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What's An Aspiring Author To Do?

This column is based on questions Margaret gets asked by those who also want to write romance novels. The answers are based on her personal experience. Every author must and should find their own way along this path; however, sometimes it helps to know how it was for an author who's reached the goal of publication.

This column's question:
So, how about those love scenes? Have any tips/suggestions/helpful hints?

Margaret answers:

AS IN ANY SCENE, a love scene should

1. Move the story forward
2. Reveal character (and I'm not talking about their bodies)

How does a love scene move the story forward?

A love scene should indicate that the romantic relationship between your characters has been altered by the physical intimacy of making love. Are they pleased by this? Worried? How has it upped the stakes in terms of the rest of the plot?

How does a love scene reveal character?

By demonstrating how your characters behave when they are alone with each other. There is nobody else to influence their behavior.

For example:
Does a supposedly arrogant, selfish man behave with unexpected tenderness? Does a woman determined to refuse a man's advances discover that all her preconceptions about him have been wrong? How does that effect the future of the story?
How many love scenes do you need?

As many (or as few) as the story requires.

How do you determine this?

As you write, you'll find how many love scenes you're comfortable with writing; this is one way to determine your style, as well as the type of romance you want to write. Some settings or stories will provide or require more moments of intimacy than others.

There is no rule or formula for the number or placement of love scenes in any romance, of any kind. It's up to the author to decide that, and then determine where the book should be sent.

Eight Tips for Writing Love Scenes

1. Where are we in terms of the overall relationship -- the beginning, the middle or the end?

2. How comfortable are the characters with each other?

3. What do you want this scene to do? How is making love going to change the direction of the relationship between the characters and where is it going to go afterward?

4. Determine the mood of the characters at the beginning of the scene. What has just happened to them? Are they relieved, happy, anxious?

5. The setting -- where are they? What kind of place? Furnishings? Time of day? Lighting? Think of the five senses. Bring as many into play as you can.

6. Don't neglect dialogue.

7. Don't reach too far for interesting, new descriptions of body parts or sensations or you run the risk of sounding ridiculous and yanking the reader right out of your story (talk about coitus interruptus!).

8. Try not to envision your mother or her friends reading your love scenes. You are a fiction writer creating a story about two people distinct from yourself and this is one part of the process.
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This material is Margaret's intellectual property. If you would like to print it out for your personal use, feel free. If you belong to a writing group and would like to reproduce it for your fellow writers, please e-mail Margaret at maggiejmoore @ (no spaces). All other use is prohibited.

Copyright © 2005 by Margaret Wilkins. This material may not be copied without permission.