Whether writing about sweet first kisses or passionate embraces, here are five tips and tricks to make your love scenes sizzle…
1. Turn up the tension from the get-go
Just like any real-life love affair, it’s not all about the destination – half the fun is getting there. When developing a romantic relationship in your novel, remember to build tension over time, from the first encounter all the way through to the fireworks. That way, when hearts finally collide, the reader is just as invested in the romance as the characters.
Which brings me to point number 2…
2. Let the relationship progress naturally, whatever pace that may be
Every relationship is different. Every Antony has his own baggage, every Cleopatra her own insecurities, every Bonnie and Clyde, their own romantic pace. Some characters fall in love instantly, while others burn hotter over time. Some are inhibited by fear, others jump in feet first.
Don’t force a love scene. Let the story guide you.
If the characters aren’t feeling it, you can bet your reader won’t be either.
3. Reveal character – no sauce for the sake of being saucy
You might have an Ice Queen who’s cold and distant on the outside, but when you get her alone with her flame she melts like a marshmallow (Frozen 2, perhaps?). Alternatively, Mr Prim and Proper who always plays nice in the boardroom might break all the rules behind closed doors (yes, I mean you, Mr Grey).
Love scenes are an amazing opportunity to reveal character and show an alternative side to your Juliets and your Romeos. It’s also a good way to expose the underlying motivations of characters – motivations they otherwise work hard to conceal.
Spies have been utilising the age-old art of pillow talk for centuries to acquire classified information. You should use it too.
4. Don’t get caught up in play-by-play action
There’s nothing worse than a love scene that reads like a how-to manual – “She touched him here, he caressed her there, and then they kissed…” and so on and so on.
Show the reader what’s going on inside Rhett’s head. Describe what Scarlett is feeling. Examine the way Tristan and Isolde’s encounter changes everything between them.
Teleport your reader into the story by describing sounds, smells, tastes.
Remember, a really good romantic interlude evokes the senses and explores emotions.
5. Read novels by authors who do it well
Everything you need to know about writing love scenes you can find on the pages of your favourite books. So dig up that romance novel you adored as a teen and that steamy suspense that kept you up all night, and study the art of composing love scenes.
Your bookshelves are a treasure trove of writerly wisdom.
Some of my favourites for sweet kisses are the works of Maggie Stiefvater and GJ Stroud (you read her extract last week, right? PURE love scene magic right there!). For steamier scenes, I definitely recommend Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I have to admit, I also have a soft spot for anything penned by Johanna Lindsey (the first romance novel I ever read was Silver Angel). Although, be sure to keep in mind, the kind of writing readers enjoy changes over time. Techniques that may have been popular back in the 80s and 90s, may no longer hold the same appeal.
Do you have a favourite author who composes loves scenes as potent as Cupid’s arrows? Be sure to share them with us below…