My favorite non-favorite love scene line ever was, “He sipped at her lips.” This gem arrived on my cluttered agent desk as a submission from an aspiring romantic suspense writer.
I tend to be a visual person. I visualized him sipping away. Nothing romantic about that.
I tend to select clients with sales potential. Two piles for submission reactions – yes or no. Where did the sipper land? No suspense about that.
You could dismiss such writing as genre fiction cliché. But that doesn’t tell us anything. Doesn’t instruct regarding what is essentially at fault.
Lack of authenticity – that’s the rub. In real life if someone sipped at my lips I’d either laugh or turn nauseous. I would not be turned on.
Yet again art reflects life. And writing an effective love scene is definitely an art. That’s why it’s so difficult to master.
At the heart – or other organic region – of this particular art is the imperative that you turn the reader on sexually. Or at least you don’t turn her off – with a ludicrous image or worse still an unsavory one.
This is commercial fiction we’re talking about here. Which presents another imperative. You must keep the reader reading – page after turning page – hooked hard into the world of the story.
You must never interrupt that pace with a sloppy line that stops the reader in her tracks to exclaim, “He did what?”
She makes that abrupt halt when a fissure appears in the believability of the story world. When the action doesn’t ring true. When the writing and what it portrays is not authentic.
John Gardner in his definitive work, The Art of Fiction, says, “Never awaken the reader from the dream of the book.” He’s right on as usual. The thud of an inauthentic line is a dream buster for sure.
Where do you find authentic details for your love scenes? Ask yourself, “What turns me on?” Make a list. Start there. Let your imagination – and your libido – do the rest.
My next non-favorite love scene line is, “He entered her.” This turkey is usually written by a man. What could he be thinking? That she’s a door? Or a contest?
Don’t even get me started on that one.