, how it stays alive and wonderful, and how, with luck, it never ends.

What's your approach to writing "THOSE" scenes? Any rituals, must haves or must not haves? And how do you write love scenes when your own love life is non-existent or worse - not going well at all? 
 

28 comments:

Lauren said...

FANTASTIC POST! I love the Richard video that kiss was amazing.

I like how you defined sex versus love scenes and offered great advice for writers.

Chris Bailey said...

Louisa,
You made me laugh out loud more than once! Ultimately, you made perfect sense. It's all about the characters. All the material that motivates passion is what makes the ultimate act a pleasure. Can't help you with how writers "do it," because I chose not to, and bugged off into the safe arena of middle grade!

liztalley said...

Great post! I think the character determine a lot about the sex, but also their particular needs from sex tell me how the scene will need to progress.

Gina Danna said...

Love it! Have to admit, I have to be in a mood to write one of these scenes - oh, I can do it if not mentally there but they're sooo much better if I am. Well done!

Nancy S. Goodman said...

As usual a great post. I love writing love scenes. I can write them anywhere, anytime. I also think the prelude to the actual consummation is what makes it such a great part of a romance novel.

Suzanne Johnson said...

Great post, Louisa! I'm one of those "oh God don't make me have to write a sex scene" writers. If it happens naturally, I know it's going to work. Sometimes, though, I just type (insert sex scene) and keep plowing through until I'm more in the mood :-)

Carla Swafford said...

Wonderful post, Louisa. Such great points.

For my books I make sure there are no distractions (TV, husband or kids walking through my study) and then it comes naturally. Not easy though. I have to go over the scene(s) numerous times to make sure all the senses are in there.

One of the hard parts is the moments afterwards, deciding whether they need a moment to recoup or go oh-oh or oh-yes!

Ella Quinn - Romance Novelist said...

Great and very funny post, Louisa. I loved the reference to Nationals. That was so true!!

Once when I was writing a love scene I asked my husband what I looked like when I was aroused, and he said, like you do now. You really do need to get in the mood to do them.

Meda White said...

"...if lingerie is working correctly you won't be wearing it that long."

LOL- I'm still laughing at this very true statement. It never wears out because it doesn't stay on long enough. Now, it might get ripped off but that's a scene I'd have to write at night.

I have a post on here somewhere in the archives where I mentioned the timing of writing love scenes. I lost my manuscript to the evil computer minions who destroy work while we sleep and had to re-write the book. The first time, I'd written it after dark and it was elaborate and beautiful, under a full moon, yada, yada. The second time, it was a sunny morning and I couldn't get into that place in my head so I did an abbreviated, less detailed scene intending to elaborate after dark. I liked the new scene so much I kept it.

Anyway, great post. Thanks for sharing!

Collette Cameron said...

This was wonderful! I don't have trouble writing love scenes unless I have someone peerign over my shoulder. Then I feel like there's an extra person in the bedroom. Well, there already is; me. But I'm invited!

Lexi said...

Mint chocolate ice cream and red wine. Nuff said. Lovely post, Louisa!

Connie Gillam said...

You are too funny, Louisa! Great post, btw.

My love scenes make me leave the computer and call my husband. I don't know if that's good or bad. LOL

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Lauren! Yes, that Richard A kiss is on my list of the top ten film kisses of all time!

Louisa Cornell said...

Glad you got a laugh out of it, Chris! You are so right - the things that go into passion are the things that define that ultimate act.

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Liz! You are so right. What your characters need in that moment tells a writer so very much about how the scene needs to play out.

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Gina! Like you I can write scenes even when I'm not in the mood, but they are so much easier to write and read when I am in the perfect frame of mind.

Louisa Cornell said...

You can definitely write some great love scenes, Nancy! And all of that sexual tension and build up of passion definitely helps when it comes to write a great scene!

Louisa Cornell said...

LOL, Suzanne! I have definitely reached a point in a manuscript when the love scene just wasn't there! I type three really big red X's and move on until I am ready to write the scene. Sometimes the insight that comes from writing more of the story is just what I need to make that scene more real.

Louisa Cornell said...

LOL, Carla! No distractions? Check!

Making certain all of the senses are in there. BIG DOUBLE CHECK!! Great tip!

And yes, those moments afterwards need just as much attention as the actual scene.

Louisa Cornell said...

I knew you would get the reference about Nationals, Ella!

Your love scenes are so beautifully written I have no doubt what your husband says is true! And THAT is definitely something a writer should check for when writing a love scene!

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Meda! And bummer on those computer minions! They're definitely dastardly!

Timing is definitely an important ingredient of writing love scenes. Must be why I write all of mine late at night.

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Collette! I am fortunate in that I live alone. I can't imagine writing a love scene with someone reading over my shoulder!

Louisa Cornell said...

I'm going to get some of that mint chocolate ice cream, Lexi, because your love scenes are panty melting hot!

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Connie! I would say having to leave the computer in search of your husband after writing a love scene is VERY GOOD INDEED !!!

Cassandra Samuels said...

Thank you Louisa for a wonderful and funny post. I think "normal" people don't appreciate the skill it takes to write a really good sex/love scene.

I agree totally that the North and south kissing scene is one of the best I have ever seen on film. It was done with such sensitivity to character. Loved it!

There is a reason that LoS is so very, very popular. I always recommend that book.

Louisa Cornell said...

Thank you, Cassandra! It is indeed true. Writing a good sex / love scene is an art.

Elisa Beatty said...

Hilarious, Louisa!

And, yes, Richard Armitage sure can kiss!

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Elisa! In an interview he said it took an afternoon to get the scene shot correctly. An afternoon kissing Richard Armitage. What a tough job! :)