Part of an actual conversation yesterday:
Me: "Well, I'd better go. I've just combined two love scenes and I'd better make sure everything makes sense and the hero doesn't sound like some kind of sexual gymnast."
Now, I'm sure there are readers who would be thrilled to death if my hero was some kind of bedroom gymnast, but what I was really getting at was that I didn't want the reader scratching her head and thinking, "What? Where? How in the world...?"
Speaking of love scenes, here's a version of a handout I use if I'm giving a workshop on this particular subject. If anybody wants to use this in an RWA chapter newsletter, or anywhere else, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may want to, you know, revise it. (And copyright applies.)
Also, I'm not talking about sexual tension here -- that should be throughout the entire story, from the moment the hero and heroine meet. I'm talking about scenes of sexual intimacy.
AS IN ANY SCENE, a love scene should:
1. Move the story forward
2. Reveal character (and I'm not talking about their bodies)
How does a love scene move the story forward?
How has it upped the stakes in terms of the rest of the plot? The romantic relationship between your characters should be altered by the physical intimacy of making love. For instance, has it brought them closer together, made them more "us against the world?" Or has it added to their woes? (Possibly both!)
How does a love scene reveal character?
By demonstrating how your characters behave when they are alone with each other. There is nobody else to influence their behavior.
Does a supposedly arrogant, selfish man behave with unexpected tenderness? Does a woman determined to refuse his advances discover that all her preconceptions about a man have been wrong?
How many love scenes do you need?
There is no rule or formula for the number or placement of love scenes in any romance. It's up to the author to decide that, and then determine what publisher would be most likely to want that sort of story. If you really enjoy writing love scenes, try to think of characters and a plot that allow for more. If you don't, the opposite applies.
Eight Tips for Writing Love Scenes
1. Where are the characters in terms of the overall relationship -- the beginning, the middle or the end?
2. How comfortable are the characters with each other?
3. How is making love going to change the direction of the relationship between the characters and where is it going to go afterward?
4. What's the mood of the characters at the beginning of the scene? What has just happened to them? Are they relieved, happy, anxious?
5. The setting -- where are they? What kind of place? Furnishings? Time of day? Lighting? Think of the five senses. Bring as many into play as you can.
6. Don't neglect dialogue.
7. Don't reach too far for interesting, new descriptions of body parts or sensations or you run the risk of sounding ridiculous and yanking the reader right out of your story.
8. Try not to envision your mother or other relatives reading your love scenes. You are a fiction writer creating a story about two people distinct from yourself and this is one part of the process.
How I wish interviewers and other people with the "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" reaction to discovering I write romance would realize that last point!