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Monday, February 23, 2009

Writing Love Scenes from Real Life by Diane Gaston

I'm not going to tell you about MY real life love scenes. Or provide instructions on what-to-do with your real life partner. This blog is not about what happens in the fictional love scene. It is about how it feels.

When reading I often skip love scenes that primarily describe in great detail the physical steps a hero and heroine are taking to achieve bliss. My favorite love scenes are the ones that recreate the feeling of new love or of love restored or love that-looks-like-it-will-be-lost. I want to be inside the character's heads, feeling what they feel. The actual placement of body parts during the scene is less important to me.

This is what you can take from real life--the feelings of the experience.

Think back upon that time of first love or new love. The thrill of seeing your "hero." Think about what it felt like to meet his eyes for the first time or the first touch, the first kiss. Try to bring it all back and think about how your body felt. Was your heart racing? Were you out of breath? Or did you just feel giddy. What was sound like during that experience? Did it muffle or did it become clear and crystaline? Did your skin turn warm at a touch or did you get goosebumps all over? What kind of emotional thoughts went through your mind? This is the man I want to marry perhaps? Or This can't be true? How did your hero smell? Do you remember? Do you remember any time that a smell was associated with your real life love scene? A taste? Think about all your senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste) and use as many as you can in the love scene.

Your real life gives you this information. The challenge is, you need to find fresh words to describe the experience and not rely on the hundreds of love scenes you've read in other romance novels. If you call up your own feelings and think about your own experiences, you will start in a unique place. Once there, you can think about how it would be for your characters. Starting with yourself, though, gives your prose a better chance of being unique.

Someone is going to say, "Not all of us who love reading and writing romance have had those kinds of experiences. What are we supposed to do?"

Even if life has not dealt you that deck of cards, you are still in the game. I'm willing to bet that all of us who love reading romance have conjured up those kinds of feelings somewhere. Maybe fantasizing about a TV or movie star (Gerard Butler. Need I say more?) or a boy at school or a man who rides the same bus to work. I'm willing to bet we've conjured up those feelings from fantasizing about somebody.

Someone else is going to say, "But I count on getting those feelings from the romance books I read, but you said don't use other romance novels...."

What I mean is, don't copy or mimic the words of the other writer, start from your reaction to the words, your fantasy about the characters, your feelings, and go from there.

It is entirely permissible to exaggerate your real life experiences. Or to idealize them. Give fantasy a free rein to go beyond your own world of experiences. We all know that our real life experiences rarely look, sound, and act like larger-than-life fictional ones, but they are the place to start.

What do you think makes a good love scene in a romance novel? What are your tips to keep the writing fresh?

Visit Diane's website to learn about her April Undone, The Unlacing of Miss Leigh, and her April Novella, Justine and the Noble Viscount, in The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor.
Diane also blogs every Monday at Risky Regencies

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At 7:23 AM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

I must say Mary Balogh does this so well! I always end up in tears at some point reading her books and it's because she captures the emotion of the moment and the deepest feelings of the h/h. I was re-reading Slightly Tempted last night and she did this very thing. The love scenes are not so much erotic as a touching of the hearts.

Can you tell I'm totally excited about her new release, First Comes Marriage, tomorrow? :)

Congrats on your Undone, Diane, and The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor sounds wonderful.

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Terry Odell said...

Susan Wiggs. Emotional involvement all the way. Not as much on the page as in your heart.

At 12:02 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

I love a book that uses great dialogue and a little comic relief before or during a love scene. Susan E. Philips does this well. Terry McLaughlin writes great dialogue/banter. The unexpected is fun like when Terry's beta hero pretty much cleared the kitchen table with a swipe of the hand and gave the heroine a great kiss, unexpected and thoroughly enjoyable.

Thanks for the thoughtful post, Diane!

At 12:28 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Gillian, I need to catch up on my Mary Balogh. She is who I want to be when I grow up!

Terry and Theresa, I can't argue with Susan Wiggs and Terry McLaughlin either!

At 2:44 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Great thinking, Diane! You're getting down to the universal core, the parts of our emotions people have in common. When I read a love scene that pulls these same feelings out of me, it's almost overwhelming. I'm happy with extremely sensual love scenes as long as they grasp and use the universal emotions. If not, it's just waving body parts.

At 10:38 PM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

I have to agree about Mary Balogh's love scenes. I love the emotional progression of a love scene. In fact, someone we know well writes a magnificently emotional love scene at the beginning of The Mysterious Miss M. There was nothing tawdry about that scene and the emotional connection just took my breath away.

Lisa Kleypas does the same thing in Devil in Winter the first time Evie and Sebastian make love. The jaded rake is completely blow away by his first encounter with his virginal wife.

I love a good funny love scene too. In fact my hero and heroine's wedding night in Lost in Love starts with him kissing her, seducing her and then promptly tripping over a footstool. He has a tendency to fall over or down and get hurt whenever he is near her.

I think the love scenes that mean the most are the ones where the hero and heroine learn something about each other and about themselves.

At 11:03 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Oh, Louisa, I am so glad you liked that love scene between Maddie and Devlin! You totally got what I was trying to say!

At 7:12 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

I love the humorous touches, too! Lost in Love sounds like a winner.

At 6:43 PM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

Thanks for the comments, Theresa and Diane. Mmwaaa :-)!

Ah, Mary Balogh. Happy, happy sigh :-).

Terry hit the main point: emotion. That's why I read love stories, and I certainly want that element in the love scenes, too ;-)!


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