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February 13, 2020

Boring Love Scene? 3 Pitfalls to Avoid — Guest: Roni Loren

Couple embracing in nature with text: Three Love Scene Pitfalls - Guest Post By Roni Loren

No matter our genre, at some point in our career, we might need to write depictions of intimacy. Almost any genre can include a love interest, which might mean a love scene is in order (even if it’s light on the sex aspect).

I’ve written before about how to get over our dread and write sexy scenes for our stories as well as how to decide the “right” level of intimacy for our story. But just because we’ve accepted the need to write love scenes doesn’t mean that we know how to write them well.

In fact, the Bad Sex in Fiction Award calls attention to the many ways our love scenes can go wrong, leaving readers to just skip those scenes. Not good. A reader skipping pages isn’t immersed in our story and might even close the whole book.

Luckily, contemporary romance and erotic romance author Roni Loren is here to help us. Roni is a NYT bestselling author and expert at writing love scenes with emotion and sexiness—seriously, check out her phenomenal The Ones Who Got Away series, including the latest The One For You—and today she’s sharing tips to improve our sexy scenes, regardless of our scene’s style or level of intimacy. (And stick around to the end of the post to get an exclusive discount for her class!)

Please welcome Roni Loren! *smile*

*****

How to Write Love Scenes

by Roni Loren

When people find out I write contemporary romance (or even more shocking, that I also write erotic romance), their minds usually jump straight to one thing. No, not the love story…the love scenes.

Non-romance readers assume there will be heaving bosoms and love swords and visits to “gardens.” That’s what has made romance novels the butt of jokes for ages, right? It’s not because romances are about love, but it’s because they include sex and are written and read mostly by women. Women writing sex. Let’s all clutch our pearls, y’all.

So, when I’m writing love scenes in my books, I’ve always been particularly determined to make them great. I want to show the haters and skeptics that sex scenes in novels can be well-written, crucial to the character and plot development, and *insert adjective here* fun/exciting/meaningful/beautiful/sexy/sad/joyful/combative/revelatory/funny—whatever is needed for that particular story and for those particular characters can be done in a well-written love scene.

Well-Written Love Scenes Aren’t Gratuitous

Love scenes are scenes. They should serve a purpose for the story like all your other scenes should. (And what should a scene do? Move the story forward and/or change or reveal something in your characters. Preferably both.)

If you take the love scene out, the reader would lose something important to the story. (Otherwise, you don’t need it.)

So, it hurts my writer heart a little when I’m reading an otherwise well-written book and then the love scene is terrible. It’s like a record scratch in my head. I can just hear those romance dissenters being like “See, see, we told you. Look, there’s a love sword and the word moist. Romance novels are junk.”

However, Love Scenes Can Be Difficult to Write Well

But the truth of the matter is that writing a good love scene can be hard. *insert puns and snickers here*

They can be scary to write. They can be difficult to choreograph on the page. (Where’d that third hand come from?) They can push you out of your own comfort zone. They can make you worry that your dad/mom/grandfather is going to see it and think you’re writing an autobiography.

It’s a lot to think through—and should be. Love scenes are pivotal scenes in a love story and are important to get right.

Don’t Give Up!

Which is why when I started putting together online classes, I knew I needed to dedicate one to writing great love scenes. I’d been giving this class at conferences for years in person, but now it was time to make it available to anyone who was interested in writing better love scenes—romance writer or not.

Do your story's love scenes feel skippable? @RoniLoren shares 3 tips to fix them Click To Tweet(Love scenes can show up in almost any genre.) Steamy romance writer or sweet romance writer or anywhere on the spectrum of heat level. (Love scenes don’t always mean sex.)

So, if you’re a writer who has struggled with love scenes and would like to get better at them or if you’re a writer who would like to try their hand at writing love scenes but don’t know where to start, I hope you’ll check out my online class How to Write Love Scenes That Readers Won’t Skip. I’m on a mission to eradicate bad love scenes, lol.

I’ll put the details at the end of this post along with a special coupon for Jami’s readers, but I wanted to give you a little snippet so you can get an idea of what we cover in class. In one section of the class, we go over a list of things to determine why your love scene isn’t working.

3 Love Scene Pitfalls to Avoid

Here are three to consider if you find your love scenes are falling flat.

Pitfall #1: Insufficient Character Motivation for the Scene

We writers love our GMC structure (goal, motivation, conflict), but many times we forget to carry those over into the love scenes. Your characters need to have a logical motivation to answer the question “Why now?”

Why are they having this love scene now? Has something changed—feelings, circumstances, new knowledge? Do they have a certain goal in mind? (“I need to get this guy out of my system.” Or “I finally trust this person and want to show him how I feel.” Or “The aliens are coming and the world is ending and I want to kiss her before we die.)

It can’t just be because “well, this is a steamy romance and it feels like it’s about time for some sexy times.” The reader will feel the disjointedness even if they can’t pinpoint why.

So make sure the motivation is present and clear. (I also talk about conflict in love scenes in the class, but that’s too much to get into in a blog post.)

Pitfall #2: Nothing Changed in the Characters or Story

Remember what I said earlier about love scenes being a scene. If the love scene did nothing to move the story forward or change something in one or both of the characters, it was a waste of space.

Make your love scenes do real work for the book. They are not fluff. They are not filler. And if they are, they are going to fall flat.

Pitfall #3: The Writer Was Uncomfortable Writing the Scene and It Shows

Look, I get it. Writing love scenes can feel personal, exposing. You’re announcing to the world that you’ve had this thought, imagined this scene in your head, etc.

You may be afraid people are going to assume you’re writing about your personal life. You may worry your spouse is going to think you’re secretly wanting the hero with the twelve-pack abs instead of him.

