Today, we’re thrilled to have Nicole North join us to talk about a subject dear (okay, VERY dear) to my heart—writing hotter-than-August-in-Hades love scenes. To make things even hotter, Nicole has offered to give away a trade paperback copy of her anthology Secrets Volume 27 Untamed Pleasures to one US-based commenter. Comment by Sunday, February 14 at midnight CST to be eligible to win! And in case you want more of Nicole’s excellent advice on writing love scenes, she’s teaching two classes this spring: “Turn Up the Heat! Heightening Sexual Tension” in March and “Writing Hot Delicious Love Scenes” in April. See Nicole’s website for more info.
So let’s get to the good stuff!
Nicole: Thanks so much for inviting me and asking great questions! If a writer wants her book to be sensual or erotic, she needs to feel comfortable writing at that specific level, for her targeted market. If she isn’t comfortable, this will show through and the reader will be aware of this discomfort. (In other words, the reader will be uncomfortable reading it.) As a writer, if you blush simply reading a love scene, then reading them aloud, in private, should help. Gradually expand your comfort zone by reading and writing slightly hotter and hotter scenes.
Kelsey: How do you balance the emotional and physical aspects of a love scene?
Nicole: I blend and layer the emotional with the physical. Some beginners make the mistake of including only the physical in love scenes. This makes it come across as clinical or maybe even porn-like. But if we analyze a well-written love scene from a romance novel and highlight the different elements with a different color, we’ll find there are not only physical actions, but also emotions/thoughts/internalizations, reactions, five senses/ sensations, and dialogue. The scene needs a balance of elements. There should be about the same amount, if not more, of the emotional component compared to the physical. The reader wants to know how sex affects the characters internally. How does he/she feel about the other person? What are they experiencing as far as sensations? What do they see, hear, smell, etc. Some writers mistakenly treat the characters as if they no longer have a mind during sex. When, in fact, the mind is probably more active than the body at that time.
Kelsey: If every scene should have some component of conflict, how do you integrate conflict into a love scene?
Nicole: You can do this in several ways. Tying the main story (external/internal) conflict into the love scene brings tension and makes the scene necessary to the story. Sex should complicate the characters’ situation, internally and/or externally. The characters should hold something back (such as emotion or commitment) during the love scene, until the end of the story. If possible, use society’s or their families’ reaction to their sexual relationship to add more conflict. The conflict shouldn’t interfere with the sensuality or the emotional experience. The reader wants to enjoy a hot scene. But slipping in conflict and tension in a subtle way makes the scene far more interesting.
Kelsey: Where do you get your inspiration for writing these scenes?
Nicole: I’m not sure. The ideas pop into my head. I have a psychology background and I love to delve down into the characters’ psyches and explore their behavior and emotions. My characters’ personalities and attitudes about sex guide me in how the love scenes play out. I like to give each of my heroines a different type of sexual history so we can see how that affects her interactions with the hero. In the case of Leslie from my novella Kilted Lover, she has settled for a boyfriend she’s incompatible with. They have no sexual chemistry and are more like friends. When she meets the hero, Scott, their attraction is scorching. She’s never experienced this type of sexual chemistry before and she’s more than intrigued. She’s not about to pass up the opportunity to see what this attraction could lead to, even though it means feeling some guilt in the process. The love scenes are sizzling-hot, yet playful and emotional. The unexpected passion forges a bond too deep to forget. These kinds of conflicted, sexual situations inspire me because I find them so fascinating.
Nicole: Aside from my husband, my family doesn’t read my stories. They’re very uptight and conservative. Most of my friends have said they enjoy my stories. So I haven’t had any negative reactions yet.
Kelsey: How do you keep your love scene writing fresh?
Nicole: I challenge myself to write slightly new and different things with each story. Perhaps a situation I haven’t written before. This applies to almost any aspect of a story. I don’t like writing the same thing over and over. I like to move into new territory. So even though it might be the same subgenre, I still want new elements, new things happening. That keeps it interesting and fresh for me (and the reader).
Kelsey: Could you offer suggestions on authors who write excellent love scenes to study?
Nicole: In my workshop, Writing Hot Delicious Love Scenes, I direct writers to many different authors and published books for examples, so I hesitate to mention only one or two. In general, most published love scenes are good. The best way is to find love scenes YOU love, then read them over and over to figure out why they work so well. Not everyone is going to like the same love scenes.
Kelsey: Any other advice you’d like to offer about writing love scenes?
Nicole: Just relax and have fun with it. If you enjoy writing love scenes, chances are the reader will enjoy reading them. And make sure you have plenty of emotion in the love scene. It doesn’t have to be love-type emotion. Lots of different emotions surface during sex. Explore them. Does anyone have questions about writing love scenes?
Okay, RU crew! This is your chance to get the down and dirty on writing fantastic love scenes, so fire away! Don’t forget, Nicole is giving away a copy of Secrets Volume 27 Untamed Pleasures to one US-based commenter.
Be sure to join me again on Monday when Christy Reece returns to RU to discuss back-to-back book releases, an increasingly common occurrence in the romance publishing scene!
Nicole North’s erotic romance novellas have been described by reviewers as “exciting, high octane, captivating, scintillating, sinfully delicious and pure romance.” Her latest release from Red Sage, Kilted Lover, is contemporary erotic romance novella with a touch of paranormal. Her first story, Devil in a Kilt is in the anthology Secrets Volume 27 Untamed Pleasures, out now from Red Sage. The second novella in the series, Beast in a Kilt, will be in Secrets Volume 29, July 2010. Her works have finaled in over a dozen writing competitions and won several awards. She teaches online workshops about various aspects of writing, including sexual tension and how to write great love scenes. Though she has a degree in psychology, writing romance is her first love. Please visit her website at: www.nicolenorth.com.
- Should You Make Your Romance Novel Erotic? by Jennifer Probst
- Shop Talk – Romance Writers Workshops Debriefed
- Looking for “The One”…or Not
- Erotic Romance Sub-genre: Hot? Not?
- Building Sexual Tension with Vonda Sinclair