Writers group topic last night? Writing Love Scenes (aka The First Kiss and How to Ramp up Sexual Tension)
Remember this is a romance writers group, so we're all strongly indoctrinated in traditional romance novel love scenes with its coded language. Many of us have made forays into erotica, but many are not interested.
Favorite quote? Said by Theresa Stevens, managing editor of Red Sage Publishing, who is also a member of my Windy City Romance Writers group.
Context: She's just finished reading an example of an erotica love scene and the discussion is about the explicit level of the language.
"Red Sage is in the tamer end of erotica," she said.
There's murmurs of disbelief in the crowd. How could the language get much more explicit?
It's not the language, she clarifies, it's the situation: "You have one man, one woman, they're both human."
My eyes meet Jules' eyes across the room. We're both thinking of the same Morgan Hawke novel. We laugh. (I love that Morgan Hawke novel, BTW.)
Most educational part of the session? Allie Pleiter reading from her inspirational romances.
Allie explained that when writing these inspirational romances (marketed to a Christian audience), the most explicit she can get is a kiss, and basically the characters have no bodies from the neck down. So that kiss scene has to be saved for the moment of greatest impact to the story.
And since she can't work with any sort of sex scene, she has to find other ways to communicate the emotional connection between the characters that is often such an integral part of a sex scene.
All I have to say is, check out her book The Perfect Blend, because the scene where the hero serves the heroine tea is hot, and, really, all he's doing is serving her tea in a public restaurant.
The limitations that Allie has to deal with in her genre remind me of the limitations that moviemakers had to work with in the 1930s-1960s with the Hays code. Which, ironically, was a time when many of the best romantic movies were made.
Things I knew that were reinforced about writing love scenes?
**A successful love scene, no matter the level of explicitness, is all about the emotions. There has to be something at stake emotionally between the characters, and that love scene had better somehow change them and their relationship. Personally, I find that if any of these elements are missing in a scene, it becomes voyeuristic and boring and I start skimming.
**The concept of "reader foreplay", which is how Theresa Stevens described it. I've always know the concept as building "sexual tension". Basically, it's that the attraction is building between your characters long before anything sexual actually happens.
"There are fantasy elements involved that get you cooking long before the kiss," Teresa said.
**In romance novels, the course of the story often unfolds so that emotional intimacy leads to physical intimacy.
In erotic romance, it's usually the other way around. Sexual, physical intimacy leads to emotional intimacy.