Tips for Writing Scenes that Steam & Sizzle

Romance is always a feature in my writing, because I love love in all shapes and sizes. This isn’t always physical romance, but let’s just say I’m trash for whenever things get spicy. To wrap up my romantic February, I’m talking all about love scenes.

Believe it or not, writing a good love scene isn’t all that different that writing a good fight scene or action sequence. In both instances, you will bore or lose your reader if you rely too heavily on stage directions and describing the motions of A to B.  

We’re about to get lucky with these seven tips for love scenes!

1. Know your genre

Depending on which genre you write in, your romantic scene might look a bit different. For middle grade, you’d most likely draw the line at a kiss. YA tends to take things further… all the way further! However, if sex happens, the story will often “fade to black” prior to showing all the dirty details. New Adult (NA) and Adult fiction have pretty much no restrictions on what can be shown, but keep in mind the difference between buddy romance and erotica.

2. Give the steam purpose

Nothing in the book should be there without servicing the plot. No matter how artful a love scene is crafted, it will leave the reader with confusion or discomfort if the scene is plopped in there without much reasoning behind it. This is similar to killing off character’s for shock value.

Do this test: if you remove the love scene, does the story change? If the answer is no, or yes but not in a way that is necessary, consider either cutting it. Or look at your story structure and explore how and why a love scene would fit. 

3. Readers care about characters

A sex scene has little to do with the actual sex. What it has to do with is the direct impact on the characters. When it comes to  passions of the heart, it is a physical, mental, and emotional experience.

If you are building up to a romantic love scene, the more you invest in the relationship of the characters, the bigger the payout. This all comes from backstory, mannerisms, interactions building upon one another, motivations, etc.. Well-developed characters will cultivate satisfying love scenes.

4. Show Don’t Tell!

Wow, I’m starting to sound a bit mechanical. So, I’m going to try to mix it up on how I go over this golden rule of writing once again.

Show don’t tell is an important rule to follow. While you can get away with telling in some other points in your narrative, the love scene is not the time. Create a tapestry of sensual experience by playing with the reader’s five senses. Draw an environment and pull the reader in. Play with pacing, stakes, and drama all you’d like, but give the reader a vivid portrait to step into.

5. Delay the gratification

Who doesn’t enjoy being teased? (please don’t answer that in the comments). Good writing stirs on tension, and every scene should have some sort of conflict. The character should have a goal and have to work to achieve said goal. If you make it too easy, the reader is going to view the romantic moments as weak or cheap.

Write using romantic restraint. Do this by creating believable reasons to why your characters fall in love, but let those reasons come out gradually.

Remember that every time you build up and then back away, the pay-off increases bit by bit.

6. Read between the lines

Sometimes it is an unspoken tell, the subtlety of an interaction, or the quiet pining that can really ramp up a romance. Guide your reader’s imagination by implying what you want for them to visualize, but you don’t have to go right out and say it. There is power in the unspoken word.

Inaction can speak louder than action, and so don’t be afraid to leave some things obscure or to deny the reader a few tid-bits.

7. Keep things Intimate

You might be thinking… “duh, isn’t that the whole point?” But what I mean here is to keep things emotionally intimate, and this plays on vulnerability and an exchange of emotions.

This is done when the love scene is used as a turning point. The characters open themselves bare to one another and are possibly taking a risk. Either way, they won’t come out of the love scene the same way they went into it, in either a major or small way.

If you found this post useful, let me know in the comments below. Message me with any content you would like to see in the future!

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