Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Be My Guest - Susan Malone


Ah, February—the season of the Valentine.  When all thoughts turn to love (or lust!). But with books and stories, we almost always have a “valentine” moment.  No matter in which genre you’re writing, a love scene is almost always included, be it Thriller or Mystery, Fantasy (good grief but vampires seem to have nothing else to do!), Mainstream, etc., etc., at some point our hero gets a breather from his travails and is rewarded by some physical love. And, by golly, most of the time he deserves it! Or should—if not, you may have missed a critical element in your storyline and character development.

I’m not talking erotica or the graphic sex of Urban Lit, but in just about every other story genre we still need some love. And we don’t have to write actual “sex” either. Until the past decade and a half or so, the physical aspects of Category Romance were alluded to (“he took the ribbon from her hair” and we break for the next scene), or at most stopped with kissing and touching. Now all categories and genres go a bit further, but that’s up to you—the writer. Of course, you have to write to a category’s specs, but you don’t have to write in that category if you’re uncomfortable there.

The thing is, where you put in this love scene makes all the difference in a good book. It has to do with pacing, with the arc of your storyline. And while characters can kiss and touch and lead up to this throughout the book, the actual positioning (no pun intended!) has a most-perfect place in the organization.

The natural arc of any storyline builds, of course. We have basically three acts in a great book. Act One is all about normal life, the call to adventure, the refusal of the call, and then finally crossing the threshold into the thick of the plot. Act Two is about trials and tribulations, where our hero is gaining knowledge and strength; about meeting mentors and making allies and coming to understand villains, and finally, himself. Our hero goes into his own depths, faces his biggest fears, and comes out the other side stronger and ready to meet the true nemesis in the “final battle” so to speak—whether that battle is internal, or external. Act Three is about that climax, saving the day, and making the world a better place—for himself or all humanity.

The end of Act Two begs for some down time—for both our hero and our readers. I mean, whew! Hero is tired! And so are we. We’ve all worked danged hard to get this far. So this is the natural place for a breather, for the reaping of some rewards for all of our perspiration so far. And what better time, place, and way in which to enjoy that but in a lover’s arms? Especially if said hero has had to work as well to secure the lover when (apologies to the Bard) his course of true love didn’t run so smoothly. This lets all of the external (and by its very nature, internal) demons go quiescent for a bit, while we all bask in some good lovin’.

Then, of course, our hero is fortified with that final piece he needs to go slay the beast, whatever that beast may be. And all of our readers, having partaken of this little piece of heaven, are ready to zoom off with him—satisfied, stronger, and ready to rumba!

Award-winning author and editor Susan Mary Malone has four traditionally published books to her credit (fiction and nonfiction) and many published short stories. A freelance editor, forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to Traditional publishers. You can see more about her, and what authors say about working with her, at:

Posted by Maryann Miller, who agrees that everyone needs a little love.

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  1. There are romantic interludes in my books ... but mostly implied ... I'm as awkward writing about physical love as a teenager is about approaching the opposite sex at Jr. High dance.

  2. I included a romantic encounter about half way through my first book - although the reader knows it'd not going to end the way the POV character hopes it will! Poor man had misread the signals. Embarrassment all round.

  3. Excellent point as concerns romantic timing, Susan. That tension helps keep the reader interested through the middle. Even backstory sex can work well here, by means of explaining the complexity of a relationship in which the reader is now invested.

  4. I still struggle w/ my love scenes and it does depend on the characters themselves on language usage, actions, etc. However - I still strongly believe the characters should have a relationship before sex. I get so fed up w/ authors who throw the H&H in bed way too early - like in the first 50 pgs or so. How can there be any connection or "love?"

  5. Susan, this is great!
    And it's so good to get the chance to read some of your work and get your valuable insight :)

  6. Loved your post and agree with you. I still prefer the romances where there's a build to the climax (no pun intended).

  7. Susan, thanks for being a guest at the BRP.

  8. There is such a distinction between a love scene and a sex scene, and you helped point that out so well, Susan. I agree with Rufus that is should be more about love and relationship before the sexual activity.

  9. I included romance in my first book, but my second book is the opposite and is about the end of a romance (and the beginning of a new romance because of an affair).

  10. Sorry to be so long in responding! I "got outta town" last week and just back.
    Christopher--do not worry about feeling awkward writing love scenes. Almost no one does them well. Stay within what feels right to you there.
    I love when a character misreads the signals, Elspeth!
    And you are so right, Kathryn--backstory sex works well also.
    Maryann and Rufus, this is one of those things that drives me nuts. I watched a well-known TV vampire series, and was somewhat flabbergasted, as a scene would arise, with two characters talking, and all of a sudden, they'd tear each other's clothes off and have sex! Then cut to another scene, and the exact same thing would happen. Just leaves me scratching my head!


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