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writing love scenes

What Makes a Good Love Scene?

There are a few places in the writing process in which nearly every screenwriter faces at least some difficulty. Some writers excel at dialogue, others action, and others structure yet nearly every screenwriter struggles with writing great love scenes. Know what makes for a particularly good, compelling love scene and you’ve got one hot, marketable skill.

Know Thy Genre

The first key to writing a good love scene is to know the type of movie you’re writing. Know what you’re attempting to do. Is the movie you’re making is a high stakes drama, a screwball comedy, a super hero genre-bender or a slow pensive art film? Your genre will, to a large extent, dictate the tone and brevity of your love and sex scenes. Some love scenes can be as simple as people kissing and then “smashing to black.” Others can reveal glimpses into characters’ motivations, the relationship with their lover(s), their environment, as well as their deeper drives and preoccupations. There’s a difference between the love sequences in Fight Club and in The Matrix Reloaded. One of them is executed well, and the other is not (comment to tell us which is which). Both films use the sexual dimension as a way to reveal different sides of the characters.

Know the Purpose or Scene Goal

A love scene that illustrates a couple’s bliss the night before disaster will be quite different than a love scene which seeks to say something about the power dynamics or darker aspect of a relationship. In a story about a “rake who falls in love” escapades of meaningless sex had better differ wildly from the love scene that takes place once he’s found the love of his life. And if by chance you’re looking to write sex to sell out or get noticed, think again. Even films which deal with the topic of sex in a brazen, head-on manner are not gratuitous in adding scenes which don’t serve the plot. So, always consider how your love scene moves the plot along and consider how it helps develop your characters.

Twist and Avoid Cliché

How are you going to improve on what’s come before? What about your scene is titalating, enticing, or evocative? Granted, if you’ve watched a lot of movies you probably already have your gripes about how certain love scenes are done. Well why not do something different? Can you take those established tropes and flip them on their heads? Could something that takes place in the private domain of the boudoir reveal something important about your character? How are you going to push the creative envelope? How are you breaking new narrative ground in the way you treat love, sex, or seduction?

Writing screenplays is hard work. Getting others to read that work can be even harder. But if you make those love scenes hot, compelling and meaningful within the context of your story, you may be surprised to find more readers coming out of the woodwork to read your script.

So write boldly and make those love scenes as intentional as any action scenes. Set a tone for your film and stick to it. Set a goal for your scenes and accomplish them with distinctive style. And as you proceed, a small note of caution: choose your language carefully. Sometimes it can be tricky getting across what you mean to say and convey in what is largely an intensely personal subject matter for many of us. From the action, to the dialogue and the parentheticals, the language of sex can be full of psychological triggers so be aware of this fact. Opt for taste and clarity. When in doubt, err on the side of taste.

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