How To Write A Love Scene

The most critical lesson in​ writing a​ love scene is​ that it​ is​ similar to​ making love in​ the real world: when done well, it​ is​ messy, chaotic and somewhat animalistic. The civilized approach does not work; it​ leads to​ the greatest drawback of​ all: predictability.

Does this sound familiar? The leading man and woman dislike one another intensely; something happens and they see another side of​ the other; in​ spite of​ their best efforts to​ deny it, they find themselves attracted to​ one another; and they ultimately fall into a​ passionate embrace. Do you really want to​ write that one again?

The Best Love Scenes

The best love scenes are the ones in​ which the participants are not perfect specimens and the circumstances are obscure and somewhat confused. They are the scenes in​ which the reader has to​ work for it. in​ a​ word, they are authentic.

For example, here is​ the opening paragraph of​ my book, Point and Shoot:

This is​ how you make love to​ a​ woman undergoing cancer treatments. You ignore the metallic taste of​ her kiss; the slight snorting sound she makes when you press into her; the bony feel of​ her body, covered by skin that lacks tensile strength; the hairless scalp. You close your eyes and remember what it​ was like before. You move gently, until you forget yourself, as​ you should. You savor the moment because there might not be many more. And one more thing: you move very gently.

How to​ Get Started on Your Love Scene

I would suggest that you start by imagining your most interesting and emotionally-moving encounter with the opposite (or the same) sex. Write out a​ free association narrative about the images; scents; colorings; texture; dialogue; weather; and other aspects that trigger your memory.

Then, complicate it. You must assume that your memory of​ the event has been neutered by the passage of​ time. You remember your past, as​ we all tend to​ do, in​ an​ unrealistic light, obscuring and shading over the petty annoyances (Could you stop that whistling?); the inconvenient bodily functions (I have to​ pee.); and the wanderings of​ your mind (Did I lock the car door?) . So instead of​ writing that simplistic and ultimately, predictable story, shake it​ up.

Have your female character imagining a​ former lover, while her words are only about the man in​ her arms. Have your male character fear that he will not achieve arousal, and keep this truth from his lover until it​ can no longer be hidden. Have your characters wear blindfolds, so that all of​ the narrative description is​ tactile. in​ other words, create some kind of​ slanted, asymmetrical aspect to​ the story. Make your characters, and the reader, work for it.

Sure, Sex Sells, But Don’t Make it​ po​rn

One of​ the most frequently asked questions is​ how explicit to​ make the love scene. The answer is​ simple: less explicit than what you would want to​ read.

It is​ axiomatic that the most sexually-charged organ of​ the body is​ the mind. That is​ where your story will be experienced, and you need to​ cater to​ the mind’s unique way of​ perceiving. The best caricaturists will use nothing more than a​ curved line or​ a​ geometric shape to​ suggest an​ instantly recognizable celebrity. They draw the most memorable aspect of​ the person’s face, for example the ears. By that alone, the viewer can instantly discern the subject’s identity.

Likewise, a​ writer must suggest rather than explain. Describe how it​ feels to​ run a​ finger along a​ thigh; to​ feel blankets bunched between your body and your lover’s; to​ be out of​ breath and not really know why. to​ paraphrase a​ long-ago Presidential campaign, make it​ subtle, stupid.

Here is​ another excerpt from that scene in​ Point and Shoot which illustrates the point:

"Are you getting there?"
"I told you never to​ ask me that question. it​ doesn't matter. Keep going. Finish."
"If I'm hurting you."
"Keep going."
I sped up. She shifted her hips to​ make it​ easier. After a​ while, I could see a​ tear well up at​ the corner of​ her eye. The tip of​ her nose flushed. She patted my shoulder again. "I said keep going."
A wave of​ remorse and self-pity, a​ heavy, deadening feeling, yanked me back.
I stopped for good and rolled off her.
She lay there, splayed out, staring at​ the ceiling. Unmoving.
I propped myself on one elbow, stroking her abdomen.
We were silent for a​ long while.


To sum up, love scenes are done best when they follow no particular formula, but instead, come from the heart. Less is​ more. of​ course, you should also keep in​ mind that the research is​ frequently much more fun than the actual writing. But take a​ few moments to​ get it​ down on paper, anyway. We readers like to​ watch.

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