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On the Tricky Art of Writing a Love Scene

One of the hardest parts about writing a love scene is letting go. Allowing yourself to experience the same feelings of bonzai-passion, trembling-fear, vein-popping love, and button-exploding lust in which your characters are awash during their most intimate moments.

A lot of my non-writer friends think this is precisely why writing erotica must be hard. Because its very nature lays you bare to the bone. Leaves you, quite literally, naked and suddenly no longer alone in your fantasies – many of which are cringe-inducing, right? Or downright dangerous.

They scratch their heads a bit when I tell them how – hands down – I find erotica much easier to write than a truly emotional love scene.

With erotic scenes, I can separate myself, float above my own thoughts, looking down on my body like a spirit. “It’s not really me,” I can tell myself, as I endeavor to take my characters through a gauntlet of sexual behaviors that I myself might have no interest in exploring.

Truth be told, it’s this taste for the exotic, the edge of rational behavior, that I can write about until the cows come home.

Yet, while writing scenes drenched in explicit, perhaps deviant sexual behavior might compel me intellectually, I’m unmoved for the most part. Those animalistic, choreographed encounters are often as distant to me as a group of prehistoric cave-dwellers. Interesting, sure, but they just don’t stick in the craw of my heart.

It is in writing the love scene – the one that is sensual, not sexual, brimming with real emotion – that I am truly left exposed to my core elements.

Such encounters tease where two thundering hearts will be willing to go, once they finally do fall into a carnal embrace. So that when the inevitable happens, it’s not merely a consummation of burning lust, but a promise, a vow, a sacrament. An act of consequence and conscience that will change the lives of our lovers forever. They’ll remember every moment in vivid pantomime for the rest of their lives – because they had to court, seduce, prove their worthiness to the other. To us. It must be an act of imagination and feeling that will leave me, as both writer and reader, wistful for days.

A true love scene is difficult precisely because a writer can’t fall back on sex. We hold a reader’s very essence in our hands and must speak in the language of raw tenderness in order not only to hold their attention, but help reveal to them what is lurking in their own blood…what will make them gasp, curl up like a snail-shell, and ponder just how they’ll be able to face the world now that they’ve been changed by a few well-chosen – no, well felt – words. They might approach their spouse with more than pragmatic necessity – perhaps fearful of rejection, or just as leery of their gesture being returned in full force. Something as simple as a purposeful touch can open up a whole can or worms… as much as a garden of delights.

“To love another person is to see the face of God,” says Victor Hugo.

Yes, sex is easier.

Sensual scenes, love scenes, can’t get away with being merely novel or clever. They can’t fall back on a chorus of moans and groans. The heart has to work with the flesh and the mind, leading a reader to a place of yearning that is so much bigger than libido. A climax that satisfies the soul before the body.

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