The Whys of Love (Scenes) – and Shut that Door!
Here’s another topic that came out of a bulletin board thread somewhere. (It’s not that I’m opposed to posting on BB threads, it just that by the time I happen to stumble across these discussions, everyone else has moved on and there’s no point to posting. So I just save it all up to inflict on you, dear readers. *sweet smile*)
Anyhow, this thread (which started off as something else entirely) evolved into a discussion of love scenes in romance – did readers enjoy them, get uncomfortable reading them, prefer slightly awkward yet realistic scenes as opposed to effortless synchronization, feel cheated if the author “shuts the bedroom door” and fades to black, etc.
The one comment that got me thinking was posted by someone who said she’s writing romance, but doesn’t like to write love scenes. She prefers to write the lead up to the actual act, then cut to the afterglow, and was that okay?
So my response to that is: Not only is it okay, but if a writer can write everything leading up to the act, then cut to the afterglow and not sacrifice something important to the story – than she really shouldn’t write the act itself. (Unless she’s writing it just to titillate, which puts it outside the boundaries of the mainstream romance genre, IMO.)
A love scene is, first and foremost, a scene. And every scene in a book should have a purpose–some importance to the story. If nothing happens during a love scene but two people having a mutually pleasurable time–if the characters don’t resolve or exacerbate a point of conflict, experience an emotional turning point, or arrive at a deeper understanding of themselves and/or each other–there is no reason to write that scene as a fully described love scene.
My books certainly aren’t the most explicit out there, but they’re fairly sexy (if I do say it myself). My goal is to make sure that if you skip the love scenes in one of my books, you’ll be completely confused about what’s going on. Otherwise, there’s just no reason for me to write them.
And I do write fade-to-black scenes, too. In each of my books, there’s at least one what I call “honeymoon sex” scene – where the characters are simply happy and in love (and yeah, it’s usually right before everything goes to hell), and I write the sweet, playful lead-in to their intimacy–and then shut that bedroom door. Because that scene would be pointless. It wouldn’t tell the reader anything new about these characters or their conflict. And to me, writing it would feel strangely voyeuristic–as if I’m watching something I have no business watching. If there’s no story development, they don’t need me there.
And there’s one more reason I think it is very okay–even advisable–to shut that bedroom door and hang up the “Privacy Please” sign. Because the privacy isn’t just for the characters.
If I’ve done my job right, at the point in the story where I fade to black, each reader’s mind will supply a love scene to bridge the gap. Whether it’s a hazy flash or a detailed play-by-play, it will be uniquely that reader’s. There’s a lot to be said for leaving something to the imagination.
By shutting that bedroom door on my characters, I’m allowing the reader some much-needed privacy, too – a space to imagine the hero and heroine in complete romantic bliss, in whatever way seems most believable to her. It’s the one way to write a love scene that works for every reader. It lets each reader make the romance her own.
So even though I write relatively sexy romances, I’m a big advocate of shutting the bedroom door, at least once a book.
What do you think?