Hold on a second. Before you start that mental bowchickawowow, let me elaborate. I want to talk about writing love scenes—writing romance—not scenes that involve “making love”. Despite what the media would like you to believe, there is a difference. 

But Carrie, not all NA is romance!

Yeah, I get that. But most genres incorporate a romantic relationship of some sort, so on with the tips! ;)

1. First, we should always do our best to establish three-dimensional characters outside of the romance. This potential relationship can’t be the only thing going on in their lives, if we’re going to become invested in their happiness. Right? Let them grow to complement each other.

2. Fictional love stories, like their “real life” counterparts, should have highs and lows. I remind myself of this by typing SOS whenever I’m stuck—a.k.a. setbacks, obstacles, and sacrifices. They’re the things that ground us in reality, before we’re swept off of our feet.
  • Example of an obstacle: One-half of our happy couple is in a position of authority over the other one. Uh oh...
  • Examples of a setback: There’s a huge misunderstanding.
  • Examples of a sacrifice: He’s ready to give up his job, the one thing he’s concentrated on for five years, to be with his love interest. Can they find a loophole before it’s too late?
*Dramatic pipe organ*

3. Avoid insta-love—you know, that instantaneous connection between two characters. Suddenly, they’re just... enamored and willing to risk everything for this stranger. It’s puppetry. There’s no depth to those feelings. Most readers roll their eyes. Next!

4. Don’t underestimate the power of reluctant relationships—the kind where both people start off wanting something completely different. She may have impossibly high standards, and he may hate the idea of commitment. But something happens, their paths cross, and suddenly these two stubborn characters are on a collision course with fate. We see that. They don’t. And it’s fantastic.

5. You’ve heard of “show, don’t tell,” right? Let’s take that one step further and concentrate on action over declaration. People get spooked when you blurt out “I love you” too soon. The same thing goes for books.

Let things start off subtle. Someone’s expression changes, they run their fingers through their hair, they angle their body a certain way. Then we get into those not-so-subtle cues—they stick up for the other person in a confrontation, they go out of their way to help them, they make the move to kiss them, etc. Dropping these little hints before we get to the actual romance helps keep things believable. Plus, it magnifies the build-up to later scenes... ;)

So, tell me. What do you like in your love scenes?

P.S. Remember the massive NA survey I did? I’m working on “prettying up” the results now, so keep an eye out this winter. I think you’ll find the information very interesting...

Post a Comment

  1. what do I like in a love scene? the bowchickabowbow!! and top hats. yes. top hats. I am not one to enjoy a instant love connection or one where I know in the end they will be in love. I want them to throw me for a loop, make me sweat a little, and then enjoy a cold shower afterwards... just saying.

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    1. No one can blame you there, Tammy. Top hats make everything better!
      (Except for that cold shower...)

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  2. Excellent tips, Carrie. I think the key to writing realistic romance, as with writing realistic characters, is to have relatable real life emotions and experiences,

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    1. Thanks, Clare! And I agree completely. :)

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  3. I didn't attempt any kind of romantic relationship until my second book, but reluctant and subtle definitely worked best for me.

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    1. I can't wait to read about it! I have the Cassa-books waiting for after I wrap up the Mark of Nexus series. I'm going to be binge reading as a reward. ;)

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  4. Great tips! Seriously, enough with the instalove and unbelievable character actions and behaviors.

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    1. Thank you, Julie! :) And yes, down with insta-love!

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  5. I really liked this, Carrie! I think my favorite thing in a love scene is when the guy begins to show his affection - not say it. Like an affectionate smile or their hands brushing. The little things. :)

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    1. Thanks, Summer! I'm the same way. Little things spark our imaginations. :)

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  6. Great tips. I totally agree on the instant love. I'm not a fan of them. Also I like the stories better when the characters have other things going on besides the romance to make them fuller characters like you suggest.

