Episode 160: The Romance Episode Part 2

On September 11, 2021, Kasie was joined by Catherine Peace, romance author, for the second week. This time without Rex. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day(s)

The Romance Episode Part 2


  • SCWA Upcoming events and goings-on
  • Welcome back Catherine Peace
  • Commercial fiction with love scene bonuses
  • How to write a love scene
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Segment 1

Welcome back to the studio, Catherine Peace, romance author. And our new addition, Ella Shawn, author of Southern Gothic Erotica. Let’s get to know her for just a minute.

Last week we broke down some tropes and sub genres of Romance. It was mostly fun to shock Rex with all the various layers and requirements of Romance writing. It’s more complicated than non-readers might suspect.

Today I thought we’d start with out favorites list. So here are the categories and we’ll just add ours as we go:

  • Favorite sub genre?
  • Favorite trope (here’s a list)?
  • Favorite couple?
  • Favorite era?
  • Favorite author?
  • What title brought you into the romance genre as a reader?
  • What author brought you into the genre as a writer?

Segment 2

SCWA invites you to the September Become an Author event featuring YA fantasy novelist Jill Criswell. Register here. This is a virtual event held at 7 p.m. on September 15th. The live event is free and open to the public, but the recording will only be available for SCWA members. Become a member here.

Also happening in September, the Back to School sprint for the Writing Conversations midday workshops. Led by Amber Wheeler Bacon, these sessions get back going on September 21 with the Freelance Writer’s Toolbox. Click here to register. Writing Conversations are at noon on Tuesdays and are free and open to the public; recordings are made available to members of SCWA. You need only register for one to receive the login information for future Writing Conversations events.

Become an Author and Writing Conversations are made possible by the generous support of SC Humanities through grant funding.

One of the things we talked about last week was how do you know the steamy scene is coming? Or what clues do you have that a sex scene might show up in a non-romance genre book?

So let’s talk about some of those commercial fiction books we’ve read with some pretty steamy scenes or at least some unapologetic sexual tension:

  • The Bronze Horseman — I loved this book by Paullina Simons and I don’t think I thought of it as a romance but it definitely was.
  • Water for Elephants — even the film trailer with Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson (age gap 10 years, GET.IT.REESE.) is so intense I just want to watch it again and again.
  • At the Water’s Edge — also by Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants), this book is equally intense with the will-they-or-won’t-they love triangle
  • Twilight – Eclipse — after Bella quits that love triangle nonsense and marries Edward, we get what we’ve waited three books for; it’s said Stephanie Meyer wanted to make sure they were married first, so … might be worth unpacking that

Catherine and Ella — bring some of your titles, will you?

We also talked about the use of euphemisms and closed-door romantic devices to put distance between the intimacy between the characters and the experience of the reader. We can riff on that a little bit, too. Like the “what you imagine is better than what you’re given in detail” idea?

Segments 3 & 4

We’re a “how to” show and we didn’t really get to give a lot of time to the “how” last week. So we’ll give two segments to it today.

How to write a love scene. This blog gives some good advice so we’ll steal it.

  1. Know your characters — would they do this? Why or why now? How would they react to their lover’s pursuit? Would they go after what they want? Would they feel shame or guilt or embarrassment? Then build those answers into their dialogue and their body language.
  2. Keep your eye on the plot — even romance novels are not just one sex scene after another, there’s a purpose for every scene and how it unfolds and what the consequences are should be intentional.
  3. It’s a love scene, not just sex — keep the emotion front and center and let the physical act take second row to the connection (or lack thereof) the characters are experiencing; extend the foreplay to focus on the sesuality of the experience.
  4. Avoid so-called “purple prose” or silly euphemisms — you don’t have to be clinical, but you also shouldn’t be cute or silly about it; if you don’t have the vocabulary for the act, then cut the description. Sometimes what you don’t include can be as powerful as what you do. Some of my descriptions in PG-13 short stories:
    1. From The Shower:
      1. My swim suit zipped up the back to my neck, and you’d pull that zipper down slowly, your breath on my shoulder. Push your hands under the material and shove it down my shoulders, pinning my arms to my side. Kiss my neck, my wet hair and that chlorinated water. Press yourself against me, your suit too small to contain you.
    2. From For the Win:
      1. After Indiana failed, I sat on his bed in my underwear. I knew he wanted me. He’d been wanting me. I let him have me. We lay together naked, that final place we’d reached had been so tender, so sweet. He kissed my shoulder, wrapped himself around me, held me. It wasn’t enough.
  5. Throw in lots of sexual tension — this is what makes the sex worth getting to. Without the tension, the build up, it’s just pornhub.com. You want the reader to want it as much as the characters do. The Bronze Horseman was masterful at this.
  6. Know your audience — this is harder when you’re querying. For example, my vampire novel doesn’t have an agent or a publisher yet so I want the sex scenes there. I love them. But the right agent or the right publisher might not. So I think about the short stories I write, too, and consider where they might end up. When For the Win found a home, they asked me to cut the profanity. They didn’t ask me to cut the sex scene. 
  7. Don’t forget the setting — where they are presents a myriad of challenges from positioning to temperature to clothing and potential discovery. Fabrics have texture and furniture has shape. Use them and try to avoid the same ones you see over and over.
  8. Express the theme — love scenes are a great way to reinforce the subtle messages and themes of the story. Use them to show-not-tell readers what you’re actually working to communicate. For example, in Before Pittsburgh, our hero Brian is a smokin’ hot player and someone who uses sex to escape his feelings of guilt and avoid attachment; so when he falls for a woman and decided to take it slow “nothing below the belt” we know this love scene is Brian growin up and out of his bad sex habits from before.

Put the naysayers out of your mind — those people who will wonder about the scene’s authenticity (like your partner) or your eternal salvation (like your minister). Write the scene first for the characters and second for the reader. Be authentic to the story and you’ll end up with a great love scene.

Did we convince you to give romance a try? Click here to start with Reedsy’s top 25 authors and a quiz to determine what author is best for you.

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