Thursday, April 17, 2014

Naughty or Nice: Writing Sweet Romance Love Scenes by Karen Rock


In June 2013, Harlequin began publishing original content for its new, clean romance line, Harlequin Heartwarming. While this line does not contain faith-based elements, it would earn a G to PG rating because the emphasis is on creating a deep, tender, clean romance that would be appropriate to share with your daughter. As I’d been writing and publishing YA contemporary romance fiction prior to hearing about this line, I was intrigued at the possibility of writing a wholesome love story that would contain real life, moving issues to which readers could relate and identify. Unlike other published adult romance writers, the thought of a story without sex wasn’t daunting. With practice, I’ve learned to write swoon-worthy love scenes without them becoming graphic or explicit. Here are some tips for writing an unforgettable “Sweet” love scene that will make your readers melt:

 

1.      External Dialogue- I know it seems as though there should only be kissing and touching going on, but spoken lines from the heart, ones that reveal vulnerability, and deep emotion, can make the scene just as memorable, or more so, than a straight up hot and heavy one.

 

2.      Point of View. Chose the character you want to narrate this scene depending on who has the most at stake. His or her thoughts and feelings should reflect the intensity of the moment and give the reader new insight. “Sweet” love scenes are actually quite intense. There isn’t anything light about them. The couple cares too much to quickly jump in the sack and, since the build up to these scenes has been a tense one, the pay off needs to be BIG. The reader needs to experience it the way the narrator does so a tight, POV is a must. Also, if it is in the male POV, his thoughts can still be ‘manly’ but don’t have to be animalistic. He can focus on what it feels like to finally hold this beautiful woman, that it’s unlike anything he’s felt before, her touch and what it does to him, and so on…

 

3.      Touch- the action of the scene needs to be appropriate so clothes generally stay on and hands are touching areas that wouldn’t make your teenager blush to read it. Shoulders, neck,  cheek, jaw, ears, eye lids, mouth (of course J) shoulders, clavicle, waist, back, sides, arms, hair, back of the head, sides of the face… I’m sure there are more, but that’s about what I’d be comfortable reading out loud to my mom… so maybe that’s a good benchmark too.

 

4.      No closed door bedroom scenes. “Sweet” love scenes are meant to be felt and experienced. If the couple goes into the bedroom and closes the door- end scene- you’ve strayed from the wholesome aesthetic and left your reader without an intimate look into how these couples are together. I would rather keep the love scene appropriate and center stage then not described and behind a closed door.

 

5.      Visceral reactions- To keep the scene real and authentic, they should be included to the extent that would be considered PG or G. Feeling your temperature rise, your heart rate exhilarate, your pulse pound and breathing become faster is natural and works really well. Sounds like sighs, moans and groans are also okay without being used too liberally or in a way that isn’t romantic. Just think- what would Jane Austen do? Lol. She is one of the most romantic storytellers of all time and she rarely went beyond a kiss!

 

I hope you found these tips helpful, whether your write ‘clean’ romance or not. It’s nice to mix in a variety of love scenes as it will keep your readers surprised and engaged! Here’s an example of a “Sweet” love scene from my March Harlequin Heartwarming novel HIS HOMETOWN GIRL:

 

Jodi felt her joints loosen and she relaxed against him. “So you’re okay with us being together, just for this summer?”

He tucked a curl behind her ear and the feel of Daniel’s touch made her shiver. It was so quiet, she could hear every breath he took, felt it vibrate through him in the cramped bottom of the boat.

“Let’s enjoy every moment together until it’s our last.”

“But that moment isn’t today,” she said, so grateful that he’d agreed. She wanted to be with him until she couldn’t. It was that simple.

His hand smoothed the length of her hair as he gazed into her eyes, his expression tender and full of longing. “No. It’s not.” The words sounded so reverent they could have been a prayer.

His fingers trailed down her cheek to her lips, outlining the shape of her mouth. He bent down, his lips against her cheek, brushing it lightly. Shivers ran through her whole body, making her tremble. He brushed his mouth against the hollow of her temple then traced the line of her jawbone.

