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Book: Writing Love Scenes - Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors (Writer's Craft Book 27) by Rayne Hall & Susanne McCarthy

Book: Writing Love Scenes - Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors (Writer's Craft Book 27) by Rayne Hall & Susanne McCarthy

categories: Book, Novel Writing, Romance Writing, Creative Writing, Writer's Craft, Fiction Writing Techniques, Writing Romantic Fiction, Writing Genre Fiction, Edit a Novel, Professional Writing Techniques, Fiction Writing


Rayne Hall

Rayne Hallabout this book: Do you want to write powerful love scenes which stir the reader's emotions?

This book shows you how to create a vivid love scene or improve a bland draft so it touches the reader's heart. You will learn the techniques used by professional authors to create conflict, depth and intensity, and create heart-warming and harrowing scenes that stay forever in the reader's mind.

We – dark fiction author and creator of the Writer's Craft series Rayne Hall, and romance author Susanne McCarthy – have combined our expertise and will show you how to write love scenes like a pro.

Whether you pen romance novels or need a compelling love scene for a different genre, this book is for you.

Some chapters are useful for all fiction genres, for example, how to write flirtatious dialogue and how to describe a romantic location. Others serve specific plot situations, such as first kiss, characters in disguise, confessing a secret, break-ups and marriage proposals.

In some sections, we provide guidance for specific kinds of fiction, such as how to write gay love scenes or relationships between different species. You decide which topics are relevant for your writing, and select which chapters you want to study.

Depending on how steamy or chaste you want your love scenes, we offer you a menu of topics choose from: writing graphic sex, implying sex without showing it, creating erotic tension without erotic action, and keeping love scenes chaste. Select the ones that suit your taste and the kind of story you write.

At the end of each chapter, we give you assignments, so you can put what you've learned into practice and take your novel-in-progress forward.

You won't find 'rules' here. Instead of telling you what and how to write, we reveal our professional techniques and show you how to apply them. You choose which of our advice you want to use in your writing.

We — Rayne and Susanne — write differently. That's why Susanne has added suggestions to Rayne's chapters, and Rayne to Susanne's. The different perspectives will inspire your own creative choices and enhance your individual author voice.

We assume that you've mastered the foundations of the fiction writing craft, and that you know how to write basic dialogue, develop characters and build a plot. If you're a novice just starting out, it may be best to set this book aside for now and start with a beginner-level guide to fiction writing. Our book is for writers who are ready to master specialist skills.

We both use British English, so if you're used to American English, some words and spellings may look unfamiliar. To avoid convoluted phrases of the 'he or she does this to her or him' type, we use the female pronoun in some sections and the male in others.

Now let's get started and create the love scenes your novel's characters deserve.

Rayne Hall & Susanne McCarthy

Chapter 29

Rayne Hall

Are you writing a 'clean read' or 'sweet romance'? Readers choose this kind of book because they don't want to be sexually aroused by what they read. Honour your readers' trust, and respect their wish.

This means you have to protect not just the story characters' chastity, but the readers'.


• The characters don't engage in any sexual action - not even hot embraces and passionate kisses.

• The characters don't get sexually aroused. (It's your responsibility as an author not to put them into arousing situations.)

• The characters don't think about sex. (They don't fantasise about the other naked, and don't yearn for each other physically.)

* The characters aren't aware of each other as sexual beings. (This aspect can be tricky, so I'll address it later on in this chapter.)

• The readers don't perceive the characters as sexual beings.

• The readers don't imagine the characters having sex.

• The readers don't get sexually aroused by reading. (Reading can inflame sexual desires, and to a reader who's not used to erotic content, even the mildest suggestion can be arousing.)


Here are practical tips how to keep a love scene chaste without sacrificing vividness and realism.

* Don't provide detailed descriptions of the characters' bodies. You can use a word to give a broad idea of their body shape—for example, plump, petite, slender, wiry, stocky, athletic, tall—but don't describe how her calves curve and how the jeans hug his narrow hips.

* When the characters touch, use the vocabulary carefully, and don't go into detail. When he holds her in his embrace, or when she lays a hand on his arm, describe the emotional rather than the physical effect. Choose words like tender, steadying, calming, supportive, encouraging, warm, comforting.

• Now for the tricky part: how to avoid sexual awareness between the lovers. Two people who're in love or who view each other as prospective spouses, are naturally aware of each other as sexual beings. Denying that would give your scene an unrealistic tone. The solution is to acknowledge the awareness, but not to dwell on it. From the PoV character's perspective, show a small physical detail of the other person. Use positive but not sensual language for this. (Examples: Golden freckles danced on her arm. His biceps bulged under the heavy load.) Then immediately focus on something else. This reflects how chaste people deal with physical thoughts: they redirect their attention.

• If the plot requires that the characters are tempted, show the PoV deliberately shutting off that line of thought, and distracting himself and the other person by focusing on something else. (Example: Golden freckles danced on her arms, like sprinkles of sunlight on tanned skin… He pulled his gaze away. "Time to launch the boat. Are you ready?")

• Perhaps only one of the characters is tempted to indulge in a sensual experience. Then the other takes responsibility for both and disengages gently and tactfully, so the withdrawal doesn't feel like a rejection. (Example: She melted against him, her heart thudding in her chest. She tilted her face upwards and opened her lips. Gently, he pushed her away. "Time to launch the boat. Are you ready?" His voice was tender, his smile warm.)


If you're writing a 'clean' book, don't deviate from this in love scenes for the sake of misguided realism. Respect your readers' wishes, and keep the characters and the story chaste.


"Your characters may kiss, but it would be a light, chaste kiss. It might well be on the forehead or cheek, rather than the lips. It could be the barest touch, like a butterfly's wings – use words like warm, soft, tender. Even if on the lips it won't involve tongues or any suggestion of 'French' kissing.

There may be some hesitation about it, or it may be impulsive – or both. And as Rayne suggests, both you and your characters then move swiftly on:

He hesitated, then bent his head and brushed his lips lightly over hers. "Merry Christmas."

Follow this with a sentence about something else—perhaps an action or a line of dialogue. This should be a change of subject, but arise naturally from the current situation."


Choose an innocuous physical detail the PoV observes in the other person. Write a sentence describing it in an attractive, but not sexual way.

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