Sign up for our FREE Email Newsletter

Saturday, March 12, 2016


Writing Tough Scenes: From Love to Death

I am not a romance writer, but I love to read them and help my online novel students write them. Sometimes, then, I have to read the love, well let's just say sex scene...and critique it! This is not an easy task. I think it is difficult to write these scenes so that the reader is not taken out of the story. The reader is loving these two characters, wants to get them together, and hopes that this love scene will be magical!

I'm not going to go into a bunch of tips on how to do this. But I am going to tell you a story of one of my students, and I hope it will help if you are writing a love scene...or really whatever challenging scene you have in your genre.

So here's what happened:

I was reading along in my student's scene and excited that these two lovebirds were finally going to "get physical." But when I read the actual physical act, the words she used reminded me of something from the 70s or at least--out of date--and I was out of the story. I marked them, and I tried to decide what words she should have used instead, but this is always a sensitive subject when critiquing. What do we call female and male body parts when we are reading a love scene? What do the readers expect to read?

So I asked her--have you read a love scene recently? In the romance novels you read, what do those authors call the parts?

When she wrote me back, she thanked me for my feedback and said, "I haven't read a love scene since my friend's 'bodice rippers'. You just gave me excellent advice."

I tried to make my advice so much more complicated too--trying to come up with alternate words, but all she really needed to hear was: find romance novels like yours, read the love scenes, and pay attention to the words the authors use for body parts. That's it. That's all she needed to hear.

So I learned something as a teacher and a writer from this experience.

First, reading is the key. As writers, we learn so much in our genres from other writers--what works for us and what doesn't. You must read in your genre to learn, improve, and fit in with what readers expect.

Second, when critiquing, give advice from your heart and encourage the writer to improve the scene because you as the critiquer do not have to fix the issue for the writer.

Finally, you have to find someone to read your tough scenes (at least) and give you honest feedback. It's too hard to do it all by yourself.

Have you ever written a love scene? Or a murder scene? Fight scene? Death scene? How did you handle this? How did you know what to write? 

Margo L. Dill is a published children's writer and WOW! online writing instructor. To find out more about the novel writing class she teaches, please see the WOW! classroom.



Blogger Barbara Barth said...

I did write love scenes for my romance/somewhat thriller novel Danger In Her Words. It was the most difficult writing I've ever done. Making the change from writing about my dogs to sex, well, I was embarrassed. I did go up and read to see what words were used, and it embarrassed me, too. I think I've spent too much time sleeping with dogs. Love your advice about how to find the 'right words' for body parts and how to honestly critique. Will remember this post for next time.

6:55 AM  
Blogger Sioux said...

Margo--I've tried to write a couple of romance short stories. One was accepted into an anthology but my favorite one--in it, Santa is having an affair--didn't get snapped up.(There was a ho or two. There was a package involved. Oh well...)

Since I avoid romance novels like the plague (except for Lisa Ricard Claro's books), that MIGHT explain why

It sounds like you gave her some great advice. Even if it wasn't the easiest for you to dole out.

9:55 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts