Every romance writer must face the decision as to how to handle intimacy between the hero and heroine. Lovemaking is a major part of most romantic relationships. Therefore, authors can't ignore it. Much like finger nails against a chalkboard. While some authors choose to hint at intimate relations occurring between the hero and heroine off the page, others throw the door wide open.
If I’m going to be perfectly honest, I’ve always envied people who embrace their sexuality. Growing up in a conservative part of the US, I learned to shy away from acknowledging that part of myself. But sexuality is an integral part of who each person is, just as important as our intellectual, spiritual, social, and emotional selves. Still, that doesn’t mean everyone wants to read or write love scenes, and I respect everyone’s feelings on this topic.
When I first started writing, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to handle that aspect of relationships. I had heard publishers wanted hot, hot, hot, and my writing was not, not, not. It was hard to write those scenes without imagining an authority figure looking over my shoulder and judging me. I would procrastinate for days when it was time to write one of these scenes, and I had to be alone so there was no chance of anyone catching a glimpse of the screen. It was a bit painful, really. And then there was the dreaded posting of said scenes for critique. (This is like having judges in your bedroom rating your skills. MORTIFYING! A 5.5?!? What the-!)
About a year and a half into my writing, I took a step back and asked myself if I was writing to trend, or writing what I felt was important to tell the best story. I considered writing sweet, but the more I learned about storytelling, the less I felt that was the correct path for me. I would never consider having an action scene take place off the page. Who doesn’t want to experience the heart-pounding danger of the protagonist running from the bad guy, or the thrill of a good sword fight? So why would I have a love scene occur off the page?
Some craft books I've read state that avoiding action by having it happen off the stage is a fear response. The fear of the emotions involved. The fear of offending. The fear of rejection. Well, I can tell you this. Right before I started writing, I made up my mind that fear would no longer be making decisions for me. It had held me back from following my dreams long enough. So if fear was my motive for avoiding intimate scenes, I was kicking it to the curb.
Since intimacy is a very real part of a loving relationship, it felt disingenuous of me to pretended it wasn’t. Emotional authenticity is important, in my opiniion. It is one of the main things I look for in stories. I want to feel the connection is real and based on something more meaningful than surface qualities, and while love scenes can be based on nothing but physical attraction, they can also more adequately express deeper feelings than a mere conversation.
In the end, I decided throwing the door open in my books was a way for me to grow as a writer and as a person. I don’t think it’s the path for everyone, and would never suggest I know the right way for anyone else. I only know what’s right for me.
I would love to hear your thoughts on love scenes in books, either writing them or how you feel about them as a reader. (Please remember this can be a very sensitive topic for a lot of people, and follow the Lady Scribes’ golden rule: Be honest, but be kind.)