About Writing Love Scenes

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prometeus

Contrary to popular belief, there are men out there who read romance novels. I also once knew a male romance author. It’s an interesting genre, and the stories can range from squeaky clean sweet romance to jaw dropping erotica. 

I’ve had some interesting feedback from some of my male readers. They often tell me they really enjoyed reading the sex scenes. Okay, good to know, (she writes as she blushes.) I write sensual romance, which includes some sex scenes, but unlike erotica, the sex scenes aren’t the main focus of the story. Most of the action takes place outside of the bedroom.

How sex scenes work in sensual romance

Before I started writing contemporary romance, I took the time to research how to write effective love scenes. As with any fiction writing, there is a technique for creating a sensual, believable love scene. I used Anais Nin as a model. Her work is definitely sensual, but by no means overtly graphic. 

First, I build the sexual tension between the characters. Arousal begins slowly and oftentimes innocently. Hands accidentally brush. Someone squeezes a hand or touches a forearm during a conversation. Spontaneous horseplay turns into foreplay.

Before making love for the first time, the woman will usually be asked if she’s okay with what’s about to happen. I think it’s important to clearly establish that both characters are consenting adults. However, this may vary, depending on the story. In The Deception, Alex and Carrie have known one another since they were children. They’ve been in love for years, but both kept their feelings hidden. When the moment of truth finally arrives, no words were necessary. 

As I get into the scene, certain body parts may be referred to, but are never mentioned by name. I’m writing romance, not a medical textbook. My goal is to describe what the characters are feeling, both physically and emotionally. I use words such as, she felt a sweet sensation. My editor came up with a wonderful way to refer to an orgasm. She called it, reaching his (or her) release. I’ll also use the words such as climax, ecstasy, or the two  became one, to describe the euphoria the characters are experiencing.

These scenes are included to enhance the overall storyline, and I use them sparingly. Again, this is romance, not erotica. Most novels will typically have two or three love scenes. The primary focus of the story is the relationship, and there’s a whole lot more to a romantic relationship than just sex.


Marina Martindale

So Why Write Romance

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People sometimes ask me why I write contemporary romance as opposed to other genres, such as mystery or science fiction. To which I say, why not?

I write sensual contemporary romance because we all have hopes and dreams and a desire to be happy. That happiness, however, may elude us because of the poor choices we sometimes make. Most of us have experienced at least one romance that went sour, so it’s a genre many readers can relate to. Perhaps this may explain why romance is so popular.

Along with conflict driven storylines, I create characters who are realistic and believable. My protagonists, such as Carrie in The Deception aren’t heroes. They make bad decisions and they have to deal with the consequences of those bad decisions. Sometimes an antagonist, such as Scott, also in The Deception, will learn from his or her mistake and try to do better. Most, however, remain defiant, such as Scott’s wife, Maggie. Either way, they too have to live with the consequences of their actions, and a few even pay the ultimate price for their sins.

The one thing you won’t find in my stories is gushy, gooey schmaltz. For those who like that kind of melodrama, it’s out there, but that kind of storytelling isn’t my style. My inspiration comes from my own life experiences, and the stories others have told me. Readers tell me they feel the connection, and they like how believable my stories are. This is the highest compliment a reader can give an author. 

This is why I write romance. It’s the one genre where I can dig deeper into the relationships we have with others and try to better understand the human experience.

Marina Martindale

The Deception is available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

I Write Books I’d Love to Read

An open book with magical stars coming out of it.
© Can Stock Photo / stillfx

I began writing contemporary romance novels out of a desire to write books I would enjoy reading. I wasn’t concerned about how many books I would sell. My goal wasn’t to become rich and famous. (Not that I would mind becoming rich and famous.) I simply wanted to write stories that I could lose myself in. For me, it’s about the joy of storytelling. I write out of my own love of reading. I also thought if I wrote books I would enjoy reading, others would enjoy reading them too. It turns out, I was right. I’m getting some wonderful feedback from my readers. It happy to know that people are enjoying my books.

How it all began

I consider myself lucky. I grew up in a house full of readers. Both of my parents enjoyed reading. Dinner table conversations were oftentimes about the books they were currently reading. They liked spy novels. They read the entire Ian Fleming James Bond series, but they also read mainstream fiction.

