Saturday, March 12, 2016
Writing Tough Scenes: From Love to Death
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 But when I read the actual physical act, the words she used reminded me of something from the 70s or at least--out of date--and I was out of the story.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.