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Developing the Romance

in Your Romance Novel

Virginia Kantra
Good love stories are universal yet unique. They tap into shared emotions with storyspecific details of character, time, and place that transport us to the world created by the
writer. A great romance novel makes us believe in love. Not just that love exists, but that
this love between these two people is somehow going to last and endure.
How? By telling the truth. By combining those universal truths, emotional truth, with the
thrill and struggle of two unique people falling in love and working their way toward
commitment and their own happy ending.
There is no formula. But in my own writing, there are seven things I push for to make a
convincing case for each couple's developing romance, for the "emotionally satisfying
ending" that defines our genre - and that brings readers back for more.
1. Physical awareness or attraction
You don't need to consult scientific journals to know that men and women, regardless of
culture, seem hardwired to find certain physical characteristics attractive. Just glance at
People magazine's most recent "100 Sexiest" list.
In real life, biology drives desire. We are attracted to partners who smell "right" based
on a complex chemistry of pheromones, fertility, and a sufficiently different immune
system. We seek visual cues that our potential mates can bear children or protect them:
full lips and a small waist-to-hip ratio in women; square jaw and a muscular build in
men. Symmetry of face and body in both sexes is a desirable marker of health. There
are even studies that define ideal male and female faces based on estrogen and
testosterone levels.
What does this mean for us as writers? Must we use hormonal markers as a blueprint
for describing characters? Well, you can, and you can make it great. Think of the
heroine's first look at the hero in Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me: "Every woman in the room
with a working ovary probably looked at him and thought, This one."
You can also cast your characters against type. The scarred hero and plain, passionate
heroine have been around since Beauty and the Beast and Jane Eyre. Still, most
romantic leads exhibit the markers of genetic health: shiny hair, good skin, bright
eyes . . . a full set of teeth. Even pleasingly rounded heroines are rarely described as
being shaped like beach balls. And I haven't yet read a romance in which the heroine
says to the hero, "Oh, honey, I love your tiny package."
Universal hooks make it possible for your reader to find your hero and heroine
attractive. But to make your stories and characters compelling, your hero and heroine
need to find each other uniquely desirable. For that, you need more than symmetrical
faces and a great waist-to-hip body ratio. Even if your characters feel love or lust at first
sight (and that whole "I must make you my mate" imperative is a powerful fantasy), you
can make their attraction more powerful and believable by motivating it with specific
triggers. Use observation and characterization to move beyond clich. Use significant
details to capture the vision of the beloved in the eyes of the lover: Jane Eyre's "light
fingers," Elizabeth Bennett's "fine eyes."
Your characters' level of physical awareness must be appropriate to
The subgenre (Are you writing sweet traditionals or out-there erotica?)
The characters themselves

The stage of the relationship

The level of action/external conflict.
In the following example from Sea Witch, notice how even at the moment of first
attraction, the seeds of conflict-the tension between land and sea, between the
mundane and the magic worlds-are present.
A woman shone at the water's edge, wrapped in twilight and a towel. The sea foamed
around her bare, pale feet. Her long, dark hair lifted in the breeze. Her face was pale
and perfect as the moon.
For one second, the sight caught him like a wave smack in the chest, robbing him of
speech. Of breath. Yearning rushed through his soul like the wind over the water, stirring
him to the depths. His hands curled into fists at his sides.
Not okay. He throttled back his roaring imagination. She was just a kid. A girl. An
underage girl in an oversize sweatshirt with--his gaze dipped again, briefly--a really nice
2. Emotional conflict
There are recognizable, universal barriers to love, staples of the romance genre: issues
of fear, trust, conflicting loyalties and/or control. Frankly, I'm not a big fan of the onewoman-wronged-me-therefore-I'll-hate-all-women school of conflict. But psychologist
Judith Viorst got it right when she wrote: even in the best of all worlds, a lasting love
relationship encroaches on our personal control, demanding that we give in, give up,
give over to another powers we might prefer to keep for ourselves. Even in the best of
love relationships, we will struggle to balance power and surrender.
What habits, principles, or beliefs must your characters surrender before they can be
together? How must they change or grow before they can commit to each other?
This is where your unique vision, your truth, and your characters' unique motivations
come to life. There have to be clear and compelling reasons why the hero and heroine
cannot just give up what they want to satisfy the other person. Why? Because to
abandon their goals would threaten their very sense of self:
I am a man of honor; loving you would make me less honorable.
I am a responsible daughter; loving you would makes me less responsible.
I am struggling for independence; loving you would make me dependent.
How relationship-centered the conflict must be and how much time you can spend on
the various elements of the plot will depend on your story, your word count, and your
subgenre. Whatever the length and focus of your story, however, you can pull the
romance back to the forefront by concentrating on
3. Scenes that foster emotional intimacy
The heroines of our books may be perfectly capable of kicking ass and putting food on
the table. But the hero's ability to protect and provide is still attractive to our readers,
another universal element that contributes to the romance.
A partner who is our heroine's equal, who can-if necessary-defend the young in the
cave, is a desirable mate. Which no doubt explains the popularity of Navy SEALs, gun
slingers, cops, and the Undead. Status and the ability to provide also encompass social

power and monetary power, which why we have heroes who are dukes and billionaires.
However, you cannot say your hero is the biggest, baddest alpha male in the star belt if
every time the aliens show up, our boy winds up bleeding under the bulkhead. It's not
enough to describe the hero as rich and powerful. We must see him putting his wealth
and power at the service of the heroine: Mr. Darcy rushing off to London to save Lydia
from Mr. Wickham.
We need to see the hero in action to believe in him. And our heroine needs to see him
in action to love him.
This gender typing can go both ways. Just as our heroes need scenes that showcase
their competence or status, our heroines benefit from scenes that show either their
ability to nurture or their desire for connection-which explains why the exasperating
grandmother, the unexpected child, and the rescued stray are staples of our genre.
Even the kick-ass assassin heroine will generally have a high personal stake in her
mission. This is not only good conflict development, but good character development.
These universal qualities help our reader fall in love with our hero and root for our
heroine. But our stories demand that our characters fall in love with each other.
What are the qualities that make us believe that these two people-and no others-must
be together? Because if this is all about her long legs and his smoldering eyes and
proximity, you may make a nice case for a long weekend but you're not going to sell me
on a lifetime love.
Try the following exercise:
It's the relationship, stupid.
My hero admires my heroine's ____________________________.
(List an obvious virtue, and no, "ass" is not an appropriate answer for this exercise.)
He uncovers/appreciates her ______________________________.
(Something less obvious. Her true self.)
He's challenged by her __________________________________.
(What does she have or know that he lacks or must learn? Think Jerry Maguire: "You
complete me.")
Now do the same for the heroine. This fill-in-the-blank exercise can help you identify
what I like to call "the vision of the beloved in the eyes of the lover" that lies at the heart
of romance.
Examine your own story. Where are the scenes that move the romance forward by
showing this? Not him thinking, "I love her because she's kind," but scenes where he
observes or experiences her kindness in action. The plot should force the hero and
heroine to exhibit those qualities that compel them to fall in love.
4. Resting or courtship scenes
People who share moments of high action and intense emotion-lovers on the run, sports
teams in the playoffs-frequently bond. Men may equate this closeness-that-springsfrom-action with emotional intimacy. But women, and women readers, want more. We
want courtship. We crave conversation. We believe
The pacing of our novels rarely allows our characters the luxury of leisurely dating. If it
did, our books would be pretty boring. However even in the most tautly plotted romantic
suspense the characters need to eat and sleep. More importantly, resting or courtship
scenes are necessary for us to believe that there will be a future for the couple outside
of the story's time frame.

A change of setting and a pause in the action can give you scenes that mimic the
familiar "date." Such scenes can either appeal to a conventional fantasy (ballroom,
tropical garden, five-star restaurant) or mix it up (hayfield, ball game, family picnic) in a
way which is
true to the situation
advances plot/shows conflict
reveals character/fosters intimacy
Even if your setting is unconventional or unique, you can engage your readers'
emotions by engaging their senses with the familiar trappings of romance: wine, flowers,
candles, firelight . . . food. I'm married to a man who can cook. Sooner or later in my
books, the hero always feeds the heroine. Maybe this goes back to that atavistic
"provider" thing, but sharing food is a universal courtship ritual.
There is a difference between universal and clich. If your hero is not a red-roses-andchampagne kind of guy, if your heroine would prefer books or beer or Lakers tickets, if
your setting is a castle off the coast of Scotland or a cave in the North Carolina
mountains, then don't force your couple into unlikely getaways with meaningless props.
Choose settings that are sensually evocative but also appropriate to your story and
significant to your characters. The important thing is to get your lovers alone, away from
the bad guys and the kids, in a setting which is conducive to dialogue.
And to sex.
5. Sex scenes
Sharing food and conversation frequently leads to lovemaking. In our genre, that can
mean anything from a first kiss to a no-holds-barred sexual encounter. Not every reader
or writer of romance will find the same words or acts appropriate or erotic. So how do
we create the universal hooks that make our love scenes both sizzling and believable?
First, recognize that sex scenes are not about body parts. If you make them about body
parts, you risk sounding clichd or offensive or silly. We need to reach beyond much of
our genre for fresh, true language, whether it is stark or extravagant. Use words that
come naturally to your characters, that spring from your own feelings and experience.
Love scenes need to engage your characters' brains and hearts. All the threads, all the
unique components, we've talked about so far come into play:
Specific triggers of physical desire
Emotional conflict, with whatever issues of trust or control your characters are dealing
The vision of the beloved in the eyes of the lover: why this man with this woman?
Something should be at stake with each kiss and encounter. The physical action should
reflect or impact, complicate or resolve the emotional conflict.
While there is no formula for love scenes, there should be a progression to the scenes
themselves. Each time, your lovers bring something new to their relationship-greater
intimacy, higher stakes. The physical action may express the characters' growing
emotional involvement, or it may subvert it. While delaying sex can increase tension,
having sex, especially having sex too soon, can increase the emotional conflict. (Sea
Fever starts with a drunken hook-up at a wedding reception.) Making love should

