There are moments in love stories when you can practically feel your heart melt. How do writers achieve such unforgettable scenes? I can’t speak for all, but am excited to share with you the qualities I value most in such moving scenes.
Authenticity: A deeply romantic scene works beautifully when the dialogue sounds real rather than forced. We’ve all heard bad pick up lines, trite lyrics that give us tooth cavities, and Hallmark cards that could be poured over pancakes. No matter how flowery the language, it doesn’t touch our hearts because it doesn’t sound real. The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks has great authentic dialogue that feels natural and organic. In a scene in which Noah, the male lead character, is reunited with his long, lost love, Ali, their realistic and compelling conversation goes like this: Noah: “You’re different.” Ali: “What do you mean?” Noah: “Just the way you look. Everything.” Ali: “You look different too, but in a good way.” Noah: “You know, you’re kinda the same though.” This simple exchange in a row boat is so powerful for what is said and isn’t said. You can feel the characters grappling, in real ways, with how to deal with the return of their long denied emotions.
Vulnerability: There is nothing more powerful when two characters open up to each other. Saying “I love you” is scary… and it does make the characters vulnerable. But a strong romance writer knows to go further and strip away the walls the couple has put up to protect themselves. A scene that melts my heart usually has an almost confessional feel to it. The man and woman trust in each other completely and let down their guard. Vulnerability means that in a ‘Melt Your Heart’ scene, a character should admit to mistakes, flaws, and regrets. And we love them all the more for owning their past. In my upcoming novel, WISH ME TOMORROW, out this September, Christie confesses her darkest secret to Eli, thinking it will end their budding relationship. Yet her brave vulnerability moves Eli and takes their relationship to the next level. Television writers also do a wonderful job in creating such moments for their characters. For example, The Gossip Girls’ main characters, Chuck and Blair have an interaction that moved me to tears. Chuck to Blair: “I’m sorry for losing my temper the night you told me Louis proposed to you. I’m sorry for treating you like property. I’m sorry for not waiting longer on the Empire State Building. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I loved you when I knew I did. Most of all, I’m sorry I gave up on us and you never did.” Wow. MELT.
Honesty: Billy Joel devoted an entire song to it. His lyrics are simple and straightforward and say it all. Honesty, he sings, is mostly what people need to hear and in the case of romance, that means our readers. Heartfelt scenes are sincere and create chances for characters to speak the truth. There is nothing more powerful than hearing a couple stop misleading each other, or themselves, and reveal how they actually feel. No sugar-coating. Here’s an example from one of my favorite movies, As Good as It Gets. In it, an OCD novelist, Melvin, breaks out of his comfort zone to woo a stressed single mother and waitress, Carol, who’s dealing with her son’s anxiety. Melvin: I’ve got a really great compliment for you, and it’s true. Carol: I’m so afraid you’re about to say something awful. Melvin: Don’t be pessimistic, it’s not your style. Okay. Here I go: Clearly, a mistake. I’ve got this, what- ailment? My doctor, a shrink that I used to go to all the time, he says that in fifty or sixty percent of the cases, a pill really helps. I *hate* pills, very dangerous thing, pills. Hate. I’m using the word “hate” here, about pills. Hate. My compliment is, that the night when you came over and told me that you would never… all right, well, you were there, you know what you said. Well, my compliment to you is, the next morning, I started taking the pills. Carol: I don’t quite get how that’s a compliment to me. Melvin: You make me want to be a better man. Carol:…that may be best the compliment of my life. Melvin: Well, maybe I overshot a little, because I was aiming at just enough to keep you from walking out. This emotionally honest scene melted every moviegoer’s heart and won Jack Nicholson an academy award for Best Actor for this heart-tugging performance.
I would love to hear your thoughts about writing these scenes or your picks for best ‘Melt Your Heart’ moments in movies/books/TV. Post in the Comment Section below and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Anne Marie Duquette’s heart-melting novel , FOUND AT SEA, an autographed bookmark for my July release YA romance CAMP BOYFRIEND, and a friendship bracelet, one for you and one to share. The winner will be announced on my Facebook page (where I have another contest running for “likes” :-) at www.facebook.com/JKRockwriters.com. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and about your favorite scenes!
Oh this is easy for me. By far my favourite scene is the one at the end of Sweet Home Alabama where they are on the beach and he asks her why she'd want to marry him and she replies "So I can kiss you any time I want."ReplyDelete
Doesn't matter how many times we watch it, when she says that my daughter and I look at each other and say "awwww" :)
I loved that one, Catherine!!Delete
Congratulations, Catherine! You are the winner of today's giveaway! please send your address through the contacts page on my website www.karenrock.com and I will mail it out right away :)Delete
Catherine, I was soooooo close to putting this exact scene in the post because it is perfect!! But I ran out of room. I'm so glad you mentioned it here because it is one of my all time favorite scenes and that line melts my heart :) Thanks so much for commenting!ReplyDelete
Karen you're gonna love this. Mine is at the end of The Notebook when Noah and Ali are old and are dying and they pass away together! So cute but always makes me cry like a baby. But I think it is the most romantic thing ever. Thanks for another great giveaway :)ReplyDelete
Justine, I do love that!!! That scene is so honest and beautiful about what it's like to love someone through it all... Right up until the very end. I cry every time I see it! Thanks so much for sharing this gem :-)ReplyDelete
Karen, those moments in a book is what makes most of us select a specific story to put on our "keeper" shelves. My last move when I down-sized I had to give up some of my keeper books and it was really a hard choice, like saying goodbye to a best friend. And don't we all hope we have written something that remains on a reader's keeper shelf? Great, thoughtful post as usual.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Roz and I agree that those are the breakout moments that transform a book we enjoyed reading into a keeper. It must have been difficult to part with some of your favorite books. My husband is forever asking me if I'd like more room in my den by selling some, but, like you, they feel like good friends.Delete
it will ALWAYS be GONE WITH THE WIND....THE WHOLE MOVIE :)ReplyDelete
AGREED! I love it when Rhett says to Scarlett that she needs to be kisses, and often, and by someone who knows how... Melt! Thanks so much for commenting :)Delete
As usual, great post! I love 'As Good As it Gets', the chemistry between the characters is great. I find the most romantic lines in my books are usually found when the characters are struggling with the newfound emotions.
