Writing Excuses 7.38: Writing Love Scenes

Shanna Germain joins Brandon, Mary, and Howard in front of a live audience at GenCon Indy to talk about writing love scenes. They’re not easy to get right, and they can be even more difficult to talk about it in a way that leaves the Writing Excuses team’s “clean” rating intact.

We cover the ways in which the love scenes must support the story, and the importance of tension in setting those scenes up. Mary asks the question foremost in all our minds: how do you write a sex scene so that it’s not silly? Shanna fields it with aplomb, explaining how she lets the characters drive it, washing unintentional humor out of the scene.

We also talk about how difficult it can be for those writing the POV of the opposite sex to get the head-space details right, and how love scenes fit into the pacing of your work.

What You Missed: Prior to recording this episode, in an effort to get all the nervous giggles and snerky titters worked out of our live audience, Mary read a portion of a recently released Pathfinder novel in her “one-nine-hundred” voice. No, we did not record it. Some things are meant to be loved, then lost.


Put your characters in a place they cannot escape, and keep them there.

Shanna plugged “One Hot Summer,” but the actual title is One Long Hot Summer. It is not currently available Audible, but it’s available on Amazon at the link above. There are lots of OTHER things on Audible for you to listen to, including four titles featuring Shanna Germain.

62 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 7.38: Writing Love Scenes”

  1. @Dallan

    Your message to klmercer does not make sense. Please quote from one of the 3 comments he/she/it has made with the reasoning you are attacking.

  2. @Ed
    I’m not attacking anyone. I’m only pointing out that it is a logical fallacy to posit that people should write about sex just because they write about gore.
    It’s like saying, I stole a brownie the other day. Well, I guess morality is out the window. Might as well go on a killing spree.

    It should also be noted that morality is a cultural essential. All societies must have morals to continue their existence. All morals exist because societies have come to realize at some point that they were being destroyed without them, so talking about morality as writers and storytellers is not only reasonable, ignoring them is being untruthful.
    One of the most common morals in all societies are sexual morals. So there must be something important enough about them for societies across time and the world to all adopt such morals; i.e. society must have been falling apart without them.

  3. @Dallan

    I said you’re attacking her reasoning. Learn to read. Do what I suggested (quote the reasoning you are attacking), or scuttle off. I’m happy with either option.

  4. @Dallan

    I never said “people should write about sex because they write about gore;” I would not presume to tell anyone what they should write about. What I said was that the podcasters have covered other controversial topics without being attacked and should not be attacked for this one. I never said that societies should not have morals, or that we should not talk or write about them–only that different people have different morals and listeners should not assume that the podcasters will bow to any moral code but their own and that any requests for redirection should be POLITE. A few people commenting on recent episodes have let their typing fingers get ahead of their manners and forgotten they are being given a gift and that they should be grateful. My main point this entire time, which I believe I have repeated more than once in different words, is “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

    Even the cartoon bunny gets it.

  5. At about the 8:23 mark, Mary says something about a common mistake made by men writing female POV characters — “the women are looking at the wrong things”. I’d like to see y’all expand on that in a future episode.

    1. That would quickly drag us well into the realm of the “explicit” tag. If you need that information, you should probably talk to some women.

      Good luck with that, by the way. ;-)

  6. @klmercer
    Again, you’re mistaking a simple point of logic for a personal attack. Please don’t make that mistake.

  7. Dallan:
    This episode should have been title “Writing Sex Scenes” most of the love scenes I’ve read have nothing to do with sex, but with actual love or romance.
    Romantic love is distiguished from other types of love by one very important feature — a desire to have sex. It might be a desire to have sex after marriage, but if that desire is not there then it is some other type of love. So– when writing a love scene that is believable one needs to understand the tools in order to decide how to show that desire even if it isn’t acted upon.

    At no point do we say that a love scene must have sex onstage. In fact, we say pretty much the opposite of that, which is that it should only be onstage if it moves the action forward, develops character, and entertains the reader. Part of making those decisions is understanding your story and who your audience is.

    At the end of the day, however, you need to have an understanding of the tools in the toolbox.

  8. @ Dallan:

    I never treated you as though you made a personal attack on me (so saying “again” makes no sense), only pointed out the flaws in your post above. You keep trying to refute arguments I never made. However, there are several people who HAVE attacked the PODCASTERS personally. Saying “I’ve lost respect for you” or “I thought you were better than this” IS a personal attack, not a “point of logic,” and while the podcasters are capable of defending themselves I thought they might like to know that there are some listeners who appreciate what they are doing for us.

  9. Thanks for doing this and bringing in an expert. I’ve been afraid to even attempt writing physical intimacy but the way Shanna put in the context of character and doing multiple things in the story like any other scene made a lot of sense. Now the idea seems more manageable and less weird.

  10. Hey, I give my thanks to Shanna. I do not read erotica and I have no plans to write erotica. Nonetheless, Shanna’s presentation helped me to understand how to write love scenes. She did well with explaining the importance of character development, plot, and setting, all of which add to mood and other essentials. This gave me a lot of insight to writing romance. I plan to write clean love scenes and Shanna inspired me. Thanks Shanna! Thanks podcasters!

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