generally make things worse, so that each advance is followed by a subsequent falling
One way to make things worse is to thrust your lovers back into society.
6. Lovers in society
We have all heard the expression, "No man is an island." Well, no couple can live on
one forever. Eventually, they must reenter society like one of Christopher Vogler's
heroes returning from a journey with the magic elixir of love.
The society our characters inhabit encompasses both work and family. Sometimes the
two are combined, like Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Stars football team or Suzanne
Brockmann's Navy SEALs. Now it may be that duty or careers or heavy-handed parents
have actually contributed to the couple's conflict. Think of Prince Charming, who must
marry for dynastic reasons, or Mr. & Mrs. Smith, assigned to assassinate each other.
How your couple resolves their conflict will be a function not only of their characters, but
of your values, gender politics, and genre expectations. There is no universal
solution to reintegrating the lovers into society.
However, to satisfy the reader's expectation of a happily-ever-after, the couple must
negotiate a settlement which satisfies each of them. How will they cope with long hours
and missed dinners, with the demands of children and friends? It's not enough for the
hero to assure the single mother that he will love her son without scenes of him helping
with homework or childcare or catch-love in action. You also need scenes which show
the couple's integration into the existing family-and-friends structure: the heroine holding
her own with her lover's brothers or the hero defending his beloved against her parents'
All these scenes reinforce the formation of the pair bond . This is part of the payoff, the
commitment, in which hero and heroine demonstrate that their primary bond and loyalty
is now to each other.
Which brings us, finally, to
7. Payoff scenes
Why do we read romance novels? Why do we write them? Because we want the
"emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending" that they promise. We want all those other
things, too, the sizzle of sexual attraction, emotional struggle and intimacy, courtship,
great sex, and a couple capable of functioning within society. But we really want our
happy endings.
Of course, our characters have to earn their happiness. They must defeat or at least
contain the threat posed by the antagonist. And the romantic resolution can't spring out
of nowhere. In real life, you wouldn't trust in a marriage proposal on the first date, would
you? Same thing in fiction. There are stages in developing the romance, and each stage
has its own payoff or reward.
The "duh" moment. Acknowledgement of feelings for the beloved. Maybe the heroine
doesn't identify those feelings as love, maybe the hero doesn't know what he's going to
do about them, but the emotions are there and they're real. The "duh" moment can and
should result in more conflict and complications.
The "yes" moment. Declaration of surrender. His and hers. By making the declaration of
love unequal, by having the hero and heroine admit their love at different times, you can
increase emotional tension. But for the payoff, there must be some degree of reciprocity,
even if it is unspoken.

The "aww" moment. The first two stages can lead to further conflict and complications.
But this third moment should leave your protagonists and your reader with hope and
confidence. For that reason, the final emotional payoff usually takes place after the bad
guys have been defeated and the lovers have re-entered their ordinary world. Now is
the time to pull out all the stops, to affirm the universal lessons learned with those
unique, specific details that will give the scene emotional weight and significance.
How much time you need to convince your reader that everything will work out depends,
again, on your subgenre and your story. The reason epilogues are so popular in
romantic suspense is that it's difficult to jump from an action-packed and bloody climax
into a satisfying romantic resolution without either sacrificing the story's pacing or
straining the reader's credibility. In Sea Witch, because of its huge internal, emotional
conflict, I had to write an entire final chapter to get to that aww resolution.
Romance begins with "Once upon a time" and ends with "Happily ever after." One way
to create that sense of completion, of coming full circle, is to set up a similarity between
the language and imagery at the beginning of the book and the language and imagery
at the end-a kind of verbal echo which creates an emotional resonance.
RWA National defines a romance novel as "a central love story" with "an emotionally
satisfying and optimistic ending." Let critics scoff at our books' happy endings. As long
as our stories are grounded in our experience, in our emotional truth, and supported by
small, honest details, we can write stories that are believable, memorable . . . and
Creating Emotional Conflict and Tension in a Romance Novel
By Leslie Wainger from Writing a Romance Novel For Dummies
The conflict, or tension, between your hero and heroine should always drive your plot.
Your novel should also have a certain story-related momentum, but the key factor that
keeps your reader turning pages is the progress of the romance, which is driven by the
conflict between the hero and heroine.
You can use different techniques and combinations of techniques to create conflict
between your hero and heroine. However you craft that conflict, though, one point is
key: You need to create a source of emotional conflict and tension for your hero and
heroine something that exists separately from the specifics of the plot, something
inside each of them that would create a problem whether they met in Maine or on the
moon, though the problem certainly should be exacerbated by their situation.
After you decide where the emotional tension comes from, you can create and
complicate it at will. And by manipulating that emotional tension, you're better able to
keep your reader involved and happy from start to finish.
Emotional versus intellectual conflict
Without the surrounding context of a plot, the distinction between emotional and
intellectual conflict is easy to make, yet writers continually struggle with it in their
manuscripts. Simply put, an intellectual conflict is a conflict of ideas, while an emotional
conflict is one that grows from feelings.
The temptation to use an intellectual conflict and even to mistake it for an emotional
one is understandable, because intellectual conflicts are obvious and everywhere,
and many are fascinating. The morning paper and the news are full of debates over

important concerns like foreign and domestic policy, the economy, and the environment,
and smaller issues, like uniforms in public schools and lawn-watering restrictions.
What makes an intellectual conflict intellectual is the fact that it starts out in the mind.
People's feelings about an issue can be very strong, and arguing them into seeing
another point of view may be impossible; but even so, every argument has two sides,
and intelligent people can make a case for either side. Intellectual conflicts can be
interesting, but in the context of a romance novel where the intent is to engage the
reader's heart, not her head they're counterproductive if they appear front and center.
Emotions, unlike opinions, don't need to have a logical basis and can't be reasoned
away. They come from inside and simply are. They're not up for discussion or argument.
Your emotions are an intrinsic part of who you are. They're not something you decided
on one day after you took a course, read a book, or saw a news special; they come
from your genetic makeup, the way you were raised, and your experiences in life and
love. They affect how you see yourself, your family and friends, and maybe most of
all who and how you love.
An emotional example
You can't build every plot completely around the emotional conflict, but every plot needs
to highlight that conflict whenever possible. The more complicated your plot is, the more
threads you have going on at once; however, emotional tension should underlie
everything that's happening. The emotional conflict should always be in the characters'
and the readers' minds. Here are a couple of sample heroines and a sample scenario
that shows you how to create an emotional conflict for each of them:
Heroine 1: Born to a single mother, abandoned to the foster-care system, and shuttled
from family to family, she's likely to be self-contained, independent, distrustful, wary of
forming close bonds, low in self-esteem, and practically incapable of believing that she
deserves love.
Heroine 2: Raised in a large, tight-knit family, the only girl among six children, doted on
and cherished, encouraged in safe directions but protected even overprotected
from risk, she's likely to have a bright, open personality and to make friends easily. But
she's also likely to doubt her ability to operate independently and fear being smothered
by love, especially romantic love.
Intellectually, in a debate over cocktails, these heroines may be identical, but in every
way that counts, they're polar opposites and always will be. They approach life in
completely different ways. And although both may be wary of love, it's for totally different
reasons, which means their emotional hot buttons are different, and they're drawn to
and wary of completely different characteristics in men.
Their choices in life are driven by their inner selves, the emotional human beings that
they are:
Heroine 1 may choose a way of life that lets her remain aloof from others maybe as a
researcher in a high-tech lab or a computer programmer because that's how she
protects her tender emotional core, the part that's always felt abandoned and is afraid to
love because she's sure she'll only be abandoned again.
Heroine 2 may be busy making her way in the police department, proving to her big,
overprotective family (and, not incidentally, herself) that she can go it alone and cut it as
a beat cop in a tough neighborhood.

Enter the hero, a police detective working on a case. He shares the same views on
politics, religion, and all the rest, so he can't argue with either woman on that score. Like
Heroine 1, he was raised in foster care, but he had a younger sister who was raised
with him, and from the time he was a little kid, he's been her protector. He joined the
force to protect even more people. Plus, when his parents died, he was old enough to
remember what being part of a loving family was like, and he wants that again.
Both heroines see a murder take place and need to be put into protective custody until
the killer's apprehended, tried, and with the benefit of their testimonies sent away
for life. One of the heroines lucks out and gets the hero as her watchdog at the safe
house. The story plays out differently depending on which heroine the hero is assigned
Heroine 1: If she gets the hero as her protector, she's going to resent him spending the
long hours they're confined together trying to connect with her on the subject of their
shared backgrounds, because she doesn't want to bring up all those painful memories.
And she certainly doesn't want to find herself hooked on this incredible guy who can
even in her present scary situation make her laugh, get her talking about everything
under the sun, even when she keeps telling herself to shut up, and who's sexy beyond
belief, besides.
For the hero, it makes him nuts that she continues shutting him down and withdrawing
just when he thinks he's getting close to her. But even though he knows keeping his
heart uninvolved would be smart, he can't help being drawn to her, so much so that he
has to remind himself that he's on the job and pull back just as he's about to kiss her.
She feels rejected, all the old hurts of her childhood rise up, and they're on the outs with
each other and neither one knows why. This is an emotional conflict created with
complex characters and letting them react believably.
Heroine 2: If she gets locked away with the hero, she's going to react differently for
different reasons. She's going to bridle at his protective side, point out that she's a cop,
too, and is more than capable of taking care of herself, and think his fantasy of having a
big, happy family would make her crazy, because she'd end up lost in the ruckus, taking
care of everyone in that traditionally female way that she's sworn isn't for her.
He can't believe she doesn't understand the value of family and is fighting to break
away from hers. He respects her professional abilities plenty, but in the circumstances,
she does need to be protected, and why can't she see that he's just the guy to do it?
They keep butting heads, but they're also attracted, challenged, and in no way ready to
write each other off.
Plot the need to lock the hero and heroine together in a safe house puts them
together but doesn't provide the conflict. Plot gives the hero and heroine the opportunity
to be in conflict, but the conflict itself is emotional. It comes from within, from a clash
between who they are, not what they think.
In any romance novel, the emotional conflict needs to affect the hero and heroine's
relationship, to have romantic ramifications, so that they're irresistibly drawn toward
each other, while simultaneously feeling that a relationship can't possibly work between
Taking care with intellectual conflict
You can use elements of intellectual conflict in your book, too, but you have to be
careful. Keep these two tips in mind:

Intellectual conflict can never be substituted for emotional conflict.