Oh that is such a good way to put it, Jen! Those emotional struggles really draw us in as readers and make us so invested in the romance and those poignant scenes! Great insight! Thanks, Jen :DDelete
This might sound simple, Karen, but what comes to my mind is Sleepless in Seattle, when Sam took Annie's hand at the end and she smiled because it was "magic."ReplyDelete
Dale that is simple, powerful and perfect! It's such a good reminder that sometimes less is more. That moment in SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE took my breath away and definitely stole my heart! Thanks so much for commenting :)ReplyDelete
Chuck and Blair all the way! I remember the scene in S2, I think it was, when Blair opened up and said 'I love you', and she urged Chuck to confess, too. "Three little words," is what she told him, breathless... But you can see Chuck grappling with his emotions, struggling between independence or giving in to the inevitability of his love for Blair... Romance at its best!ReplyDelete
That was such an intense moment, Zee! I love the characterization of Chuck- there is something about a strong man getting vulnerable that is irresistible! Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your awesome comment :)Delete
I am totally in love with Chuck Bass! The man is simply fascinating! Ed Westwick portrayed him so well, it was unbelievable!Delete
Beautifully, beautifully said, Karen. I think to love another, you have to know every deep, dark secret, every telling weakness. Then you have to bare your own soul despite the pain, shame, regrets, to prove how deep your love is. And don't we love the character who can open his/her arms and want to love and be loved anyway.ReplyDelete
Now THAT was beautifully said, Muriel! Those moments when our characters truly reveal everything they've held back is like rain after a humid day- so cleansing and such a relief. I love to write those scenes most of all because I can show my characters' growth and the resolution of the problems they've carried- and luckily for Romance writers, that means love :) thanks for your insights, Muriel!Delete
The first scene that came to my mind was the same one that came to Catherine's. I can watch Sweet Home Alabama over and over. The other would be Armageddon when Ben Affleck is getting on the space ship and begins signing I'm Leaving On A Jet Plane to Liv Tyler.ReplyDelete
Wow! Thanks so much for that one, Jackie! I haven't seen Armageddon but I will now. And I adore both of those actors! That sounds like a great scene!Delete
Mine is from Titanic. When they are on the front of the ship and he holds her with her arms spead out. * sighReplyDelete
The music and whole scene just melts my heart.
Agreed, Tina! That scene is so iconic. The emotions in it are so authentic and exhilarating that I could watch it again and again!Delete
Mine is definitely that scene in Desperate Housewives where Tom and Lynette get back together. It's literally perfect, and so, so romantic.ReplyDelete
Hey! I'm a huge DH fan too, Cody. I cried when they got back together. They'd been through so much and to have the final reward of lasting love- it's everything. Hats off to the amazing writers of that incredible show!Delete
I know there are many that I'm not able to think of, but when I hear "melt your heart scenes" the thing that always comes to mind is the Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver. There are hilarious and touching and heartbreaking and poignant moment scattered throughout all those books, but the one that MOST melts my heart is the final scenes in Requiem. When Lena and Alex—after everything they've been through and missed and overcome—finally make it back to each other. When Alex just stands there, holding her close, and they admit they still love each other. It isn't a breakout romantic moment, it isn't a joyful, passionate reunion, but it is so perfect...ReplyDelete
Haley that is such a great pick! Lauren Oliver is a genius and the delirium series is one of my favorites! Lena and Alex's romance is so real and emotional - especially- as you said- after all they've through. That scene definitely melted my heart. Thank you so much for sharing it :)Delete
Congratulations, Catherine! You are the winner of today's giveaway! please send your address through the contacts page on my website www.karenrock.com and I will mail it out right away :)ReplyDelete
I love romance...romance books, romantic movies, all those sappy lines that make me cry. I have two all time favorites and both are old movies, but are just perfect. I love the final scene in Casablanca when Rick tells Elsa to get on the plane with her husband "what's his name...I never remember him" and you know it's breaking his heart, but he does it anyway because it's the best thing for her. Sigh.ReplyDelete
My other favorite is at the end of Singin' in the Rain when Kathy is running our of the theater and Don Lockwood tells the audience to stop her and tells them that she was the voice they loved and then sings to her. Just thinking about it brings a lump to my throat.
Those are great picks, Mindy! I forgot about SINGIING IN THE RAIN! It is so deeply romantic!!! The classic really knew how to focus on the love story and melt our hearts. Thanks so much for stopping by Hearywarmimg:)Delete
my favorite scene also makes me cry. It is when in the titanic leo di capri tells her to get in the lifeboat. I just cry at that movieReplyDelete
Titanic melted my heart in so many scenes and that was one of them! The lifeboat scene was so raw and real and the vulnerability he showed when, despite it all, Rose jumped back on the sinking ship to be with him, moved me to tears! Thank you so much for coming by and sharing your thoughts!
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