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...