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    1. Thank you, Natalie! It sounds like we're both fans of the intricacies within a love story. :)

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  7. My favorite part of romantic relationships are those earlier scenes, when a body movement or a slight action indicates that one of the characters is really interested in the other, but he/she just doesn't know how to make a move, quite yet. I think it really increases the tension and fun :)

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  8. All good tips! I like the stage 2 wooing, where the two people have shown small signs of interest, but they are sort of playing cat and mouse still.

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    1. I love how you phrased that, Catherine! :) Thank you!

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  9. Great tips, Carrie. I love all the highs and lows in romance. Keep up the tension, and you keep the reader hooked until the end when, hopefully, there's a happily ever after. :)

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  10. No magic solutions, things going wrong then going right for no reason is just plain stupid in any kind of scene. I like relationships with obstacles and if leads to happiness or tragedy in a sensible way (or not, as long as it matches the story), then I'm okay with that. Insta-love rarely works, you have to know how to draw in the readers and most writers sadly can't. Most books like these are saved by the deeper story line (if there is one) more than the romance.

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    1. Good point, Sheena-kay! It reminds me of the (musical) commentary from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. The opening dialogue goes something like:

      "And we've resolved all our problems!"
      "Just like that? I thought you all--"
      "We have three seconds left. Everybody be happy."
      "Yay!"

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  11. Carrie, this such a bookmark-worthy post! You handled the whole misunderstanding concept brilliantly in COURAGE.

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    1. Aww, thank you, Faith! That means so much to me. <3

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  12. Yes. I'm not a fan of insta-love. That's more like LUST.

    I bookmarked this post, as I'm working on this aspect of my writing repertoire (which is sorely lacking)

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    1. Yes! Thank you for drawing that distinction, Jay. :)

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  13. Agree with Jay. Books with instant attraction and rocket-fuel-powered love scenes can be thrilling to read, but when you get to the end, the HEA kinda leaves you empty, because you look back and realize most of the attraction was lust. The couple is making plans for the future, but what is it really based on?

    (The evil side of me wants to tell the author to try writing a sequel, when the leads are old and the sex isn't so good anymore. LOL)

    Great post, Carrie. Love the SOS thing. I'm gonna jot that down somewhere. :)

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    1. I know exactly what you mean about the HEA leaving you empty. It's such a disappointment!

      LOL! I can only imagine receiving a review like that, and the visuals that would follow...

      Thanks, Melissa! :)

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  14. Very good tips here! Love this post, and how I thought it was about something that happened to turn into something else. The trickery! *shakes fist* ;)

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    1. *Grins* You heard the bowchickawowow music, didn't you?

      Thanks, V!

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  15. I love these tips. I'm working on love stories now and I openly admit that I have NO IDEA what I'm doing. It's not something I'm used to writing. So, thank you for these!!

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    1. You're very welcome! :) Thank you for the compliment!

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  16. Ah yes, the insta love. Usually when this happens I think I've slept-read through the build up, but when I flip back I realize I haven't.

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    1. Yes! Same here. Then I'm like, "Really?"

      Out loud.

      To the book... LOL

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  17. SOS all the way! I love it when love comes softly--when it sneaks up and shakes the characters by the throat.

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    1. Hah! Yes, I love it when love shakes someone by the throat. ;)

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  18. Excellent tips. Don't tell anyone, but I'm guilty of not being able to finish 50 Shades for the very reasons you outline. I couldn't connect to either one of them. Besides, it's too difficult reading if you're continually shaking your head. Right.

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    1. Don't tell anyone, but me neither... ;)

      Thanks, Joylene!

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  19. I love these tips. They make a ton of sense. :-)

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  20. I'm writing my first novel with lots of love scenes, and your advice is so helpful right now. I want to do this right! Thanks for the advice. I just physically tacked "S.O.S." to my Right Way to Write wall so I see it as I go along.

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    1. Awesome! You are very welcome. :)

      Good luck!

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