Tantalizing Love Scenes

Posted by on July 20, 2011

Love scenes have been around for the test of time, many fiction novels have them whether their romance or not. Even in Christian writing. Creating tantalizing love scenes can be a daunting task. Sometimes their overdone, reading like a manual, or they’re redundant. Saying, her heart hammered, becomes the favorite phrase in many love scenes.

So, how do I create tension between characters and love scenes that charge my
reader without becoming redundant?

I found an article on Writing World by Carolyn Campbell. I chose a few of the
tips to share with you.

1. Write the lovers as opposing forces

Writing your characters as opposing forces will create tension. Tension makes for great love scenes. Put one on the opposite side of the fence and you have tension.

She owns the Cincinnati Reds while he owns the Cleveland Indians – rivals through and through. Until they meet next to the hotdog stand and share a chilidog…
(LOL, but you get my drift)

2. Get involved in your love scenes

Put yourself in your characters’ shoes—create the scene as if you are in it.
Maybe take a memory from your past (from a time when you dated a bad boy or
girl and that first kiss sent you over the edge), remember how you felt, and
write it. If your heartbeat races while reading your love scene, then you’re
sure to do the same for your reader.

3. Keep the lovers in character

Don’t change your characters personality for a love scene. If your male character doesn’t discuss feelings, then don’t do it during a love scene. If your female is outspoken, don’t shut her up here. It’ll keep with your characterization that much more.
4. Raise sexual tension through conflict

This will keep your reader reading on. The conflict here will keep him/her
wondering, will they get together?  Will
they make it through? Use your characters thoughts to show the conflict. When two
characters are kissing, the reader can still read the main character’s
thoughts. For example: “In an actual scene, the man might be thinking, ‘She’s
a great kisser. If only she wasn’t urging my boss to fire me.'” (1)

5. Build suspense, anticipation and intensity

This tip was my favorite by Ms. Campbell — “The dance of ‘will-they, won’t they’ as the reader begins to suspect the attraction between the two characters, helps build suspense and anticipation in both the characters and the reader. It’s like holding your breath while waiting for a bomb to go off.” Great, right?

6. Heighten the characters’ five senses

Here’s where you’ll want to bring in the five senses in your book to make it
come alive—taste, feel, smell, hear, see. What does he smell like—usually cologne
is a big one. But what else? One lady’s writing, which I respect, her male
always smells like laundry detergent. Does his lips taste like mint (maybe he
was eating a Peppermint Patty)? Maybe his whiskers brush against her cheek when
he whispers. I love this one by Ms. Campbell as well where the setting explains
the character’s mood: “The woman stares through a rain-drenched window as
she sadly watches the man walk away. The man and woman ecstatically ride a wild
horse to the top of a mountain where they daringly kiss at the edge of a cliff.”

7. Reveal relationship status and
character changes

Show your characters change or evolve as the book carries forward. Maybe
they give in and relax to show their love. Or they become more verbal and
telling it.

8. Tantalize with temporary togetherness

Show versus telling is so important. A writer doesn’t necessary need to tell
the love scene, by this I mean, tell each step of it like a guidebook. Showing
the scene through your characters is the best way.

“His hands inched farther along the smoothness of her skin. She gasped
in anticipation.” (1)

There are no body parts mentioned. It leaves it open to the reader’s
9. Turn up the heat (and the speed) with touch

And I don’t mean in a provocative way. A simple touching of the arm changes things between characters—it heightens the tension. A great example from Campbell’s article is from the movie Erin Brockovich where “Julia Roberts plays a character whose main concern is professional and financial survival. Reflecting on her past as Miss Wichita, Brockovich says, ‘I still have my tiara. I thought it meant I would be someone.’ She obviously is referring to fame, or professional success. At that moment, Aaron Eckhart, playing the character of George, Brockovich’s helpful next door neighbor, strides across the room. He grasps her shoulders, and strokes her
arms down to her elbows, simultaneously saying, ‘You’re someone to me.’ His
tone of voice isn’t even flirtatious. But with that single touch, the
atmosphere charges with sensual heat, and the love scene that follows seems
totally apt, although the two were just cordial neighbors moments earlier.”

10. Make love a difficult choice to heighten the emotions

You can heighten tension between characters if you show your character has
something to lose if she follows through with loving him.

If he marries the girl, he might lost his inheritance. Or if she marries
him, she might lose her job because he’s the boss.

11. Captivate with close calls

Often keeping the love scene short, tantalize the reader and make him/her
think the characters are going to get together, only to pull away, is a great
way to show tension.

Let me know what you think. Advise is welcome and encouraged!


(1)  Sizzling, Sensuous and Steamy: How to Write Love Scenes,
by Carolyn Campbell at http://www.writing-world.com/romance/steamy.shtml.
Found on July 20, 2011

2 Responses to Tantalizing Love Scenes

  1. Mildred Colvin

    Great writing advice. Sometimes those love scenes are hard to write, too. It’s so tempting to fall into saying the same old things – her heart raced, pounded, etc. Thanks for sharing this.

    Mildred Colvin