Construction Zone: Those Pesky Love Scenes

What better thing to explore the week before Valentine’s Day than love scenes – the culmination of any good romance novel?

I often hear authors (published authors even) say that they need a glass of wine to write a love scene. Sometimes even a kissing scene can be difficult, and I dare say that for those people, writing chemistry between two people (touches, body language, etc) can be a problem too, because somewhere in their heads their mother (grandmother, whoever) is shouting, “Where’s your modesty? Your sense of decorum? Nice girls don’t *think* about those things, and certainly don’t admit it by writing them down!” For me, it was my mother, though not in so many words. I always felt it was implied that public discussion of such things whether in verbal or written form was immodest and perhaps even somewhat immoral – but embarrassing at the very least. I hid my reading choices from her for a long time…I think I was probably half-way through college before I actually admitted I liked the steamier stuff. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a good “light” romance, but in my “to be read” pile, the Harlequin Blaze novels tend to rise to the top (along with more hardcore fare I still don’t really admit to reading except in passing, and don’t include in my online catalogs).

As far as writing goes…I don’t explicitly *plan* for my books to be steamy, but they always turn out that way. And I like them that way, despite my very conservative upbringing and my still-fairly conservative faith. It took me a long time to openly acknowledge that, but somewhere along the way, I decided I had to come to grips with it if I ever wanted to publish. I’m a firm believer that I am who I am, where I am in life for a specific reason – and to deny that would be foolish.

Once I got to that point, I could finally do away with that “what if my mom reads this” feeling. No one’s looking over my shoulder when I’m writing – it’s just me and the characters, and my personal interpretation of chemistry, attraction and passion. That doesn’t always equal sex – in fact some of the steamiest scenes I’ve written have little physical contact at all. I never shy away from a good sex scene though – even when it’s going to result in more heartache and confusion for my characters. And if I ever get published, my mom is welcome to skip those parts. I can’t let my perception of her opinion or that of anyone else affect my writing. I have to be true to myself.

How do I write those “pesky” love scenes? As voyeuristic as it sounds, I watch. My characters are pulled in by their own natural chemistry, and I let it play out in my head as the movie continues on. I pay close attention, and tune into each of their thoughts. Sure, I write down the physical movements, but for me, they’re all tied into the emotional ups and downs that the characters are experiencing through the act. A kiss is never just a kiss in my head, it’s an action never taken (or given) lightly, and one that always has more dramatic results than one might expect. I get swept up in those emotions as I write, actually feeling the intense emotional waves that my characters are feeling as they experience each other – not just attraction and connection, but self-consciousness and doubt as well. And I feel it for both my male and female characters simultaneously – it’s an odd thing, and something I can’t really ever hope to explain fully in words.

So I’m curious – whether you write sweet or hot romance (or just a hint of romance in any genre), how do you write your love scenes? Do you need that glass of wine, or does it flow like honey all on its own? If you don’t write, what’s your favorite type of love scene to read, and what draws you in about it?