Insert Love Scene Here

A few months back I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article about what romance writers really research. It was all about how people think our poor (ha!) spouses have to put up with our love-making “research”. The funny thing is, that post gets the most hits per day than any other post I’ve written–even now.

While the love scenes take up only about 5% of my books (some authors are more, some are less) they are integral to the storyline. For those who don’t read romance, they think the scenes are just thrown in there to attract readers but, in my opinion, love scenes are so much more than that. For most stories, they’re the culmination of two characters finally coming together after an emotional, roller-coaster ride. It’s the final hurdle they need to overcome to realize this love is real and here to stay. For other stories, its the catalyst that will forge the rest of the plot (especially if the love scene comes to soon for one of the characters).

So, while authors don’t necessarily wear out their spouses researching ;-), they do recognize the importance of the love scene.

To write one is difficult, as most authors will tell you. You have to be in the right frame of mind (not that frame of mind!). It’s emotionally and physically tiring to write them. I know some authors who write them out of order. Some who put INSERT SEX SCENE HERE and move on with the rest of the story, waiting until it’s fully written before going back to well, um, insert sex scene here. I’m not that type of writer. I’m linear. I have to write everything in order, even if I know the last scene before the first scene.

The best thing I’ve ever discovered to help me with love scenes is Linda Howard’s 12 Steps to Intimacy (and you thought I was going to say some adult only site). I can’t even tell you where this article originated from (I searched the internet but couldn’t find its origin other than Linda Howard wrote it and Ms. Howard doesn’t have a website where it would be stored). But here are the twelve steps:

1. Eye to body

2. Eye to eye

3. Voice to voice

4. Hand to hand

5. Arm to shoulder

6. Arm to waist

7. Mouth to mouth

8. Hand to hand

9. Hand to body

10. Mouth to breast

11. Hand to genitals

12. Genital to genital

Ms Howard has an explanation for each bullet point that’s too long to go into in one blog post but they’re pretty self-explanatory. These are what I refer to when I write my love scenes. They help because they force me to slow down, to not rush anything. Every gesture has to mean something, not just physically, but more important, emotionally. For romance it’s all about the emotion, all about the journey the characters take with their emotions. The love scene should be no less than that.

But if you think this is a template, you would be wrong. It’s a guideline, for sure. But what if you switch it up? What if you, say, put #12 before #1? What does that do to the characters? How do they feel about that? In a way, that’s what my novella, Hands Off, is all about. The main characters immediately jump to #12 and while the love scene is long and encompasses #1-12 completely, it’s the first thing that happens in the book. The characters don’t take time to learn about each other, to experience, over a long period of time #1-11. So while the love scene is wham-bam right there front and center, it messes with the characters’ emotions. So they put the brakes on, take a time out and decide from here on out it’s all hands off so they can learn about each other. It’s not an easy journey for them because they know what #12 is like–the mystery has been taken away–and they want it again. But first they have to get through #1-11.

I highly encourage any romance author to at least try out these steps with their characters. It’s interesting to discover what it can do for them emotionally as well as physically (okay, we all know what it can do physically).

If you try it, let me know what you think!


15 thoughts on “Insert Love Scene Here

  1. I’m so one of those writers who writes Insert Sex Scene Here, lol! Wonderful blog with great advice, Sharon! Gonna give it a try 🙂

  2. Sex scenes are the hardest part of writing a book for me. I mean, how do you make each one fresh and hot? Once I get past those scenes everything is smooth saling until I have to write The End.

  3. I’m a devotee of Ms. Howard’s 12 Steps. I talk about them like some people talk about a 12 step program…but understanding them has really helped me to up the emotional intensity of not only the love scenes in my books but the overall emotional tension. Especially when I go ‘out of order’ – as I do a lot! 🙂

  4. I was lucky enough to get to hear Linda Howard give this speech in person. OMG! She is funny.

    A friend, Julia Ross, histrical writer, once told me that if you could move one love scene from book to book, then you hadn’t done your job. In other words, too generic. You had to make it unique.

  5. I’m one of those writers who really struggles with writing love scenes. Writing the physical action isn’t really difficult, but getting the emotion just right is hard! I have Linda Howard’s list, too and without it, I’d be lost.

  6. What another great topic. How to make love scenes unique. For me it’s not about the mechanics but about the emotion. What is the character feeling inside? How does making love affect him/her? If you’ve done your job right as an author, each character is different and will react in a different way, therefore making each love scene different. Even within the same book.

    When I write love scenes I think of action/reaction–not just physically but mentally as well. What are the characters overcoming that’s brought them to this point? What, in each characters’ history, will affect the way they connect to their partner? All of these are important questions to tackle while writing a love scene. If the scene is just stuck in there because it’s a romance and a romance has to have a love scene, then you’re not doing your job right.

  7. Thanks for the reminder! I forgot all about the 12 points to Intimacy. No matter how many love scenes you write, it’s always good to have that to look back on as a reference and make sure you used them along your story to build that tension and make sure your scene fits in the right spot!

    Enjoyed your post today!

  8. I have done that myself on some manuscripts–and others, it’s the “insert action scene” because the love scenes are inspiring. 😀 For me, each love scene should have a “theme” to it–sometimes it’s “discovery” as the characters unlock revealing intimacies about each other…and sometimes it’s “dessert” as the characters find each other a decadent treat. Then, most of all, is when you carefully choose your words and where you can really paint wonderful imagery. And also, carefully choose your words so you don’t accidentally put your characters in situations that defy the laws of physics or anatomy! If he’s got a hand on her breast and another holding her hand, he can’t have a third stroking her hair!

    Interestingly enough, you notice that nobody EVER asks mystery writers how they research murder scenes? ;D

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