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Love at First Write: On the Tricky Art of Writing a Love Scene

September 23, 2017

artiste 3One 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.

love piano

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.

That’s why I decided not to write direct sex scenes in the new novel I’m working on. It’s not that the flesh isn’t an intrinsic part of love and loving. It most certainly is. Nor am I against sexy novels with a high erotic content. Truth be told, though, I am a little bit sick of them. They need to keep dialing up the action – like a Hollywood thriller – until the scenes themselves become almost comical in their content. How many gizmos, fetishes and come-hither outfits (or lack thereof) can you actually fit into a story about two mere human beings, after all? Even this guy looks bored.

sexy legs girl

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.

Compare your average scene of heavy breathing and dutiful grinding with this:

Four of his fingers – three calloused, one as supple as moss – drummed over my brow. Light, wispy. Like the sweet and silly kisses of the tiny fish Yina used to keep for my father. Those would nibble at the skin of my toes when I dangled my feet in their pond.

Gliding down the slope of my nose, his only silken finger landed at its tip before moving lower. My lips quivered as he touched them, caressing their every bend and bow. Wetting the pad of his fingertip with my juices, I heard him bring it to his mouth and taste me.

Before I could let the air from my lungs, or close my mouth – laid open in awe – he took my head firmer in his grasp and lifted it just off the stone. He expelled his breath in a slow hiss, letting it linger over the skin of my face. Warm and damp. So unlike the desert.

P.S. Please have a look at my video diary, Love at First Write. It will be an ongoing series that will chronicle my efforts to write a great romance. I’d love to hear your comments.


  1. GENIUS POST I loved it all especially. ” 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.” You are amazing.

  2. So are you. I’ve been thinking of you and your family. Are all of your Mexican relatives safe?

  3. I’m pleased this was written. It’s very interesting to see someone point of the differences between the two (love scenes / sexual scenes) Very descriptive also. I like your blog. Your topics of those I have also briefly read through are quite incredible.

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