I loved horses when I was a kid. I must have read the entire black stallion series. Marguerite Henry, however, was my favorite author. I read Brighty of the Grand Canyon from cover to cover many times over. I also loved her Misty series. Beverly Cleary was another favorite. Beezus and Ramona are timeless.

As I became an adult

I took English lit courses throughout high school. This introduced me to many different genres. Of course, some were more interesting than others. Oftentimes, however, my biggest challenge was putting the book down. Sometimes I wanted to keep going to the end, but I couldn’t get too far ahead of the rest of class.

As an adult, if you’ll pardon the pun, I fell in love with the romance genre. Like my parents, I also enjoyed mainstream fiction. So, from time to time, I borrowed one of their favorite novels. Like Jaws. Great read. I think this is why my romance novels are somewhat similar to mainstream fiction. Authors such as Arthur Hailey and Peter Benchley most certainly have influenced my writing.

Marina Martindale

Remembering Rosamunde Pilcher

Photo of a bouquet of flowers.
Photo by Marina Martindale

I was an avid reader long before I ever dreamed of becoming an author. In fact, I came from a family of readers. I’ll always remember my mother loaning me one of her books and telling me I had to read it. She said it was one of the best novels she had ever read. The book was The Shell Seekers. The author was Rosamunde Pilcher.


As soon as I started reading I was instantly pulled into the story and I couldn’t put it down. Such amazing, unforgettable characters. And even though it was a long book, I was sorry when the story finally came to its end. Since that time I’ve read other Rosamunde Pilcher novels, and all were amazing. Not only was she a gifted storyteller, her work inspired me to become a contemporary romance writer.

Sadly, I just heard the news that Ms. Pilcher has passed away.  She will most certainly be missed.


Marina Martindale

Writing Relationship Fiction

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© Can Stock Photo/kudryashka

This may sound arrogant, or perhaps hokey, but I sometimes get weary of hearing myself say, “I write contemporary romance novels,” whenever I’m asked about what I do. People think I’m writing cheap, schmaltzy novels. Or they think I’m writing erotica. Neither is the case, as there is so much more to what I write.

I write stories about human relationships. Love isn’t limited to a man and a woman falling in love and living happily ever after. Love is about all kinds of human relationships. The love of a parent to a child. The love between siblings. Even the platonic love between close friends. The romance between and man and a woman is only a part of my stories.

For example

One of my contemporary romance novels, The Journey includes a heartwarming subplot about the relationship between brothers Jeremy and Larry Palmer, as Larry puts his own life on hold to help his ailing brother through a life altering crisis. That’s true love. 

In The Deception, another contemporary romance novel, a father literally takes a bullet meant for his child. That too is true love. 

The Betrayal, another contemporary romance novel, includes a story of a long estranged aunt who finally lets go of the rivalry she carried for her deceased sister and reaches out to her niece, accepting her like another daughter. That too is love.

The reason why I write contemporary romance, as opposed to science fiction or mystery or horror, is because I’ve always been fascinated by the complexity and dynamics of human relationships. Not only between lovers, but between close friends and family members as well. Of course those relationships can be part of the storyline in those other genres. However, the romance genre is the only one where the primary focus is on human relationships.


Marina Martindale

Stuck in a Literary Sexual Rut

An open book with two pages folded together in the shape of a heart.
Photo by Fotolia.

 

Oh the problems one encounters when writing contemporary romance. As I explained in my earlier blog post, Sweet, Sensual or Erotic Romancethere is a distinct difference between sensual romance and erotica. In sensual romance, the “romance” scenes are written to enhance the plot as the characters consummate their relationship. The emphasis is on what they’re feeling.

That said, as I’m working on my third novel, The Journey, I found myself in a bit of a rut when writing those scenes. Let’s face it. There are only two kinds of equipment out there, and that equipment only works in certain ways. I was starting to worry that my writing might be become too redundant.
So, I decided to do a little research and downloaded a copy of an anthology called Little Birds, by Anais Nin.

