Writing the Love Scene

I’m not talking about the sex scene.  Truthfully, I don’t enjoy writing them.  I have this theory that sex is really only interesting and not absurd when you’re one of the participants.  There are writers who can do it brilliantly.  Diana Gabaldon in her Outlander series can really write a hot sex scene, my friend, Sage Walker does an amazing job, but it’s a hard tightrope to walk.  Too clinical and it’s off putting.  Too cotton candy — what you find in some Harlequin romances — just make you want to giggle.  The astounding number of euphemisms for penis are quite remarkable — rod of power, throbbing manhood, sword.  Sorry, I have to stop, I’m starting to giggle.  Anyway, good sex scenes are hard to write, and I really think they need to be dramatized only if there is a compelling reason in the story to do so.

But what I actually wanted to ponder and muse about is the scene where people have to tell each other how they feel about one another.  Those are also bitchingly hard to write.  It’s so easy to make the “I love you” moment feel like bad dialogue on a really low rent daytime soap opera.  “I love you more than life itself.”  “I love you so much that I feel like my heart can’t hold it all.”  “You are everything to me.”  These may work in real life, but damn on the screen or the page it can often have you groping for the barf bag.

It was my brilliant friend Connie Willis, who has made a study of romantic comedy and how it works, who taught me how to handle this.  She said the characters should never directly say what they are feeling.  They need to talk around it, talk about other things that are a stand in for their emotions, come at it obliquely.  You may have noticed that I quote Connie a lot.  She was the reason I could write the post on Irony a few weeks back.  Connie is a wonderful writer, but she is also a gifted teacher because he has spent a lot of time analyzing writing as a craft.

Having had this long conversation with Connie when she and the family were down for Thanksgiving I decided to put it to the test.  First up — in the Mass Effect story, and by god, it was one of the scenes that a friend praised in particular.  Two weeks ago I used it in The Edge of Darkness, and I think (I hope) it worked.  My writer buddies will let me know next week when we get together.  And I’m thinking about it in particular for my upcoming Space Opera that I’m getting ready to prepare for my agent.  The whole drive of these books is my leading man’s love for a woman that he cannot possibly have, but it consumes his life.  Her’s too since they are going to be star crossed lovers.  So I’m really processing all of this as I get ready to tackle Imperials.

And yes, they are going to have a happy ending.  There just won’t be bunnies and rainbows and unicorns.  But they will have each other.  🙂

3 Responses to Writing the Love Scene

  • My role-playing games often have quite a lot of not merely romantic but sexual content; both my male and female players seem to find this entertaining. But one thing I’ve learned over many years of GMing such scenes is that describing sex explicitly tends to make it funny, clinical, or horrifying; a romantic or emotional effect benefits a lot from a soft focus or even a fade to black. I suspect this might transfer to conventional prose fiction also, but my efforts in that direction never went far enough for me to make confident judgments on that. . . .

  • Mike Searles says:

    Enjoyed the article.

    Scooped it to http://www.FreelanceWriter.pro

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Thank you. I’m lucky to be friends with a lot of really smart and talented people who share their insights with me. I’m happy to pass them along. One of the things I love about writing. Most people in the profession very much “pay it forward”.

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