Relate any elements of intellectual conflict to the characters' emotional conflict as much
as possible.
To clarify the second bullet point, here's an example: He's a developer; she's an
environmentalist. He wants to use a piece of property to build housing; she wants to
preserve it to save the rare spotted squirrel. Arguments about the housing needs of
people versus the need to preserve the environment ensue. Any reader who's stayed
awake long enough to make it to the end finds out that they compromise and build
cluster housing on one section of the property and maintain the rest as legally protected
woodland. The characters thought their way to a mutually acceptable solution.
Everybody wins, and now the two of them can act on their mutual attraction. As a plot,
it's an exercise in mental gymnastics and nothing more. The story has no heart.
However, the story could have heart. Maybe the hero's not just an in-it-for-the-money
developer but is someone who has a mission: providing reasonably priced housing for
people who may otherwise never get to own a nice home in a place where they can
raise their families. Perhaps he was raised by a hard-working single mother who barely
made the rent on a cheap apartment, and this is his way of giving back to the world in
her memory. The heroine was raised in the inner city, and the only time she ever saw
the country was on a city-sponsored summer program. She's determined to save a little
piece of the wild within spitting distance of the city so less fortunate kids will always
have a place they can get away to and meet nature.
This plot isn't the most compelling one on the planet, but at least now it has an
emotional component, and you can see how the two types of conflict can work together.
This approach taking an intellectual conflict and adding an emotional element to
make it a book isn't recommended, because it works backward. By the time you start
writing, your idea should already be an emotional one, even if it started from an
intellectual point.
Internal versus external conflict
Another (and related) way to look at conflict is as internal versus external. Internal
conflict comes from the characters themselves; it's whatever they bring to the story, both
emotionally and intellectually.External conflict comes from the plot and circumstances,
or is created by other characters.
Emotional conflict is always internal. This kind of conflict finds a way to manifest itself
whatever the circumstances are. Going back to my example of the heroine from the big
family and the protective hero, these two people are going to have issues no matter how
or where they meet, simply because of who they are.
An example of external conflict is your hero and heroine arguing over the best way to
handle the case. Any two cops including two men or two women can do that. You
can't substitute external conflicts for internal ones, but you can enhance emotional
conflicts by using externals to provide a context that gives your hero and heroine a
chance to be together and seemingly at odds against one thing (how to handle the
case, in the example above) while what they're really arguing over is something else
entirely, in this case his tendency to protect or overprotect, as she sees it her.
Your hero and heroine can't spend the entire book talking about their emotional
conflicts, otherwise your story ends up reading like a long session at a psychotherapist's
office. An external conflict lets your characters talk about something concrete with their

emotional issues as a subtext a subtext that you can clarify by getting into their
heads for a point-of-view look at what's going on.
Personal versus situational conflict
One final way to talk about conflict is as personal versus situational. Personal
conflicts are conflicts that grow from the innate issues and insecurities that everyone
has. You carry around certain feelings inside yourself that are personal to you. In most
of your day-to-day relationships, they don't raise their heads, but with the people who
matter most, your personal issues are important. Your family and friends these are
the people whose opinions count and who have the ability to make you feel great or
horrible. Those people who are close to you matter on a personal level, and with them,
your deepest feelings come into play. This situation is the same with your hero and
heroine; they can touch each other on the deepest, most personal levels.
A situational conflict arises from place and plot. In the safe-house example, the
situational conflict comes from locking the hero and heroine up where they can't get
away from each other, which forces them to deal with their internal, emotional issues or
else spend the entire book in separate rooms. As with intellectual and external conflicts,
situational conflict can work with the key emotional tension your hero and heroine have
to deal with, but situational conflict can never substitute for emotional conflict.
Situational conflict can provide the hothouse atmosphere where tension can grow, but
the novel's deeper issues are always the characters' personal and emotional conflicts.
The best romances are built around a complex emotional conflict that's played out in an
equally interesting and tightly connected context one that forces the characters to
deal with each other and their issues.
Sizzling, Sensuous and Steamy: How to Write Love Scenes
by Carolyn Campbell
A love scene can provide a satisfying ending or an enduring, effective hook that you can
thread throughout the plot of a mainstream novel. Such a scene can serve as an action
scene, a sequel following a scene, or it can build tension and suspense leading up to
another scene. The relationship between the two characters in a love scene can add
interest to the story, move the plot forward, or complicate and add tension to the story.
1. Create tension by rendering the lovers as opposing forces
A beginning flirtation is played out like a chess game. She makes a move, then waits for
his next move. He in turn makes a move, which she tries to interpret before making her
next move. In most cases, neither wants to move too directly or drastically. Neither
wants to risk rejection or embarassment -- but attraction propels them onward.
Then tension is like a boxing match, when one fighter delivers a hit, and the two
opponents pace tensely before another blow is delivered. This tension heightens the
urgency and immediacy of the scene, which also increases reader identification.
2. Get involved in your love scenes
Why do people read love scenes? Let's be honest here. Readers lose themselves in
love scenes to make their own hearts race faster, to enhance their own breathless
anticipation, and to feel their vulnerability in a harmless, exciting escape from their
everyday lives. Put simply, readers love to imagine themselves in the place of the
lovers. No other writing emerges so directly from the heart. Writing a scene that ignites

your own passion and makes your own pulse quicken will help assure that your readers
will feel that way, too. Readers pick up quickly on your sincerity and sense the
"realness" of your thudding heart and speeding pulse. This could be the one practical
use for those "makeout memories" of the times when you yourself thrilled to the
ecstacy of kissing a forbidden someone in the back seat of a Chevy. Come on -- it
wasn't that long ago. And your memory, imagination and writing skills can help
recreate that excitement all over again in the scenes with your characters.
3. Keep the lovers in character
Your characters are the strength of your love scene. Their individuality will make your
love scene unique if you keep their personalities true throughout the scene. A woman
who is snappy-quick with a comeback won't suddenly become tongue-tied in a man's
arms. And a man who persistently holds his feelings close to his vest will likely reflect
his emotions internally rather than suddenly telling all within a woman's embrace. The
blend of your character's personalities will shape the course of the love scene, too. The
quick-comeback woman will toss out a barb that the private-person man will hold close
to his heart. She'll respond with another tart comment and he'll clam up and clutch each
word tight -- which will only prompt her cleverness more as she tries to decipher him.
Your love scene will be one of a kind because your characters are individuals -- each as
one-of-a kind as every living breathing person on this earth.
The issues relating to your story will impact and shape your love scene as well. Say the
two lovers are competitors for the same office position -- or the same athletic title. The
tension between them away from the love scene will build tension within the scene -- or
maybe stop it short. "This won't have affect my performance tomorrow -- I'll still win the
marathon," James assured Shana, attempting to gather her in his arms once again.
"Don't be so sure," she said, backing deftly away, sharp hurt registering in her voice.
"That wasn't what I meant--" he said quickly, but it was already too late. She was gone.
4. Raise sexual tension through conflict
While conflict is the heart of any great story, it is especially effective in the arena of love
scenes. Conflict provides the reason why the two lovers can't simply ride a white horse
off into the sunset the first moment they realize there is a strong attraction. Romantic
conflict can be visualized as a locked door between two people trying to reach
each other. It appears insurmountable -- but that doesn't dilute the longing or the
urgency. In an actual scene, the man might be thinking, "She's a great kisser. If
only she wasn't urging my boss to fire me."
Or she could be realizing, "I could really fall in love with him -- if I didn't know he
was going to prison next week." Don't worry that conflict will add a "dark"
element to the euphoria of a love scene. Passion possesses a natural "dark"
undercurrent which is an element of its excitement.
5. Reveal sexual attraction through contrast
Along with conflict, contrast can help the reader visualize the sexual chemistry while the
characters pretend to deny it. In my book, Love Lost and Found, the scene that begins
this article ends with Cheryl saying, "Go away. I can't see you again." while inside she's
thinking, Don't go. Please take me with you. It could be as simple as the man saying,
"Don't touch me," while inwardly he is thinking. Don't stop. Don't ever stop. The contrast
can also be reflected through the dialogue of one character contrasted with the thoughts
of another. The woman could say, "I'm here to discuss business," while the man's inner

thoughts are , "I wish the two of us could get down to business." Again, the contrast
between spoken dialogue and internal thoughts and feelings underscores the conflict
between the two characters which creates the sexual tension.
Along with thoughts, a character's actions can be used to reveal true feelings. A
woman who deliberately steps close enough for a man to grab her before she says,
"You can't stop me from leaving," and a man who says how hot the weather is as he
stares at a woman's bikini-clad figure are examples of how actions speak louder than
5. Build suspense, anticipation and intensity
Just as a one-night stand lacks the time-endurance to be considered a serious romantic
relationship, a love scene requires time for the tension to build. The suspense is the
same as any other conflict-it escalates as the reader is continually forced to wonder ifand when-the lovers will ever get together. In the scene at the beginning of this article,
the two lovers were childhood friends who grew up on adjacent farms. They spent
months staring longingly at each other across their father's bean fields. Two lovers
might work in the same company, live in the same apartment building, protest the same
issue, litigate the same crime -- but a love scene is most effective after they've had
time to interact -- and most likely disagree -- on other matters. The dance of "willthey, won't they" as the reader begins to suspect the attraction between the two
characters, helps build suspense and anticipation in both the characters and the
reader. It's like holding your breath while waiting for a bomb to go off.
6. Heighten the characters' five senses
In real life, the euphoria of new love enhances the lover's five senses and actually
creates a sensual feast from his formerly everyday world. Colors seem brighter,
songs acquire new meaning and clarity, even smells are enhanced and enlivened.
Applying this principle to your love scenes -- especially during the passionate
moments -- will impart reader identification and empathy with the activities at hand. A
woman feels intoxicated by a man's aftershave or his clean, natural male smell. A man
is entranced by the silken feel of a woman's hair against his cheek or feels an electric
charge from her lips brushing his ear.
Following a kiss in a love scene from my book, Love Lost and Found, my main
character, Cheryl, concentrated on the soft cotton of his shirt, the light breeze of his
breath ruffling her hair and his work-roughened hand gently stroking her face.
Besides the actual lovers, the sensory details of settings in a love scene can enhance
the romantic mood. Breezes feel like a sensuous massage, rain hauntingly caresses,
streams flow in a soothing rhythm, sunlight teasingly bathes desire-warmed skin.
Around the lovers, autumn's leaves' colors are brighter, song lyrics hold personal
meaning, and spring air is imbued with the sweet scent of anticipation. She tastes the
mint on his lips and he finds the scent of her perfume unforgettable as he returns to the
On rare occasions, the setting can also be used to underscore the individual
moods of the characters. The woman can stare through a rain-drenched window
as she sadly watches the man walk away. The man and woman ecstatically ride a
wild horse to the top of a mountain where they daringly kiss at the edge of a cliff.
7. Reveal relationship status and character changes