Ms. Nin is perhaps the literary madam of erotic literature. I thought I might learn something new about writing from her. What I found, at least in my opinion, were stories that were a little cold. The characters were one-dimensional and lacked passion. Afterwards, I looked at my own writing. I think there’s something to be said for writing about what the characters are feeling, emotionally as well as physically. As for the redundancy; I suppose it is what it is. Even Ms. Nin’s stories were a bit redundant. Yet decades later, readers still enjoy them. I guess there are some things in life that people will never get tired of. Like chocolate cake.


Marina Martindale

Blame It On Too Many Soap Operas

 
and my misspent youth
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People often ask me what motivated me to become an author. Or why I write contemporary romance. I blame it on my misspent youth. I was a soap opera junkie for many years. It began when I was in the sixth grade and it continued into adulthood. I suppose I could blame it on my mother too. Instead of telling me to go do something more productive, she got me started on her soaps.

I used to schedule my college classes around my soaps. Mind you, this was in The Dark Ages, before we had the Internet, so having my first VCR was a truly liberating experience. I could now have a life. I was able to tape my soaps and watch them at my convenience. I taped my favorite soap everyday for many years.

What makes soap operas so compelling?

So, what was it about soap operas that was so compelling?  According to my high school drama teacher, soap operas were real life, exaggerated. Soap operas relied on classic plot lines, such as extra-marital affairs, illegitimate children, and long-lost family members. Viewers could make a connection because they were believable stories.

The other thing that made the soaps so compelling were the characters. I never watched the now defunct All My Children, but I certainly knew who Erica Kane was. Dr. Marlena Evans on Days of our Lives was my personal favorite. Two great actresses, Susan Lucci and Deidre Hall, played those memorable roles. They transformed these fictitious characters into believable, three-dimensional people.

I too strive to create believable, three-dimensional characters in my contemporary romance novels, such as Ian Palmer and Gillian Matthews, in The Reunion, and Carrie Daniels and Alex Montoya, in The Deception. I also work hard to create believable stories. My plotlines twist and turn, just like a soap opera. My characters get involved with the wrong people. Long-lost lovers are reunited, and people are betrayed by the ones they trust the most. In other words, they’re real life, somewhat exaggerated.

Marina Martindale

Sweet Sensual or Erotic Romance?

 
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The romance genre, including contemporary romance, has three distinct sub-genres. They are:

  • Sweet Romance
  • Sensual Romance
  • Erotic Romance or Erotica

Sweet Romance is squeaky clean. There is no sex. All passion is expressed through kissing, hand holding and perhaps brushing a hand along a face. If it were a movie, it would be rated PG.

Sensual Romance includes a few sex scenes. They are used to enhance the plot, but unlike erotica, in sensual romance there is no harsh language. The descriptions are not overtly graphic. The emphasis is on the character’s emotions as they consummate their relationship, but unlike erotica, the plot line doesn’t revolve around the sex scenes. Most of the action takes place outside of the bedroom. 

Erotic Romance is all about the sex. The descriptions can be quite graphic. It may include variations such as threesomes, orgies or bondage. The story really isn’t about two people falling in love. It’s about the characters having sex and plenty of it.

Why I write sensual romance

I write sensual contemporary romance because it’s the sub-genre I enjoy reading, and it’s what today’s readers expect. My lead characters make love once they’re emotionally invested in the relationship. Then, once their relationship is consummated, I typically don’t write another sex scene because it would be redundant. The only exception would be if the characters have been separated for a period of time and are reestablishing their relationship.

From time to time, however, a character becomes involved with the wrong person for the wrong reasons. Typically, this happens early in the story, before the two lead characters have begun their relationship. On those occasions I may approach the sex scenes a little differently.

For example, in The Deception, lead character, Carrie’s  long-term relationship has ended unexpectedly. A short time later meets Scott. He knows Carrie is emotionally vulnerable, so he uses it to his advantage. Because Scott is a one of the villains in the story, the sex scenes between him and Carrie are a little racier, but even then, the scenes aren’t overly graphic. I’m more interested in what the characters are feeling in the moment. 

If you’re looking for sweet, squeaky-clean romance I’m afraid you won’t find it in any of the contemporary romance novels I write. However, if you’re looking for a believable story that will leave you feeling satisfied as a reader, I hope you’ll consider giving one of my books a read.

Marina Martindale

Update: The Deception is now available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.