The aching anticipation for his kiss was suddenly too much and she reached up and pulled his mouth to hers. He kissed her gently, carefully, but it wasn’t gentleness she wanted, not when time was fleeting. She knotted her fists in his shirt, and pulled him closer. He groaned softly, low in his throat, and then his arms circled her, gathering her against him as the boat rocked beneath them. The small possibility of falling into the water vanished as soon as it occurred to her.

All that existed was Daniel. She could feel his warmth burning through his clothes and hers. She ran her fingers along his arm—soft skin over lean muscle, a scar like a thin wire on his biceps. It was an imperfection that made him seem even more perfect. He fumbled as he pushed her heavy hair aside to kiss her ear. She didn’t think she’d ever seen his hands unsteady before.

She trailed her nose across his jaw, inhaling the clean smell of summer countryside, of him. He released a pent-up breath, the sound like music. Her pulse tapped a fast beat and her breath quickened with it. She stroked his cheek and kissed every inch of his neck until he moaned again. Or maybe she’d made the sound; they seemed to share each breath, each heartbeat. It felt as if the universe disappeared and all that remained was the two of them, holding each other close.

“I forgot it was like this,” she said when Daniel pulled back and looked down at her. It seemed as if the stars hurtled down around her head like a rain of silver tinsel.

“It wasn’t.” He kissed her nose, then traced the line of her cheek with his fingertip, a dreamlike intensity in his gaze. “This is better.”

And she never wanted it to end. She felt feverishly alive, every nerve ending jangling as they watched the sky, enjoying the private moment.

“I agree,” she sighed, nestling against his side. “I wish we could stay like this forever.” When he toyed with her earlobe, she tried, unsuccessfully, to settle her heart back in her body. She watched the stars shimmer above and it also felt as though they were celebrating.

“Me, too,” he said softly in her ear. He captured her lips in a kiss so fierce and full of longing that it felt like a love song.
 
I hope you enjoyed the excerpt as much as I enjoyed writing it :)

 
Comment below and include your email address if you are interested in being entered to win a copy of WISH ME TOMORROW. I’ll contact the winner tomorrow as well as announce it on my facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/karenrockwrites.  HIS HOMETOWN GIRL is also available to purchase on (Nook) http://bit.ly/1ktNqWq (Kindle) http://amzn.to/1eveD3C (Print Book) http://bit.ly/KaSxKm or on Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1daYrXx   (Print or Kindle) .

 

If you’d like to learn about my upcoming releases, appearances and giveaways, please check out my website at http://www.karenrock.com , ‘Like’ my author facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/karenrockwrites or follow me on Twitter (I always follow back!) at http://www.twitter.com/karenrock5 I hope to hear from you!

50 comments:

  1. I liked the scene--and also how you explained non-graphic love scenes. I think they're fun to write (and read) and am so grateful Harlequin decided to fill this need.

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    1. Thank you so much, Liz! It was a little bit of a learning curve to walk the line of how far is to far... and to make sure the romance was, if anything, greater than a more physical scene. I'm very grateful to harlequin for deciding to create this beautiful line!

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  2. I'm printing it out. I know it, but sometimes I need someone to hit me over the head with all the difference senses and needs. Great scene

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    1. Aw! Thank you, Pam :) It actually helped me too to put into words what I've had buzzing in my head... all the lines to skirt, but not cross, the ways to be tender but not too soft... stuff like that. I'm so glad you liked it!!

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  3. Great post, Karen. Back when I first heard about the HW line, I couldn't imagine how one could write a romance without a love scene...but I've since learned that by not having the "full on" scene, it makes me focus on the real, deep emotions of the characters without getting lost in choreography (not to mention the fact I really don't like writing love scenes, LOL). This lets us get to the "heart" of the matter and the story. I'm printing this out and posting onto my writing board...your advice will be guiding me in the future! Thanks for sharing. :)

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    1. Wow! Thank you so much, Anna :) I didn't have the hesitation about writing a book without sex since I'd been writing YA, but I was nervous about how to convey the romantic chemistry in a way that was still swoony enough for adults! And you make such a great point! Without the full-on scenes, we are forced to get intimate through the characters minds and hearts and that is actually a deeper connection in many ways. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post :)

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  4. Great example of a sweet 'hot' scene:) No wonder your YA series is such a success as well! Awesome post!