What are 3 pitfalls that can doom our story's love scenes? @RoniLoren shares her insights Click To TweetIt’s frustrating that people make assumptions about writers writing love scenes. We don’t assume writers writing brutal serial killers secretly want to murder everyone. It’s imagination, not our personal life.

But if you want to write great love scenes, you have to take on a “to hell with everyone else” attitude because if you’re uncomfortable writing the scene, the reader will feel your discomfort. They will sense you pulling punches or ending a scene quickly instead of paying off all the build-up you’ve created in the story.

(Not to say there isn’t a place for fade to black love scenes. But there’s a time and a place and certain genres for that. I’ll cover that in the class, too.)

That’s just the start of the list of pitfalls, but I hope that gets you thinking more deeply about how to write love scenes.

And if you’re interested in hearing more and taking the class, here are all the details. I hope to see some of you in class!

Thanks for having me, Jami!

*****

How to Write Love Scenes…that Readers Won’t Skip

How to Write Love Scenes...that Readers Won't Skip - February 2020 Class

Class Begins February 22, 2020!

(You can watch it on replay if you can’t make the live presentation.)

Whether you’re writing sweet, sexy, or melt-the-pages romance, no one wants to write love scenes that have readers skimming the pages. Join New York Times bestselling author Roni Loren in an in-depth workshop on writing great love scenes.

Learn how to write different types of love scenes, how to make them memorable and not cringe-worthy, and how to tailor them to your genre or subgenre. You’ll also dig into the components of a great love scene (spoiler: it has very little to do with choreography.) And finally, you’ll learn how to get past any my-mom/dad-might-read-this qualms. It can be done!

Note: This is a workshop for 18+ age group. 

What We’ll Cover:

  • Do you need that love scene?
  • Four different types of love scenes
  • How to write a great love scene
  • Building tension before the big moment(s)
  • Components of a great love scene (digging into topics such as conflict, language, sensory detail, POV, timing, etc.)
  • The Centerpiece Love Scene
  • What will turn a sexy scene cold
  • How to get over my-mother-may-read-this fear
  • Examples including excerpts from books and movie clips will be used to illustrate the concepts.

Format:

  • LIVE VIDEO PRESENTATION — Roni will open the class with a live video and slide presentation (roughly 1.5-2 hours.) This is the full workshop she presents at writing conferences across the country. (The live video call will be via the Zoom app/website. Students will not be on camera or audio, but will be able to use the chat box for questions. The video will be recorded and posted within the class if you can’t make it during the live time.)
  • PRINTABLE LECTURES — The information covered in the lecture will also be broken down and provided in printed lectures that you can download and keep. This will give you the opportunity to go over the information in more detail and at your own pace.
  • OPTIONAL ASSIGNMENTS — Within the lectures, there will be optional assignments to help you work on the skills discussed.
  • LIVE Q+A — Questions can be submitted to Roni throughout the class. At the end of the class session, Roni will do a live Q+A to answer your questions.
  • CLASS DISCUSSION — Within the class, you will have the opportunity to chat with the instructor, your fellow writers, potentially find beta readers/critique partners, and learn from each other.

SIGN UP HERE!

COUPON CODE: You can get 15% off using the code JAMIGOLD by Feb. 22. Class size is limited and will be closed once capacity is reached. (Class is currently half full.)

Happy Writing!

*****

Roni LorenRoni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has.

She holds a master’s degree in social work and spent years as a mental health counselor, but now she writes full time from her cozy office in Dallas, Texas where she puts her characters on the therapy couch instead. She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.

Website: www.roniloren.com

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*****

Thank you, Roni! This is fantastic information that should help prevent cringe-worthy love scenes—a goal that authors and readers both support. *grin*

My favorite insight is your Pitfall #2. A well-written love scene isn’t gratuitous, because the scene has a purpose. It’s showing the fears, growth, or change of the characters, such as when a sexual encounter triggers insecurities (or overcoming those insecurities). Or the scene is pushing the story forward, such as when it leads to a plot or character breakthrough.

With a better understanding of how the usual advice for strong scene-writing applies to love scenes, we can ensure our story’s sexy scenes add to reader satisfaction rather than just interrupt the story. Be sure to check out Roni’s class—and use the coupon code!—to get more tips. *smile*

Have you read bad love scenes before, and if so, what made it bad? Have you read any that fell into one (or more) of these pitfalls? Do you struggle with writing love scenes? Could these tips (or Roni’s class) help you strengthen those scenes? Do you have any questions for Roni?

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Sieran

Great post, Roni! For tips 1 and 2, do they apply to erotica as well? I’m asking this because I’ve been reading some erotica for fun lately. (Don’t judge! XD) From the erotica I’ve read so far, they don’t seem to have much plot logic. Characters may have thoughts, dilemmas, and feelings, which make them more relatable and human for a moment. But then they just have sex anyway, despite how foolish, reckless, or “wrong” it would be. Yet the reader doesn’t care because we’re just reading for the sex scenes. In fact, I find the lack of plot logic quite hilarious in these stories. It’s generally bad for a character to be too stupid to live (or “too horny to live”), but in erotica, they make me laugh. It’s like reading a good satire, if you know what I mean. But then again, I haven’t read THAT much erotica yet, so I don’t know what the norms and conventions, “do’s and don’ts” of this genre are. The classiest erotica I’ve read, is John Cleland’s Fanny Hill. We had to read this book for our Later Eighteenth century novel course in our English program. The prose was amazing and beautiful, but the plot events were still fairly ridiculous. Clearly the author just wanted his characters to have sex. So they’re like plot puppets. Yet, I guess the reader doesn’t care, because we’re reading this book for pleasure, not for intellectual enlightenment… Idk. What is your opinion on this?

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