Monday, February 15, 2010

Loving a Love Scene by Chris Marie Green

I was the middle school girl who used to blush in sex ed class when the teacher said “penis.”

No joke. I thought I was going to flunk that class, although I’m not sure it’s even possible to do that. If you had told me in sixth grade that, not only would I be typing the word “penis” on my keyboard quite frequently, but I’d actually be using several more adventurous ways of describing this portion of the male anatomy in published books, I would’ve denied it with every mortified breath in my body.

But here I am today, writing super fun, hot sex for Blaze, paranormal nookie in urban fantasies, and warm-hearted love scenes for Special Edition.

So if I can do it, anyone can. But what are some ways to dive into a love scene and not just “get through it”? How can these scenes be some of the best-flowing and most rewarding writing you’ll ever do?

Here are just a few little tips to consider:

Making It Memorable

When you talk to your friends about sex, it’s likely that the best stories have to do with the times you had unexpected experiences…like when a crazy boyfriend took you to an old house in New Orleans, made it up to be a bordello with a choice of erotically themed rooms, and rocked your world in every one of them. (Yes, that was kind of in one of my Blazes. And I wish.)

Even if you’re not writing erotic romance, think of your wildest fantasies and just put them to paper. Don’t be afraid to push that envelope. As the wonderful Brenda Chin, the senior editor of Blaze, would tell you, it’s easier for an editor to tame what you’ve already written than to push you forward. If you’re going for sexy, be a wild woman. Go for it, even if you decide to erase what you’ve just written. (You probably won’t.) If you’re writing a less sexually intense book, you can tone down the graphic words and situations and still make it memorable (like when a boyfriend took you to an old house in New Orleans and romanced you there, bringing you into an old-fashioned room and seducing you by pouring water from a porcelain pitcher and giving you a slow basin bath and… You get it. ).

But, as we know, it’s not just the situation that makes for a truly affecting love scene, and that brings us to…


This second point is pretty obvious, but I look at love scenes as a most intense opportunity to develop the characters. A love scene is never a throwaway scene—it’s never just about how body parts are reacting from point A to point B. It’s about what’s going on inside the characters, too.

The characters’ interaction is transformative—and if it’s not, that’s something to explore, as well. Why wasn’t the hero or heroine touched by the experience? And if they were emotionally overwhelmed (and, let’s face it, that’s usually the case), this is a springboard for more character development. Does it make your characters more vulnerable in some way? Does it make them stronger? How can what just happened between them affect the push/pull of their developing relationship?

The List

On the practical side, I keep a list of words for my love scenes. Provocative, vivid words that not only inspire action, but provide sensuous images. Synonyms like “brush,” “skim,” “trace,” “coax,” for when I want to describe a hero caressing the heroine’s…face. Words for everything from foreplay to entry (“churn,” “ram,” “thrust”—and I do believe that’s enough to give you an idea of what I’m talking about).

I can’t tell you how many times one of these words has propelled a scene. We can get stuck on technical stuff like word choice, and this way, I just look at my list and off I go. If you’re an organized personality like I am, you might want to write down every “love scene” word that comes to mind right now. Then you can even put them into groups (like foreplay and entry, etc.). Keep it at your side during the next love scene and see if this gives things any extra oomph.

Speaking of Imagery…

This point goes along with the characterization and imagery I already mentioned. Something that gives a love scene another dimension is when I use a character’s point of view and inner growth to create an imagery arc. What sort of symbolism can you use during the scene that explodes at the end into a climactic moment that will work for the reader, too? If you’ve got a heroine who is scared to death that her world is going to break apart, can you use mirror imagery during the foreplay and build up, then use some kind of crashing glass to describe her release? Symbolism can add an extra layer to the scene and make it a more emotional experience.

Amaretto Over Ice and Wild Orchid

If you’re just not feeling a love scene—or you need an extra push to get started—you might consider outside help. Back when I was writing my first Blaze, I was ready to go, but I kept thinking about what my friends and family would say when they saw other descriptions for the word “penis” in a book with my name on it. (If this were a Blaze or one of my urban fantasies, I’d write the word. ) So I consulted the experts--my favorite sex movie ever, Wild Orchid, and a splash of amaretto over ice in a fancy glass.

Now, I’m not telling anyone to booze it up. I was using the prop of amaretto over ice in a crystal glass because it makes me think I can be sophisticated and wanton at the same time. (Okay, it made me a bit giddy, too.) And Wild Orchid? It is so wicked and corny. They are a perfect Blaze combination for me. You no doubt have other triggers, and I’d suggest trying those and then going to the keyboard to see what you get.

I hope these sparked something, either for your love scenes or a very special Valentine’s Day in real life. (If there are any guys reading this, try Wild Orchid, amaretto, and add chocolate. Guaranteed winner.)

Have fun with both!

Chris writes urban fantasy as Chris Marie Green and romance as Crystal Green.
BREAK OF DAWN, Book Three in her Vampire Babylon series, has just been reissued in mass market format and book six, DEEP IN THE WOODS, is hitting shelves March 2. To learn more, you can go a number of places—,, Chris’s blog ( , Facebook (at ) or Twitter (at

**An abridged version of Chris's article, "Loving a Love Scene," was released in our company newsletter earlier this month. This is the first release of the full-length version.**

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Blogger Unknown said...

Hehee. I was always worried that my mom was going to be reading what I'd written. If that's not a cold splash of squick to your scene, then I don't know what is.

Until I finally decided that if she picks up my book, she deserves what she gets. If she wants to know how I know that sex on the beach equals sand in the chocolate starfish, well, I'll just tell her.*g* It's served me well.

I actually caught myself writing "pink flesh petals" the other day and I promptly slapped myself in the mouth. Then I blogged about it so my friends could taunt me. Needless to say, I still used it, but in jest. And that propelled the scene forward where it needed to be.

Great post!

Monday, February 15, 2010 at 1:00:00 PM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you SO much for sharing your writing wisdom here Chris! I cut & pasted this & put it in my writing folder to study over & over.
Thank you again,

Monday, February 15, 2010 at 4:39:00 PM EST  
Anonymous R.C. Murphy said...

Oddly enough this came just a day late for me to read. I was utterly stumped on a sec scene for a couple days. Normally I'm not shy with the fictional nookie but for some reason I got stuck on the idea of trying to make this scene something special.

Something special meaning that I didn't fall back on overused words in romance and erotic stories. I spent so much time fussing over words that I lost the mood and had to spend hours romancing my muse again to finish the scene.

I'm saving this link so I can come back to it next time my characters are stuck with their pants down and I can't think of how to get them to the finish line.

Monday, February 15, 2010 at 4:49:00 PM EST  
Blogger Kerri Cuev said...

Lol Chris! That was a fun an informative post!

Monday, February 15, 2010 at 6:36:00 PM EST  
Blogger Chris Marie Green/Crystal Green said...

Saranna, my mom won't read my love scenes. Forget about my dad. Even my non-writer friends have a hard time because they keep remembering it's me, LOL. I just tell them to read, darn it, and stop remembering.

RK--cool! I'm glad this helped. :)

RC--sorry this came a day late, but I'm glad you'll come back to it!

Keri, thank you!

Good luck to everyone....

Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 10:34:00 AM EST  

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