Along with customizing a love scene by including the personalities of your characters
and the issues surrounding them, you can also reveal the status of the relationship
through the climate of the love scene. Early in a relationship, love scenes still include
the elements of flirtation -- verbal innuendoes, laughing, teasing, possibly nervousness
and tentativeness. In a continuing relationship, lovers are more relaxed with one
another. As the relationship progresses, they are more likely to verbally express their
love and talk of tenderness and possibly commitment.
8. Tantalize with temporary togetherness
As effective as they are as plot devices, love scenes have their limitations. Along with
unique characters, believable settings and realistic dialogue... there are certain
predictable elements. A touch usually leads to a kiss...which leads to more
touching... which eventually leads to a culmination.... or not. One way to help
keep the reader involved in the love scene is to not belabor it with clinical details.
Even a lengthy description of romance that leaves your reader feeling ravished doesn't
need to read like an owner's manual of body parts. Use writing that suggests rather
than describes in detail, and let the reader use her imagination. "His fingers
inched farther along the smoothness of her skin. Deeper. Lower. She gasped in
anticipation." Notice that no specific body parts are mentioned, and the verbiage is
actually more cerebral than anatomical. If you do describe specific body parts, keep the
sexual tension alive by describing your characters' physical attributes in close proximity.
(As they would actually view each other during the scene) Focus on the sexy curve of
her breast overflowing her swimsuit top, the rough masculine feel of his bearded
face on the rounded sleekness of her shoulder. Keep in mind that what characters
are thinking and feeling is infinitely more enticing than a description of their body
parts. Relating thoughts and feelings helps preserve your character's personalities
along with the suspense as to where the scene will lead.
9. Turn up the heat (and the speed) with touch
Beyond all the flirtatious words and anticipation, nothing changes a platonic
interlude into a love scene more than the first physical moment of touch. The
characters can be two colleagues working on the same scientific experiment, two
neighbors who have each lost a spouse, two detectives seeking to solve the same
murder... until one of them makes a move to touch the other. By rendering the initial...
and subsequent... physical togetherness in sensuous detail, the writer allows both
reader and characters to feel their senses awaken, and understand that the relationship
has now moved to a new sensuous realm. For example, in the movie, Erin Brockovich,
Julia Roberts plays a character whose main concern is professional and financial
survival. Reflecting on her past as Miss Wichita, Brockovich says, "I still have my tiara. I
thought it meant I would be someone." She obviously is referring to fame, or
professional success. At that moment, Aaron Eckhart, playing the character of George,
Brockovich's helpful next door neighbor, strides across the room. He grasps her
shoulders, and strokes her arms down to her elbows, simultaneously saying, "You're
someone to me." His tone of voice isn't even flirtatious. But with that single touch, the
atmosphere charges with sensual heat, and the love scene that follows seems totally
apt, although the two were just cordial neighbors moments earlier. Besides moving the
scene into a sensual realm, touch also accelerates the couple's emotional intimacy.
10. Make love a difficult choice to heighten the emotions

A dramatic situation or conflict that is keeping the lovers apart can also heighten the
emotional climate of the scene. If one of the characters must choose to make a
sacrifice to pursue the relationship, the drama of that decision will heighten the
tension in the love scene. Say the woman must choose to give up a scholarship
or once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity to continue the relationship. Or say that the
man risks losing his hard-won independence by marrying the secretary in a
business his family owns. The greater the sacrifice and risk, the more the
emotions will be heightened.
11. Captivate with close calls
While love scenes inherently feel like a culmination and resolution, an open ending to a
love scene paves the way for further suspense. Just like a high school girl practically
perishes with suspense when a boy she's passionately kissed the night before pretends
not to know her the next day, the reader will wonder if the lovers will ever embrace
again as the book continues.
Such suspense and uncertainty is also created and enhanced when a love scene stops
before culmination. As in the scene that introduces this article, the most effective way to
maintain tension and prematurely end a love scene is for one of the characters to
decide that this is somehow the wrong moment. In the above sense, Cheryl desperately
loves Davey... but feels she must stay married for the sake of her kids. A man might
passionately kiss a woman, then say, "I didn't mean for this to happen now... not yet,"
while she is thinking, Why not now?
12. Kiss your story good-bye
As expressions of affection and conflict resolution, love scenes are natural endings.
Many old-fashioned movies simply concluded with violin background music and the
leading man and lady locked in a tight "clinch." In any love scene you write, and
especially if you decide to end your book with a couple's embrace, try to keep dialogue
a part of the mix. Today's readers tend to skip over blocks of black type, and you might
be surprised what your characters say (and do) to each other. As Joyce Davis, a
mainstream author told her writing group, " My two characters went to bed together
without asking me." Hopefully, your characters will keep you -- and your reader -equally surprised and enthralled.
Making A Scene: Using Conflicts And Setbacks To Create Narrative Drive
Characters need setbacks
If your main character got everything she wanted right away then your story would be as
entertaining as watching paint dry. The solution: be mean. Give your main character
setbacks, lots of them.
Conflicts & Setbacks
Your main character has goals, he wants things. In Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the
Lost Ark, Indiana Jones goes on a quest to find and bring back the lost Ark of the
Covenant. About halfway through the movie he finds the ark but is captured and, along
with Marion, sealed inside an ancient burial vault and left to die.

What follows is one of the BEST sequences of conflicts and setbacks I've come across.
Let's start after Indie finds the ark.
Conflict: Does Indie find the ark?
Setback: Yes, BUT he is captured, thrown into a pit of snakes, and the antagonist
takes the ark.
Remember that it is established early on in the movie that Indiana hates snakes.
Spiders and all manner of creepy-crawlies he's fine with, just don't bring him near
a snake! (And, yes, I know that there's no logical reason why there would
be THAT many snakes in an ancient burial vault, but the scene still works.)
Conflict: Do Indie and Marion survive the pit of snakes?
Setback: Yes, they use torches to keep the snakes at bay BUT the torches are
about to burn out.
Conflict: Do Indie and Marion escape the pit of snakes before their torches burn
Setback: Yes, Indie crashes a pillar through a wall providing them a way to
escape BUT the room they enter is filled with skeletons that--for Marion at least-seem to come alive.
Conflict: Will Indie and Marion escape from the ancient burial vault they've been
entombed in?
Setback: Yes, BUT the bad guys have the ark and Indie needs to get it back.
After every goal Indie achieves there is a setback. I just noticed we didn't come across a
"No, AND ..." so lets keep going.
Another FABULOUS sequence in the first Indiana Jones movie--especially from the
perspective of what we're talking about here--pulling the reader through a scene,
creating conflict and using setbacks to create narrative drive--occurs at around 01:16:33
where Indie decides he's going to commandeer a plane. He fails in the end and it blows
up but the sequence of goals/conflicts and setbacks is memorable.
Conflict: Will Indie commandeer the plane?
Setback: No, AND Indie is spotted crawling up the plane, toward the pilot.
Conflict: Indie and a bad guy fight. Will Indie win?
Setback: Yes, BUT a much bigger man starts a fight with Indie (AND the pilot sees indie
and knows he's trying to commandeer the plane).
Conflict: The pilot starts to take pot shots at Indie. Will Indie escape being hit?
Setback: Yes, Indie dodges the pilot's bullets BUT the pilot keeps shooting.

Conflict: Indie is fighting a huge bad guy. It looks like he has no chance of winning. Will
Indie, against all odds, win the fight against the Man-Mountain?
Setback: No, Indie is not going to win a fist-fight with the Man-Mountain AND the pilot is
still shooting at him.
Conflict: The pilot takes aim at Indie, from this angle he can't miss. Will Indie survive?
Setback: Yes, indie survives. Marion hits the pilot over the head and knocks him
unconscious BUT as the pilot slumps over in the cockpit he hits some levers and starts
the plane rolling forward while Indie fights the Man-Mountain on the ground below.
Conflict: Marion climbs into the cockpit to remove the pilot and stop the plane from
moving. Does she succeed?
Setback: No, AND she gets locked inside the cockpit.
You get the idea. The entire scene is well worth watching.
One thing I want to point out before I go on to the next section and talk about scenes is
that the stakes for our hero gradually escalate throughout the scene. At first Indie just
wants the plane and gets into a fist fight, then there's an impossibly huge guy he has to
fight, then someone starts shooting at him, then the plane begins to move, then there's
a truckload of German soldiers who see him, then Marion explodes gasoline containers,
then there's gasoline on the ground running toward the fire.
At the end of the scene an ocean of gasoline is rushing toward the burning remains of
the gas canisters while the Man-Mountain continues to beat Indie to a pulp and, of
course, the whole camp has noticed the gasoline barrels explode and is rushing to
investigate. It's really quite something.
Scenes & Sequals
To flesh out this discussion let's talk about the larger picture. Conflicts and setbacks are
parts of scenes and a novel is made up of scenes and sequels.
Scenes are where the action takes place, where your character has conflicts and
setbacks until the end of the scene and he or she attains their goal, or not, as the case
may be.
Sequels are where your character reacts emotionally to what's happened, where he or
she reviews the facts of their situation and perhaps wonders if their plan is working or
whether it needs to be changed. Basically a sequel sets your character(s) up for the
next scene and gives your readers a bit of a break from the fast pace.
I'm not going to talk about sequels here, except to point you to Jim Butcher's post on the

Here, according to Jim Butcher, is the basic format of a scene:
Point of view character: _______________________
Goal: ______________________________________
Conflict (scene question): ______________________
Setback (scene answer): _______________________
POV (Point Of View) Character
Both Mary and Jim say the same thing:
Make your POV character the one who has the most at stake.
Jim Butcher qualifies this by saying it should be the character who has the most at stake
emotionally. If one character may lose his cousin who he never liked and doesn't care
about and another may lose his cat who is their best friend then make Cat Guy your
POV character.
Keep in mind that, like all writing rules, if you know what you're doing you can break
The goal needs to be ACTIVE and it needs to be SPECIFIC. Michael Hauge advises
writers to think of it in movie terms. How could you show the character's goal on the
screen? It should be something concrete such as (these are Jim Butcher's examples)
"Get out of the room alive" not "Do something to save the day".
Conflict: Will your character succeed? WHICH character will succeed? Your hero or the
Conflict is whatever will make your character fail in reaching his or her goal.
Between characters. Conflict happens between characters, not between a
character and the environment. In the second Indiana Jones scene the plane-specifically its propeller--acted as a threat to Indie, he could have been killed by
being forced into its blades, but it was used as a prop, the conflict came from the
Man-Mountain trying to force him into the blades.
Conflicting goals. Conflict happens between characters trying to achieve different goals.
Antagonists have goals too, ones that, if fulfilled, would prevent the hero from reaching

his or her goal. Jim Butcher writes:

All this really means is that you need an antagonist with the same specific, attainable
goal, the same kinds of emotional stakes, as your protagonist. Once you've got the right
kind of set up, the scene almost writes itself. (Scenes)
If only!
For every conflict that comes up, a question can be asked: Will our hero
succeed? There are four answers:
1) Yes
2) Yes, BUT
3) No
4) No, AND
We've covered this, above. Briefly, "Yes" won't get us anywhere. The hero needs
setbacks because if his goal were just handed to him that would be very dull. The
hero doesn't get everything he wants until the end of the book--and sometimes
not even then!
"No" can work but it can be frustrating and cast your hero in a bad light. Use sparingly.
The other two, "Yes, BUT" and "No, AND" we've covered, above.
So, what are you waiting for! Go write a killer scene. :-)
Get to Know the Characters
Interview your main characters before you get too far into writing the story so that you
understand who you're writing about. Their thoughts and decisions are what drive the
story forward. One way to interview a fictional character is to come up with a set of
questions about his likes, dislikes, hopes, fears, and childhood history and
record the answers.
Determine your main characters' "GMC"--Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. Goal is what
the character wants. Motivation is why the character wants the goal. Conflict is
what prevents the character from obtaining the goal. These three items govern
every action your characters make in the story, including deciding to sleep with
each other.
Differentiate the characters' internal conflict (what they are fighting within themselves)
from their external conflict (what they are fighting against in the outside world) so that
both are clear in your mind and separate from one another. One or both of these

conflicts could have an impact on the characters' thoughts and behavior during a sex
scene, so it's important to define the conflicts before you write the scene.
Determine how the sex scene will increase the conflict between the two main
characters. Generally, when two characters sleep together, there's more involved
than sex. Great conflict comes from someone or something at risk. Think about
ways your scene increases the stakes in the story.
Determine how your characters will react to making themselves vulnerable enough for
intimacy. Depending on the internal conflict you've laid out for them, this moment in the
story could be a very big deal.
Crafting the Scene
Visualize the scene in your head, as if you were directing a movie, in order to
write the physical action of the scene, but steer clear of prose that sounds like
"Insert part A into slot B." That's fine for a first draft, while you're choreographing the
stage directions to get the gist of the scene on paper, but it won't work for the final
version. It's too technical and anatomical.
Pick one point-of-view (POV) character for the scene. Do not "head hop" and jump back
and forth between what both people are feeling. That confuses the reader, who is
looking to identify with one character at a time. The second character's POV can be
shown through his actions and reactions during the scene.
Focus on the emotional as well as the physical when writing a sex scene. Write what
the characters are feeling, not just what they are doing. Place yourself inside the
body of your POV character and write from that perspective, not from that of an
observer watching from the sidelines.
Consider where the sex scene fits within the larger plot of your novel. Don't just
plunk it in because you think the characters should be having sex by now. It needs to
flow from the events of the story and from the actions and emotions of the
Think about the timing of the sex scene. Look at what is happening around the
characters. If they're in a suspenseful story and running for their lives, stopping to
have a quickie probably will not make sense.
Consider the setting of the scene. An intimate encounter in a rowboat may sound
interesting, but think about the logistics of it. Is one character getting a plank of wood
shoved in his back? Readers pick up on these details, and if they find your scene
improbable, the rest of the story could lose credibility.
Don't forget dialogue. One of the sexiest tools an author has in her arsenal is
dialogue. What the characters say to each other can be as sexy as what they're
doing together and goes a long way to heating up the scene.

Depicting safe sex and the use of condoms in a sex scene is fine, but avoid being too
heavy handed about it. Weave it in with the other elements of the scene, the actions
and the emotions, so it doesn't jar the reader out of the scene like a public service
Forcing the Issue: Adding Conflict to Your Scenes
By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy
Sometimes I notice my protagonist is following along with the plot and doing what they
need to do, one step at a time, but even though things are problematic, there's no sense
that there's really anything in the way trying to stop them. Sure, it's hard, but they just
need to fight through it to the next step. Stuff's in the way, but it's not opposing them. It's
the literary equivalent of a big action sequence in a movie. It's fun to watch, but it's all
surface problems.
This is when I know I need to add more conflict. Not the "put random obstacles in the
way" conflict, but the deeper, more interesting, "make the choices harder" type conflict.
The external conflicts are pretty easy. They're the big events that force bigger choices.
But the really heart-wrenching stuff, the conflicts that keep readers glued to the pages,
are more often than not the internal conflicts. Because heroes tend to win. You know the
protagonist isn't going to die. Getting locked away is only temporary, because they have
to break out and save they day. As much as we love the exciting external conflicts, they
only carry so much oompf.
The internal ones can be anything. We don't know what a character might do when
faced with an impossible choice. But we can see that that choice is going to have a
strong consequence.
(More on building internal vs external conflicts here)
So, when my protagonist is plowing along, doing what they do, I try to find ways to force
them to do what they don't want to do. I ask myself:
How can I force them to go against their morals/belief system?
This plays off the inner conflicts. If they need to steal a car to save the girl, how can I
make stealing that car involve a choice that would eat at them?
How can I force them to make a choice they really don't want to make?
Maybe there's been something floating around in the story, a theme, a bit of backstory,
some foreshadowing. Or maybe there's a way to showcase a flaw, or a trait that will
matter later.

(More on making tough choices here)

How can I force them to make a bad choice?
This is one of my favorites. Mistakes are great fodder for plot. Protagonists can act, and
that action causes more trouble than they were trying to prevent in the first place. This
works even better if they make the wrong choice because they're try avoid violating one
of their belief systems.
How can I force them to fail?
This one can be dangerous, so be wary of putting your characters in situations that stop
the story. But sometimes failing is an unexpected and compelling path to take. It's not a
setback, it's real failure with real consequences. If those consequences play off an inner
conflict, so much the better.
How can I force them to do something they'll regret?
This works well if what they do early on affects the plot later. A choice they make trying
to avoid one thing, that directly makes things impossible down the road. (Like they take
the easy way out, and that bites them later and turns hard into downright impossible)
Maybe they can see this coming and have no choice but to do it anyway. Maybe they
have no clue what problems they're about to bring down on themselves. Or better
still, they don't, but thereader does.
(More on using choices to craft better plots)
It's easy to throw more "stuff" in the way of your protagonist, but also look at your
scenes and see what mental obstacles you can toss into their path. Not only can that
help deepen your plot, but deepen your characterization and themes as well.
How many conflicts in your novel are tough obstacles vs hard choices? Which do you
find more compelling?
Conflict in a Scene by Hallie Ephron
Conflict for the reader is like salt and pepper for the chef. It's the thing that makes
what's going on more interesting. Conflict allows your characters to show who they are.
Every scene in your novel should have at least some conflict in it. Does that mean that
characters have to yell at each other and fight in every scene? Of course not. That
would make for a strident and ultimately boring novel.
But look at what just a little bit of conflict does for what is otherwise a simple interaction
between characters:
Example 1:
Where are you going?
I need to find my brother.
Example 2:
Where do you think you're going?
Get out of my way. I need to find my brother.

There are only a few words' difference between these two examples, but the second
example is far more dynamic.
Sources of Conflict
Conflict happens when one of the characters meets an obstacle to getting something
she wants. The following table shows examples of conflicts between characters.
Character A
Character B
Wants a piece of information
Needs to keep that information secret
Is exhausted and wants to go home
Wants to stay and party and orders more drinks
Gives the promotion to someone well
Wants a promotion
connected but unqualified
Wants the man to love her
Wants to get the woman into bed
Wants to prove himself by poisoning the Wants to prevent his family from being
water supply
Wants to protect her brother
Wants to prove that the brother is a thief
Conflict can be internal, as when one character seems to shut down and refuse to
connect with another, or pretends that everything is fine when in reality it isn't. Or
conflict can be external, as when two characters disagree or argue or engage in a
chase or a physical fight. A scene is always more interesting and allows your characters
to show who they are if you layer in some conflict.

audience and this blog were a sitcom, thats what youd be saying after you finish
reading this post. Excerpted here from the book Writing the Great American
Romance Novel is Catherine Lanigans advice on writing the love scene. So please be
mature about this and dont squeal too much. If you want to read more of Catherines
advice, you can pick up her book here at Allworth Press. By the way, a few people have
asked me about the photo here and I got it off a Google image search for love
scene. It is a still from the Marlon Brando/Rita Moreno flick The Night of the
Following Day.
In a romance novel, the love scenes are one of the most
critical pieces of writing you will do. Be assured that your audience not only wants these
scenes in the book, but they are paying very good money to the authors who deliver
them well.
Love Scenes and Head Action
The action, dialogue, and pacing in the love scenes are unbelievably important. Again,
you will need to refer back to or keep in mind the sub-genre you are writing.
If this is a spiritual- or religious-based story, your love scene is not going to be graphic
in detail. Your dialogue is not going to hint at anything racy or spicy. You will want to
keep the Victorias Secret underwear in the drawer, but that does not mean that your
characters would be prudes, either. There is nothing more beautiful than the human
No matter what the genre of romance you have chosen, your hero and heroine should
always have respect for each other in bed. Their dialogue will be loving at all times.
They can have fun and kid around, but loving respect is what makes a hero and a
Even in the raciest love scenes you can write, the best part of the scene is what is going
on in the heads of the protagonists.
It is best to break the love scene down into four parts.
First is the kiss.
Second in the love scene is the proposition of sex.
Third is the sexual act.
Fourth is the action after the lovemaking.
The kiss is the most romantic part of the romance. The action, dialogue, and backstory
all lead up to when the hero will kiss the heroine. The next block of action leads up to
when the hero will kiss the heroine again. If youve ever read a Judith McNaught
romance, you know what a great kiss should be like. Judith writes fabulous kissing
In hers and any good kissing scene there is a lot that the characters think about and
react to as they kiss each other.
The kiss is considered by many to be more intimate than the sexual act. The kiss is
sharing, caring, and it is sweet. Your choice of how you want to execute the first kiss
between your protagonists will depend on their character. Should it be quick and
impulsive? Anticipated? Filled with love? Filled with regret? Blatantly humorous?

The options for the kiss are endless.

The kiss is an end in itself. It does not have to lead to anything more than what it is. The
decision for the action of the characters to go beyond the kiss will be determined by the
characters themselves and what the kiss means to them and its placement in their lives.
If you ever saw Last Tango in Paris, the movie set the cinema world on its ear because
two strangers in Paris have sex in the first scene. They dont even know each others
names, but they have sex. The rest of the movie then reveals who these people are. Half
the romance movies ever made and most westerns dont have a kiss until the last scene,
when the cowboy gets the girl and rides off into the sunset with her.
The placement of the kiss then depends on the characters and their
The second part of action in the love scene is the proposition of sex. This can be implied
and it does not have to have culmination to be effective. In the movie French Kiss, the
Meg Ryan character is forced to sleep in the same hotel room as Kevin Kline. For a brief
moment we believe there might be a proposition of sex between them because the
setting itself (the hotel room on the French Riviera) sets us up to believe Kevin will
propose to have sex with Meg.
Instead, Kevin leans over the bed, takes a bed pillow, and then lies down on the couch
on the other side of the room.
In your novel, you could write a romantic comedy by using the proposition of sex being
ever present, but the main characters can never find a place or time to be intimate. The
quest could be hilarious and frustrating, and yet it would finally have to end with the
third part of the love scene structure, the sexual act. During the sexual act itself is when
you must use more than the details of lovemaking to make your story interesting. This is
when you can reveal a great
deal about who your characters really are.
The heroine might be a virgin. If this is her first time to make love, is she married?
Single? Is she in love or just experimenting? Is this a magical experience? Or does she
wish she were shopping instead?
As a general rule, for most of the love making scene you will want to stay in
the heroines head. It is her reaction to him that we are most interested in.
It is through her heart and her eyes that the reader is experiencing the
You will need to have some of the head action be in the heros head, but it should be kept
to no more than a third.
I remember writing a love scene in which I literally split the head thoughts fifty-fifty
between the hero and the heroine. My editor quickly let me know that that was not the
way to do it.
There are times when you might want to have all the head action in the heros head to
garner empathy for him or to reveal elements of his character that he has kept hidden
from the heroine. This is a good place to do it.
The dialogue in the love scene can be funny, moving, loving, tender, and even hot. Never
make the mistake that this is the place for profanity. It will get edited out. I have always
used the rule that if I even use profanity, it should come out of the mouths of the
Most of the dialogue in love scenes is saved for the aftermath. At this point you can have
your hero, if hes a commitment-phobe like Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally, jump

out of bed and race home.

Or, it is a good time for the hero to reveal his deep devotion out loud to the heroine.
There are no hard-and-fast rules about this. Ive heard advice that the hero should never
reveal his love until the very last scenes so that the heroine is kept guessing.
I have also read some great romances in which the hero tells the heroine that he loves
her in the very first pages and it takes the entire book for the two to get together and
finally have a life together. Frankly, this last one sounds like real life, doesnt it?
The structure of the love scene is laid in stone.
The placement of the love scene probably depends on the sub-genre you are writing.
The execution of the love scene is what defines the tone of your work and may be the
yardstick by which your readers measure you.
The love scene is the internal combustion of the romance. Your reader picked a romance
because she expects there to be a romance. If he/she wanted a straight mystery, thats
what they would buy. The love scene is the most difficult scene to write as you move
from your first novel to the tenth. Keeping your dialogue fresh and the action
exciting is challenging, because lovemaking has specific elements and there
are no surprises for the reader. Your choice of vocabulary, the scene setup,
the physical surroundings, and then the characters emotional reactions
after the sex act are what make your work unique and memorable.
For example:
George closed the door with his foot, balancing a tray holding two glasses of
champagne. I brought you something, he whispered to sleeping Janet. Opening her
eyes, she pushed down the cream-colored satin sheet enough to lift her hand. She took
the crystal flute, smiled wickedly, and then pushed the sheet past her naked breasts,
down to her abdomen. Slowly, she poured the champagne between her breasts.
Wanna toast?
This is a cute setup. The dialogue is tight and minimal, but the action is playful and spicy
without being glaringly erotic.
These two characters are familiar with each other and there is no tension.
This could be the last scene of the romance novel we have already written.
Now, lets make the characters more complex. In the following love scene there will be
commitment but no sex. There will not even be a kiss; however, we can see an even
deeper commitment between two strangers than we had in the above scene between two
familiar characters. We have the elements of a love scene in that there is a bed, someone
undressing, playful, sexual banter, and a whisper of devotion.
Brad entered the dingy mountain cabin where Janet sat in the tattered lounge chair
hed owned since high school. She clung to the shadows as if they were safe harbor
I dont have much to drink here. I dont come up here so much anymore. Ive only got
some champagne from last New Years Eve.
Janet pulled up her knees and hugged them as she glanced furtively toward the door.
Itll be flat by now.
No, I didnt have anyone to share it with.
Brad went to the refrigerator and withdrew the champagne, popped the cork, and
poured into two mason jar glasses. He handed one to Janet, who started to drink
Dont you wanna toast?

I dont know you well enough to toast, she said.

He knelt in front of her. I dont understand why those men ran you off the road into
the icy lake. But Im damn glad I came along when I did or you wouldnt be here.
Thank you for saving my life.
Youre welcome, Janet. I dont know what or whom you are running from, but youre
safe now. Ill help you.
What kind of person are you? You cant save me from them. Nobody can. Nobody
We can talk about it tomorrow after you get out of those cold, wet clothes. I have
some flannel pajamas in the bedroom. You can wear those. There are two down
comforters on the bed. Youll warm up in no time.
What about you? Where will you sleep?
With you, of course, he said.
Janet jumped up. Im out of here.
Brad grabbed her shaking arm. Sorry. I was just kidding.
Bad timing.
He led her into the bedroom, gave her the pajamas, and turned down the bed while
Janet changed in the bathroom. When she opened the bathroom door, the light from
behind her shone through her long blonde hair. She looked like an angel in enormous
flannel pajamas.
Theyre too big, she said, nearly tripping on the hems as she shuffled across the floor
to the bed.
You look asleep on your feet, Brad said, holding up the covers for her.
Janet slipped between the sheets. Thanks.
He covered her up as she closed her eyes. Thank you . . . .
Brad sat on the edge of the bed, watching Janet sleep. I didnt save your life; you
saved mine.
The element of the setup that makes the second passage exciting is that it underscores
the deeply psychological belief in most human beings that somewhere, out there,
someone is waiting just for me. Janet and Brad have stumbled onto each other by
coincidence or divine intervention. They did not plan to meet, but they did.
Brad saved Janets life and in that we have a great meet. We also have set up all
manner of plot twists to come. In a few short paragraphs we have established the fact
that Brad finds Janet very attractive. Obviously, even though she is terrified, she
subconsciously finds Brad attractive. He made a cute remark about sleeping together
and though she threatened to leave, she didnt.
This love scene hints at future love scenes between the two. The reader is already
imagining Brad crawling under those two down comforters with a very willing Janet
beside him.
In the above scene we have virtually all action taking place on the surface in dialogue
and physical action. There is no head action going on.
Lets move ahead to a few days later.
Janet stumbles out of the bedroom into the main room, where Brad was sleeping on
the sofa next to the dying fire. The flames flicked crimson and gold light across the
walls like a painter splashes color on a canvas. She hadnt put her fear away long
enough over the past forty-eight hours to really see this man who had saved her life
from her husbands assassins.

Janet wondered what a simple man like Brad would think if he knew she had been
married to a CIA operative and that her life had now been marked by IRA terrorists
who blamed her husband for the death of one of their leaders.
Brad was just an accountant. His wife had left him because she considered him
uninteresting. From the sounds of it, Janet thought his wife was a self-centered,
spoiled brat and that had she been Brad, she wouldnt have hung in there for ten years
with her like he did.
Janet sat on the braided rug next to the fire, where the warmth moved across her back
like a cozy shawl. She reached out to move a thick lock of dark hair from his forehead.
She noticed that he was bare-chested. She also noticed that his arms and shoulders
were well defined and his chest was sprinkled with tufts of dark hair.
Obviously, he worked out quite a bit.
My accountant never looked this ripped, she thought to herself.
At that moment, Brad stirred and rolled onto his side, facing her, and as he did, the
blanket fell away revealing a very flat stomach.
She reached down to touch his chest when suddenly she remembered herself and
retracted her hand.
What am I doing? she whispered to herself and began to rise.
Come back here, Brad moaned, grabbing her wrist and pulling her down on top of
I should go to bed.
Yes, you should, he said as he brought his mouth up to hers.
Janet did not pull away, and let his lips linger over hers for a long time. She
memorized the feel of him and the taste of him and secretly she hoped that he was
doing the same.
Common sense told her not to hope. They had only known each other two days.
His tongue rimmed the outline of her mouth and then sought her interior. She moaned.
Brad held the nape of her neck in his hand and with his left hand on the small of her
back he eased her under him until he was on top and she was cradled beneath him.
His kiss grew intense. Over and over he devoured her mouth as if hed not had any love
for a long, long time. In all her life, Janet had not known passion this explosive.
Though she had loved her husband, hed never been a demonstrative man when it
came to Janet. He saved his passion for his work. He had wanted to save the world.
Janet could already tell that Brad wanted to save Janets world.
This passage has not only the action of the kiss going on, but in Janets thoughts we
discover history about her and her marriage. We hear her heart talking. We
empathize with the empty, nearly icy existence she has led up until now when she has
met Brad.
We have used the symbolism of the icy lake where Janet was drowning to exemplify
both Brads loveless life and Janets loveless life. The fire in the fireplace symbolizes the
passion that has been ignited between the two protagonists.
All of these elements keep the texture of our story rich and help to bring our characters
to life.

o 1
Set up your love scene realistically. Make sure it is true to the tone of your story. Don't
throw in a love scene because you feel you have to, but make sure you work it smoothly
into the plot of your story. Build up to the love scene the same way you would build the
plot of an action thriller. Make sure it happens when it makes sense to the story's plot.
o 2
Create a romantic mood or setting. Determine what will work best for the type of story
you're writing. For instance, if it is a historical romance novel that takes place on a 19th
century French farm, then set the scene in places that will be familiar to the world
you've created: a haybarn or a cottage or woods.

