Writing love scenes that sizzle

Love is in the air, this Valentine’s Day, but fortunately for the survival of the species, it’s not restricted to Feb 14.  As writers reflecting the breadth of life experience, we may be called upon to write love scenes. If the nominees for Literary Review’s Bad Sex Award are anything to go by, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. So The Crafty Writer asked steamy romance writer Pollyanna Williamson for some hot tips.

Contrary to what most people believe, it is difficult to write a good love scene; writing in deep point of view and using the right combination of words so the reader feels what the character does emotionally and physically.

Elements for writing a good love scene

What are the elements for writing a love scene that makes the pages sizzle? Know your characters and their GMC: goal, motivation and conflict. The outlook of a character who grew up alone without a mother or family to care for him is going to be different from a heroine who grew up in a loving family. When you have a hero that has been aloof and finally opens up and shares the tender part of himself with the heroine, that’s a big moment.

What does he/she have that completes the person that no one else has done before?

The types of words used when writing a love scene are important. They are descriptive and affect the senses: warm and hot, fluid, enticing, silky, wild, dangerous and primal. Cold words have the opposite effect: icy stare, cold lump in the stomach, brisk, chill of apprehension.

Here’s an example if the hero were a contemporary cowboy and the heroine sees him for the first time:

Kendra clutched the strap of her portfolio in a white-knuckle grip as her mouth went dry at the sight of her husband-to-be. This was her first look at Jake Grant, the man she agreed to marry for six months. She needed his protection and the solitude of his ranch, he needed her money.

Her heart sped up as he picked up another bag and tossed it on top of the others in the truck. Heat blossomed on her cheeks and it wasn’t from the Texas sun. It was because of him. Jake. Instead of dreaming of a knight-in-shining-armor, she fantasized about a cowboy in a black hat riding with her off into the sunset.

She licked her lips. Could she keep her distance and stick by their agreed upon hands off policy? Everything was so much easier when they spoke on the phone, when she hadn’t seen him.

A stampede of longhorn cattle was about the only thing that could pull her gaze away from this man. His sweaty, gray cotton t-shirt clung to his body, outlining his rippling muscles. He stopped and lifted the edge of the material to wipe the glimmering sheen of perspiration dotting his brow.
Tanned skin, a sculpted torso…

If seduction had human form it would be Jake Grant. A slow smile lifted her mouth as she stood in the shadows. Anything could happen in six months…even love.

Physical and emotional

In the example, we can see and feel the heroine’s reaction to Jake. Can you see how I used heat in the example to tie everything together? It’s internal and external. You know when Jake and Kendra do interact sparks will fly.

Remember, making love is more than physical, it’s emotional. The characters are emotionally and physically bare. Vulnerable.

Crossing the line

A relationship is something that complicates the hero and heroine’s lives and having sex makes the situation between them worse. Once the line is crossed, the dynamics between the couple are taken to another level. You must show the emotional as well as the physical side once the couple crosses the line of intimacy. How does it affect the characters and their future? Are the risks worth the price of becoming intimate?

The consummation

There might be a variety of reasons they consummate their relationship:

  • Intense attraction
  • Loneliness
  • Anger/Fear/Revenge
  • Power/Control
  • Magic (fantasy, paranormal romance)

The real key to writing love that sizzles is knowing your characters and making the love scene part of their character growth arc and part of the plot. Just as in real life, we deal with the consequences when we choose to make love.

Notice I keep saying make love, not sex. It may start out as sex but as the feelings between the hero and heroine grow, their point of view changes.

Beware of formulae

There is no formula for romance. Word count is a big factor. If you’re reading a Harlequin/Silhouette (category romance) it may look like there is a formula but there isn’t. You have a certain amount of pages for the story where pinch points, midpoint, darkest moment all fall within the guidelines. As a writer targeting this publisher I’ve done my homework.

Writing to genre

Science fiction, fantasy and Westerns all have certain aspects that readers expect and love. Romance fiction is no different, and in this genre “happily ever after” is the most important.

Pollyanna Williamson writes as bestselling authors Tambra Kendall and Keelia Greer. Her most recent story, Cowboy of the Night, is a paranormal love story about a vampire cowboy.

Related posts:

  1. Writing Romantic Suspense – When Love Gets Mysterious
  2. Writing for children: sex, love and romance
  3. Romance fiction: more than just sex

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3 comments on “Writing love scenes that sizzle

  1. Pingback: Just Write Blog Carnival February 20, 2009 Edition | Incurable Disease of Writing

  2. Charalynn on said:

    I would love your feedback on my written work. I am an amature romance writer myself, and could use an honest opinion about my pieces.
    Thank you,

  3. Fiona Veitch Smith on said:

    Dear Charalynn,

    You can contact me regarding feedback on your work through the contact form on the menu. Note this will be a paid-for professional service. Please tell me the number of words you would like to be critiqued and I will give you a quote.


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