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    1. Thank you, Jennifer! My YA scenes can actually go a little farther than Heartwarming, believe it or not... but I still keep it appropriate. There are so many ways to touch the heart without crossing the line. I'm really glad you liked the post :)

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    1. Hi, Elizabeth! Thank you so much for stopping by the Heartwarming blog and for your lovely compliment :)

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  6. Karen, I think you hit on so many reasons why readers like Heartwarming books. Many have always liked to feel and imagine and fill in the blanks for themselves. How long does it take you to write a scene like the one you identified?

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    1. Hmmmmmmm... that's an excellent question! I write a chapter in one day (which might include a love scene like that) and then I spend the next day revising before moving on. So I would say two days for the chapter to be polished and a lot of that time, devoted to the love scene. However, so of the most important stuff- the conversation and situation that led up to the moment are even trickier for me because I like a scene like that to feel organic to the moment instead of planned... If I catch the reader by surprise, that's a good thing- not that they weren't expecting and hoping for it, but they didn't know it would happen right then, if that makes any sense. The most romantic moments I've ever had happened when I didn't expect them, and the ones where I showered, shaved my legs, put on perfume... ended in a bust. I guess that's what I love so much about Heartwarming is that it's contemporary so we can make these scenes realistic and- therefore- all the more touching :) Wow- you really made me think hard on that one, Roz- lol. Thank you!

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  7. This was terrific advice. I haven't read His Hometown Girl but I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. I love sweet romances. I think a lot of people have forgotten that romance isn't just about sex. Sometimes it's about those tender moments that make your heart melt.

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    1. Aw! That's so true, Judi! Romance is made up of those tender moments and they build lasting memories that you treasure forever. I keep that in mind when I write my love scenes- especially from my heroine's point-of-view- what could happen that would be so special, so magical, that she'd be swept off her feet and never forget it for the rest of her life? Thanks so much for stopping by the blog!!

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  8. Karen - lots of excellent advice that I, too, will print out and post. And your excerpt is certainly solid proof of all you've said. You've done this so well, but please indulge my small rant:

    I come to Heartwarming from a past in American Romance, Superromance, and Harlequin Historicals - and that was back in the Eighties and Nineties when getting beyond the bedroom door was exciting and even empowering. JUST A WORD FOR ALL OUR FRIENDS WHO STILL WRITE THOSE - I love it when you use the word wholesome when referring to our Heartwarming books rather than 'clean.' Maybe it's just me, but when I hear the term 'clean,' I read a sub-text that says everything with a graphic sex scene is dirty. I swear to you they aren't. Most of us worked hard to make love and trust the motivator for a physical relationship. Granted, you wouldn't want your granddaughter to read them, but I'll bet some of your mothers would love them.

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    2. hehe- I LOVE your 'rant', Muriel :) My YA co-author and sister-in-law, Joanne, is a Blaze and now Superromance author. I've been reading her beautiful love stories for years and agree that the word 'clean' does sort of suggest that there is something unclean about anything that is too physical when it can be a gorgeous expression of love. Joanne's love scenes often moved me to tears. I think that romance, and love scenes are as varied as people. Some prefer to find lasting love through building trust through a physical relationship first. Others prefer to connect through emotional and intellectual intimacy first before taking that next step. I don't think there are any rights or wrongs- just preferences :) And thank you so much for the compliment! I'm honored.

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  9. Hi Karen! I enjoyed the tips! I have always wanted to write a book!

    dowelljanet@hotmail.com

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    1. Hi, Janet! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog :) If you want to write a book, that is the first step to becoming an author. Now that you've taken that step, you have to follow with another or you'll forever feel off-balanced :) I say go for it and write the story in your heart. If it moves you, it will move us! I'm so glad you enjoyed the tips :)

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    2. Congratulations, Janet! You are the winner of my giveaway :) I'll email you today for your mailing information :-)

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    3. I emailed you my mailing address!!

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  10. Love how the advice ties right into the excerpt!