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o 3
Be inventive. Find different ways of expressing the sexual and sensual details of your love scenes. For instance, gardening can be used as a way to introduce a love scene if one of the characters is
a gardener. The character might show her lover how to sow seeds, holding his hand while they dig into the soil. The physicality of the soil and the closeness of both lovers can create an intense
sexual experience that is consistent with the characters and the world they live in. If your characters have a particular interest (cooking, bike riding, skydiving), then find a way to incorporate
those interests into the love scene.

o 4
Focus on the details. Use descriptions that will bring the scene to life. You don't have to pile on the details, but choose ones that will heighten the sexual tension. For instance, describe what the
characters are doing or how they are responding to one another, either through dialogue or physical actions---"She felt his breath on her neck as she plunged her fingers into the dark loam."

o 5
Use the five senses. Let your readers see, feel, hear, taste, and touch what is happening in the scene. This helps build the sensual details that will make your love scenes romantic.

o 6
Use an "objective correlative." Poet T.S. Eliot describes an "objective correlative" as "a set of objects, a stimulation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion, such
that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is evoked." In other words, it is a way to make the abstract (emotions) more concrete. When
your character is experiencing love or sexual gratification, write it in such a way that you show rather than tell how she is responding: "When his lips pressed hard against hers, the blood rushed
in her veins; she felt dizzy and she began to sway in his arms."

Read more: How to Write a Romantic Love Scene |

Ive heard & read various people say that learning how to write a kissing scene in aromance novel can be a real test and prove to be a challenge. I beg to differ from those
authors; writing a kissing scene can be the easiest things to do if you have the ability to visualize and imagine & blend it with experiences of your own.
Without the slightest of doubt, nobody ever forgets his or her first kiss; whether it was good or ended up being a disaster is a whole different thing; either way, you have an experience
you can elaborate & develop as a writer. And for those who havent had their first kissing experience yet, there are many movie flicks and romantic novels to use as guides.

Developing the Scenario for a Kissing Scene

Heres how you start to develop a kissing scene; close your eyes, imagine the setting you want your characters to be in and then bring in all your 5 senses and start visualizing
everything using your sensory perception.

Let the Characters Hear and Borrow Ideas from Surrounding Sounds
Step in to the shoes of your character and think about all the things you are hearing at that very moment. Could it be the thumping of your heart beat if youre in bedroom, could it be
the chirping of the birds and the rustling of the leaves if youre in a garden or surrounded by foliage, could it be the hooting of the train whistle if your characters are at a train station or
could it be the pouring down of the waterfall if youre at a more scenic & natural recluse. Not just the surroundings; imagine the sounds you would hear in the kiss such as the
smooching and the whimpers from your partner.

Kindle Up the Taste Element

Talk about the savory experience the kiss provides to your characters; the taste of her puckered lips and tongue. But what you want to do is make your experience & occurrence unique
with your word choice.

Set the Mood by Improvising on the Visual Details

Visualize all the things your character would see as he or she dives into the kiss; the gloss on her shiny lips, the shyness or craving in her eyes, the trickle of a nervous sweat bead
running down her forehead all the way to her mane. Talk about what your character sees in the surrounding environment before he moves close to his woman; the stillness of the night
blanketed by the moonlight etc.

Explain the Different Sets and Moods of Touch

start envisaging what it feels like for your character as his lips connect with his woman; the rush of goose bumps, the wave of electricity through the whole body etc. Imagine the
intensity that builds up with the passing time; the caress of her hair on your face, the sensation of her fingers running through and groping your hair, your hands around her waist
running up & down her body. Also talk about the role the settingplays e.g. the feeling of the head landing softly against the pillow, the wriggling of the body against the bed sheets, the
sensation of her breath striking your neck.

Bring Up the Smells in an Aromatic Ambience

You want to make the kiss aromatic and an intense experience. Visualize your focal character smelling the fragrance of her silky hair as he runs his nose down her neck, the aroma of
her skin as he traces her jaw line with his nose, the bouquet of the lipstick that layers her lips and the scent of her perfume that sends the focal character in to a trance; lost in that
moment for what seems like eternity.
Be creative, feel free and let go off any reservations that you might have as a reader because it will be your choice of words that will provide an entrancing experience to your readers
and as readers, they deserve the best.


Writing the Love Scene

by Patricia Kay
In this article I'm going to talk about WRITING THE LOVE SCENE and/or SEXUAL TENSION IN A
ROMANCE. This particular aspect of the book is probably the scariest part of writing a romance for MANY
romance writers, whether they're brand new to the genre or whether they've written fifteen or twenty or
even forty romance novels. I know that in most of my books these scenes are the hardest scenes for me
to write not because I'm afraid to write them and not because I have any hangups about writing them, but
simply because they are so difficult. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking a love scene is graphic
images of body parts--with the emphasis on physical reaction rather than emotional reaction.
There's an enormous difference between titillation for titillation's sake and a slow seduction of the
senses, both emotional and physical. As writers, we should strive to make our love scenes tender
as well as passionate--scenes that show the developing love between two people who genuinely
care about one another and want to make one another happy.
Have you ever read a love scene and found yourself scanning to get through it? Worse, have you skipped
it entirely? Worse yet, have you yawned and decided this is a good place to quit reading for the night?
What a disappointment!
How can we, as writers, avoid this pitfall? Well, in the very best love scenes, the ones that have held
me captivated and evoked all those memories of falling in love and being wildly attracted to
someone, the scenes that made me laugh and cry and FEEL, the tension built very, very slowly.
The writer milked the prelude to lovemaking for all it was worth, devoting pages and pages to emotional
and physical foreplay. She kept increasing the tension until just the right moment when the characters
could no longer deny their attraction to one another.
They should tease the reader and make her anticipate what is coming. They should seduce her JUST AS
THE HERO OR HEROINE SEDUCES the other. This slow buildup, this ANTICIPATION is fundamental,
even, I would say, crucial.
The author has a chance to reveal not just the characters' bodies, but their deepest, most intimate
feelings. The best books, just like the best movies, have one thing in common. They do not rely on
titillating the reader with explicit and graphic sex. Instead, whether the stories are "hot" or "sweet", have
explicit sex or don't, take us into the bedroom or not, they involve the reader emotionally. No matter what
is happening to the people in the story, the reader is feeling everything the characters are feeling.

As an audience, whether we're watching a movie or reading a book, we want to care about these people.
We want to be inside their skins, actually living the experience with them.
As a writer, you must put yourself inside the character: see what she sees, hear what she hears, smell
what she smells, feel what she feels. And then you must convey all these thoughts and feelings and
impressions to the reader with your word choices. You must let the reader feel the anguish of your heroine
when the hero accidentally brushes her hand, then jerks away from her as if he can't stand the sight of
her. You must make your reader feel every accelerated heartbeat, every nervous flutter, and every
agonizing moment of uncertainty.
Cheryl St. John, in an article she wrote called "Individualizing Your Love Scenes" says that to make your
love scene unique, it shouldn't be transferable. In other words, you shouldn't be able to cut and paste this
scene from one book to another. Yes, there are only so many ways two people can make love--the
PHYSICAL act of love--but there are thousands of different ways two people can make emotional love.
There should be enough dialogue and/or interaction between the two people involved, enough feeling and
internal narrative to make it absolutely clear that this exchange couldn't possibly take place between any
other two people. Every pair of lovers should have their own chemistry.
I'll never forget when I first learned this. It was during the rewrite of CINDERELLA GIRL, my first book with
Silhouette. Mary Clare Kersten, my editor, told me that there wasn't much of an emotional payoff in the
first, big love scene in the book, and that I really needed to work on it.
During a telephone conversation with a writer friend from Dallas, I mentioned what Mary Clare had said. I
told my friend that I didn't know exactly what to do to increase the emotional intensity and give the reader
a payoff.
My friend said it sounded to her as if I had no conflict in the scene.
"Conflict?" I squeaked. "A love scene should have conflict?"
"Absolutely," she said. She went on to tell me that it was vitally important to remember that a love scene
was like any other scene. It should have a beginning, a middle, and an end and it should have conflict. It
should move the story forward.
"But conflict? You mean, like whips and chains?"
She laughed. "Of course not." She explained that conflict can be subtle or overpowering, but in a love
scene it must be a conflict of emotion, and most likely a different type of conflict in each love scene as the
relationship between the hero and heroine progressed and built toward the crisis. She gave an example:
the hero, out of desperation and self-preservation, refuses to let himself even consider touching the
heroine, despite the emptiness and loneliness he knows he will endure without her. The heroine, equally
desperate and self-preserving, needs his caring touch like sun-parched earth needs rain, and in a wild,
reckless moment, pushes their relationship over the brin and into bed. On one level, neither may WANT
the other one. They may have a thousand reasons why a physical relationship would be disastrous. But
on that deeper, more intense level, they can't turn away from the emotions that drive them. Such
emotions provide conflict, and a riveting love scene that the reader (and editor) can't put down.

Her words were like the proverbial light bulb going off in my head. Suddenly I knew exactly what I had to
do to fix that love scene of mine. Since the theme of CINDERELLA GIRL was control (remember how I
told you about learning what my theme was?) didn't it make perfect sense that during the act of making
love, which is definitely a time when one or both partners lose control, Victoria, my heroine, would be
afraid to let herself go? Couldn't I use this fear of losing control to enhance the emotional
intensity and tension of the love scene? And didn't it also make perfect sense that Dusty, the hero,
would be doing everything in his power to MAKE Victoria lose control, WITHOUT LOSING
CONTROL HIMSELF? Here they would be: two people with opposing objectives--Victoria to keep from
losing control, Dusty to make her lose control. Conflict. Emotional conflict.
Dialogue is a wonderful tool in a love scene. A touch of teasing dialogue can dispel a woman's (or a
man's) nervousness, a bit of tender dialogue can make an awkward moment less awkward, a whispered
endearment can banish fear. Dialogue also helps the author hint at an action without having to physically
describe the action. It can also heighten the sexual tension unbelievably and build some of that
anticipation we talked about earlier.
Making love is inherently awkward. All those naked body parts. The impossible positions. The whole idea.
It can also be embarrassing to think about. A touch of humor can help dispel some of those awkward
moments of taking off clothes, getting into bed, etc. Even in the most emotional, angst ridden scenes, a
moment of humor--perhaps a wry remark--can help lighten the tension, because unrelieved tension can
almost be worse than no tension at all.
The love scene should be unique to your characters and your story. Some writers take us all the
way from the first glance to the last sigh, describing every stop along the way. Other writers close
the door to the bedroom.
Some writers are heavy on imagery and sensory details, others rely on dialogue and humor to carry the
Some writers have intensely emotional love scenes. Others write sexy, fun-filled love scenes. Some
love scenes are naughty and filled with sexual innuendo. Others are tender and sweet and warm. Some
are erotic and make us squirm. Others make us cry or laugh.
It doesn't matter what kind of love scene you write, as long as it is true to your characters and your story.
Only then will it be right.
Some of the best and most sensual love scenes I've ever read contain no graphic words or descriptions
at all. They rely on the imagination, which is more powerful than any play by play account could ever hope
to be.
If you doubt this is true, just think of movies where there is one scene after another showing open mouths,
lots of tongues, lots of body parts--don't you feel mostly embarrassed? As if you're a voyeur watching
something too personal to be shared?

