Sunday, April 27, 2008

A preview of my May class on writing romance

Hi, guys. This may, I'm teaching an online class on writing love scenes for my RWA Chapter, Carolina Romance Writers. Here's an excerpt that should give you some idea of what to expect if you'd like to take the class.


By Angela Knight

If there’s one aspect of romance that we as a genre have trouble with, it’s love scenes. After all, many of us grew up being told that when it comes to sex, “Good Girls Don’t.” Or if they do, they’re not supposed to like it.

In reality, I think we’d all agree that a sexless marriage would be arid and dysfunctional. Not to mention doomed; what man is going to put up with a wife who doesn’t like sex? Yes, he may love her, but if she hates his body and hers to that extent, somebody’s in desperate need of some serious therapy. And what kind of husband would force his wife to do something she hated? I think the technical term for that is “rapist.”

We don’t publish that sort of thing anymore.

Of course, you could create a heroine who is sexually screwed up to that extent, but readers would expect her to have her head on straight by the end of the book. Otherwise, your couple is not going to get that promised “Happily Ever After.”

Thus we have to assume our heroines like sex with their handsome heroes, no matter how virginal they may be, even in sweet romances where the bedroom door remains firmly closed. So our heroines do enjoy sex.

It’s romance novelists who don’t.

Or at least, many of us don’t like writing about it. All together now: “It’s just Tab A in Slot B!”

I’ll grant you, the mechanics of sliding Tab A into Slot B may be the same, but only if you leave out characterization, emotion and the development of the romance.

My husband and I have been married for 24 years now, and I have no idea how many times we’ve made love. But every single time is different, depending on what happened that day, what mood we’re in, and what we decide to do to spice things up.

Strawberries, anyone? Whipped cream? No chocolate, though: it gave me a rash last time....


As a writer, I pride myself on writing love scenes that are vivid and emotionally intense. Readers read romance because they want to experience – or re-experience – the humming thrill of falling in love with an incredible, sensual man.

In fact, romance novelists who expect to find success must pay more attention to love scenes now than ever before. The newest generation of readers were raised on MTV and Sex in the City, and they do not expect us to primly hold back because we’re afraid of being called sluts.

They want us to show them what amazing lovers our heroes are, not just tell them that everybody had a really good time. What’s more, editors know that, and they’re looking for writers who are not afraid to deliver.

But selling books is not the only reason to write good sex. Love scenes provide writers with a way to depict emotional intimacy and romantic intensity with a power that can’t be achieved in any other way.

What’s the first law of writing good fiction? “Show, don’t tell.” There is no better place to show the sweet flowering of a romance than in bed. That’s where our characters are most naked – and not just physically.

Think about it. Why do sex scandals grab headlines? It’s because we all know that a person’s core character is revealed by what he does in bed – or in a men’s room. He can make speeches about family values all he wants, but if he’s assuming a wide stance somewhere, we know what’s really going on in his head.

The way our heroes and heroines make love tells us volumes about what they think of themselves and the opposite sex. If they’re tender and concerned for the other person’s pleasure, that says something. If, on the other hand, all your hero is interested in is his next orgasm, that says something too.

Even more revealing is the way in which his lovemaking changes throughout the course of the book. Yes, he may know how to make a woman’s toes curl from page one, but how does making love to this particular heroine effect him? Does his concern for her pleasure increase until his focus is solely on her joy rather than his own? That says volumes about his evolution as a hero.

And it also tells you a great deal about how the romance has grown.


Every scene in a romance must do one of three things: develop the characters, develop the internal or external conflicts, or develop the romance. Otherwise it should be cut.

That definitely includes the love scenes. You can write the most sizzling scene ever put on paper, but if all it does is give the reader a thrill, it should be either rewritten or cut.

If there’s one mistake I see erotic romance writers make, that’s it: love scenes that don’t do anything. Sex scenes that are only there to give the reader a buzz may be fine in porn, but that’s not what we’re writing.

The focus in a romance is always the romance: the growth of love between two people, with all its rocky missteps and luscious pleasures.

Which is why traditional romances with three-page generic love scenes are every bit as bad as pointless erotica. If you’re including a love scene solely because your editor demands it, you’re doing something wrong. And you’re missing a golden opportunity to advance your story.

It’s my intention with this class to demonstrate how to craft love scenes that make your romance truly romantic.

Over the month of May, 2008, I will post a total of fourteen lessons, on the CRW Yahoo Group for the class. There will be one each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You are welcome to ask questions whenever you like, and I will do my best to answer.

Lessons will include:
The three functions of love scenes in romance
Character development
Mapping the romance with love scenes
The First encounter
Middle encounters
Last love scene of the book
Creating appropriate levels of sensuality, whether for erotic romance or traditional
Sensual detail
C, F and P words – what language should a romance writer use?

I hope you find the class useful, as well as good fun.


If you'd like to take the class, you can sign up here:


Angela Knight