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    1. Thank you, Mel! All my love scenes incorporate the components I listed. In fact, when I thought about writing this piece, I went back and read over my love scenes to see what I did and put it into a list of tips to help :)

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  11. Karent, I'm still learning the line between just far enough, and uh-oh, or frankly, not far enough. Thanks for the excellent advice, and for the excerpt--which is just beautiful! Truly.

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    1. Thank you, Anna :) And learning to walk that line takes some practice- I'm not sure if I'm 100% there yet, either! But I just think, if I read this out loud to my daughter, or even my mother, would I get through all of it without blushing... and would they be paying attention or bored? That kind of keeps me from going too conservative or too risqué.

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  12. Very good tips, Karen! I try to focus on characterization and leave the characters to 'move' the scene forward in a way that feels natural to them, not forced by me as the author (if that makes sense!). I think, if you know your characters well, you can have them go sweet or all out raunchy depending on the book's needs. :)

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    1. Well said, Zee! You are a born writer :) You have those instincts. The characters- where there at emotionally- mentally- plays a big part in shaping a love scene! Knowing your characters, as you said, is key!

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    2. LOL! Now you've made me blush.... Wasn't expecting such a lovely compliment coming from an accomplished author as you! <3

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    3. You know it's true, Zee!! It was a fact as much as it was a compliment :)

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  13. I love the excerpt and greatly appreciate the tips. I think these scenes are among the most difficult to write, to keep the focus on the senses and emotions of the character, and not an awkward list of touch here, kiss here. Thanks.

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    1. You are very welcome, Beth! I liked how you said 'a list of touch here, kiss here' because sweet love scene don't have to be stale or stilted- I like to have spontaneity in them- even humor- so that it feels natural and all the more easy for the reader to relate to. I'm so glad you liked the excerpt :)

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  14. Karen, what a great post! And I love the comments and conversations that you started. Like Anna mentioned, I too am still figuring all this out. But you've got the tiny wheels that make up my brain spinning now....so, thanks for that, too (:

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    1. Thank you, Carol and you are very welcome! I love the comments and conversations going on too. I think, of all of the different aspects of the novels we need to juggle, this piece is one that is the greatest joy to write- but one we approach with the most trepidation. We don't want readers to feel like they didn't get the heart-melting moment they've been waiting for- so we can hold back. On the other hand, we can't go to far that we're no longer in sync with our line's expectations. I hope this post helped with that a little :)

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  15. Yes yes yes yep it works for me but then I think you always write wonderful love scene

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    1. Aw! Thanks, Cyn :) Now my cheeks are hurting from the big grin you just gave me!

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  16. Currently reading my third in the Heartwarming line, and I'm glad to have discovered them! I love that the characters are authentic and that the physical intimacy is based on emotional connection. Karen, I'll be adding yours to my TBR!

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    1. That's wonderful, Christy! I'm so glad to hear that you are enjoying this wonderful line. I'm so proud to write for it and am thrilled that you're adding me to your TBR pile :) Thank you.

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  17. *sigh* Makes me want to read it again. :) Great tips, Karen! I wish more romance writers used them.

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  18. Great post and beautiful excerpt, Karen!

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    1. Thank you, Rula :) that means a lot to me as it is coming from such a talented writer!

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  19. Thanks, Tressa!! I learned them by studying some of my favorite loves scenes and broke it down for myself in terms of what about it carried me away. I'm excited for you to read His Hometown Girl!

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  20. Congratulations to Janet :) You have won a copy of HIS HOMETOWN GIRL ! I will email you soon to get your mailing information

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  21. Yes! This is exactly what Romance should be! I'm totally swooning right now. :) Please keep writing!

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    1. Thank you so much, Katie! I definitely will :) That's so kind of you to say!

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  23. Aida and Radames share a passionate duet called "Elaborate Lives" commiserating the fact that circumstances in their world conspire to keep them apart despite their strong passion for each other. The song consists of heart wrenching lyrics like: clean romance

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  24. I have to say that the older I get I am more in tune with this kind of romance than the Graphic kind, It's gentle & heartwarming, If I had young children I would not be apposed to them reading this type of romance. It show's tenderness & respect of ones Body , Heart , & Soul, This tenderness is what our girls & boys need, Maybe then there would be less violence to one another.

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