Then think about movies such as my personal favorite, THE BIG EASY? Does anyone remember the big
love scene? Where Remy, the hero, and Ann, the heroine, are in her apartment and they've kissed and
are going to make love? They go into her bedroom, and the next scene shows her sitting up on the bed,
fully clothed, and him laying next to her, his hand under her skirt.
Her head is thrown back, and she's breathless. She says weakly, "Stop that." He gives her a wicked
smile. "Stop what?" he says. "This?" Pause. "Or this?"
Nothing is shown.
Everything is implied.
As a viewer, you are nearly as breathless as she is, because you KNOW what he's probably doing, you
can IMAGINE how it feels, what she is feeling, and what he is feeling. It's absolutely wonderful. Their
dialogue, their expressions, their tone of voice--all are fueling our imagination. The scene is very sensual,
with such impact, that everyone in the audience is probably feeling their toes tingle.
Another favorite is the New Years Eve scene in THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS where the Jeff Bridges
character is playing the piano and the Michelle Pfeiffer character is laying on top of the piano and singing.
Later, when the revelers are gone and the party is over, they are going to make love. They know it and we
(the movie goer) know it. That scene is filled with more sexual tension and eroticism and sensuality than
just about anything Ive seen before or since. Of course, I think Jeff Bridges is the sexiest thing on two
feet, so I could be just a tad prejudiced. <g>
Perhaps you think it's easier to build this kind of sexual tension through a visual medium like the movies,
but I maintain that as writers, we are supposed to be wordsmiths. We should be able to accomplish the
same result with the use of the right words. In fact, we should be able to do it better because the reader's
imagination will come into play more intensely than if she is watching a movie.
Just try to remember: you don't have to tell the reader about every touch, every moan, every contortion of
the hero and heroine to write an effective love scene.
Surprise your reader. Do something different. Something they don't expect. Shock them a little bit.
Remember, romances are supposed to be a little bit of fantasy, something to liven up our ordinary lives,
something to get our imaginations working. In one of my early Special Editions, I had the hero tie a red
bow around a certain body part because hed promised the heroine a present. She liked it. And many of
my readers wrote to tell me they did, too.
Aim for variation and imaginative use of language, but not so imaginative it's laughable, and beware of
over-dramatization. To read a master at original phrasing and imagery, immerse yourself in Nora Roberts'
category books. I don't know how she does it, but she manages to make every love scene fresh and
wonderful and filled with brilliant writing.
Theres not much to say about this. Just keep in mind what I said earlier in this article. Your characters,

like your love scenes, should not be interchangeable. They are unique and the way they relate to one
another should be unique, too.
Just because it's page 160, and your hero and heroine haven't made love yet, doesn't mean you should
panic and throw in a love scene. The reader isn't stupid. The reader knows when you're forcing the
characters to do something they wouldn't normally do. The best thing to do is just write the story the way
you know it should be written. And let the love scene come where it's supposed to come--not dictated by
what page you're on--but by your characters and how they feel. An editor is not going to refuse to buy
your book because your love scene doesn't appear until the end.
Case in point: my June, 1995 Special Edition called THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. This book is about best
friends. The entire conflict revolves around the fact that Jenny, the heroine, realizes she's fallen in love
with her best friend, Simon, and he's blind and dense and clueless (in other words, a typical man). He
can't see what's right under his nose. Now in a story like that, you can't have them falling into bed
together. It's totally out of character and completely wrong for the story. So I knew up front that the only
love scene would come in the last chapter, but I also knew I needed some reason to have them kissing
and touching, or else how was Simon ever going to discover that he had more than feelings of friendship
for Jenny? I came up with the perfect answer. A way to have them in each other's arms and a way to
intensify the sexual tension to a fever pitch before they ever go to bed together.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, in my December, 2000 Special Edition, WEDDING BELLS AND
MISTLETOE, there was a love scene in the Prologue, because what happened between the hero and
heroine when they were kids is what drove the plot and gave me a story to tell in the first place.
Ultimately, the story and the characters should dictate when, where, how, and what kind of love scene
should take place

Why Dialogue Is So Importantby Christie Craig and Faye Hughes
While novels are divided into paragraphs, scenes, and chapters, your words belong to one of two categories: dialogue or narrative. You will probably never hear a reader complain that she would have loved
more narrative from an author. While both are needed to build a novel, the narrative is considered the passive component, while the dialogue is the going places component.

Conversation is the communication between two or more people. While dialogue is words spoken between your characters, the real communication in dialogue is between the writer and the reader. When
you place quotation marks around words, it's as if you are saying to the reader, Pay attention; this is important.

Readers not only expect dialogue, they demand it. One of the first things a potential reader will do in a bookstore is to open a novel and check for the white space on the beginning pages. A lot of white
space generally means a lot of dialogue. Readers are no dummies; they know if written correctly, more dialogue means a faster pace and more conflict. White space is a good thing.

A word of caution for those writing historicals: your dialogue will need to be written to reflect the time period. Readers are very savvy about their favorite time periods, so be aware of the words and speech
patterns of the era you have chosen for your novel.

The reader also assumes that if characters are talking, something worth talking about is happening. In real life, you make small talk; you may discuss the weather, and exchange pointless chitchat. Not so in
your novels. If readers wanted casual chatter, they would pick up the phone and call their aunt who talks too much about nothing. In fiction, dialogue has a job to do. And if your dialogue can do double duty,
that's even better.

Dialogue Shows Character

You've heard the adage, You are what you eat. When considering dialogue and your characters, you might say, They are what they speak. The words that come from your characters' mouths will tell the
reader who they are. Well-written dialogue can also give the reader information about other characters. Here's an example:

Picking up a five-pound catfish she'd caught from the lake that morning, Thelma Baits slapped it down on the cutting board and grabbed a knife. People around these parts are known for being friendly, Mr.
Nelson, but we don't beat around the bush.

She lopped off the fish's head and tossed it into the sink. I'm plum grateful that you want to protect us and all, but I ain't impressed that you walk into my home dressed like some big-city doorman and
talking with those high-dollar words. My niece has already been hurt by your kind once. You lay a pinky on that girl, and I'll skin your well-dressed ass just like I'm skinning tonight's supper.

Every piece of dialogue spoken by your character is an opportunity for your reader to get to know your character. Dialogue gives the reader information about where your character is from, hints at their
education level, and shows what the character cares about.

Dialogue Moves the Plot Forward

Dialogue keeps the story moving. Instead of telling the reader what's going to happen next, let the reader learn it through dialogue. For example:

Ashley stormed up to the desk clerk. I'm here to see Mr. Logan.

You must be Ashley. The man reached into the desk, rustled with some papers and then handed her an airline ticket. Mr. Logan said to tell you that if you wanted to talk to him, you'd be there before

Ashley stared at the ticket, then blinked, her fury brought tears to her eyes.

That egotistical ba She bit off her last word. He seriously thinks I'll fly to freaking Paris to see him?

The man half-smiled. Yeah, and what really chaps my ass is that he's generally right.

Dialogue Sets Up the Conflict

Good dialogue can introduce the conflict and get a story rolling with a bang. What can someone say to your character, or your character say to someone else, that can set the conflict in motion? Here's an

Detective Brit Hansen hailed the cab, glanced at his watch, and jumped into the backseat. He friggin' couldn't believe he'd overslept. Airport. He slapped the seat.

The man looked over his shoulder. You not listen to the news? He spoke with a heavy accent.

Forget the news, Brit said. A woman I already don't deserve is waiting on me and I'm an hour late. Drive.

The man frowned. Ah, Seor, airport is closed. Men with guns. And police say maybe they have bombs. This country, it get as bad as my own.

Dialogue Helps Create Sexual Tension

Whether it's pillow talk, flirting banter, or whispered promises of seduction, dialogue can up the sensual heat of your romance. For example:

Beth looked up from her menu at her brother's best friend. Do you see something you want?

Tom's bedroom eyes crinkled around the corners with his smile. I do. But what am I going to have to do to talk you into it?

The heat in his gaze felt like summer sun on her skin. She leaned in so only he could hear her words. I'm not going to bed with you.

He leaned in closer, his lips a breath away from hers. So I guess the double-decker banana split is out, too?

Don't be afraid to have fun with your dialogue. And do let the tone of your book be reflected in your characters' speech. If you're writing a romantic comedy, use the dialogue to make your readers laugh. If
you're writing a drama, use the character's words to bring a tear to your reader's eyes.

Dialogue Creates Suspense

Good dialogue always creates questions in your reader's mind. When a reader is wondering what will happen next, it's called suspense. Every book, be it a romantic suspense or a romantic comedy, needs
suspense. The reader's urge to turn every page is fueled by suspense she has to know what will happen next. Dialogue can create suspense in different ways.

By stating a question that the reader should be wondering. For example: If Harry didn't try to kill her, then who did?

By having a character say something so surprising that the reader must read on to see how the others characters will react. For example: I did something terrible today. Mary dropped on her sister's sofa.
I I had a big fight with my boss and I left work and broke into his house and then I

You what? her sister asked.

I kidnapped his goldfish.

Dialogue can create suspense by showing a character's unwillingness to talk about something. The reader will start to wonder what it is that this character does not want to talk about. For example: His mom
walked into the room. Melissa called twice today. Do you know what she wanted?

Yeah. David stood and walked over to the bar.

So what was it? his mom queried.

He could feel her watching him. What was what? David feigned ignorance and opened the bar cabinet.

What was it that Melissa wanted?

Did you hear about the accident that happened down the block?

Avoid the everyday pleasantries in your stories. Routine exchanges as in: How are you? Fine, thank you are boring. Common greetings, introductions, chitchat, may be needed in life, but not in fiction.
Dialogue is supposed to sound real, but not be real.

Dialogue: When People Talk, Readers Listen

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