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!