Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is “How do you make your love scenes believable?”
By “love,” I assume the asker means sex – though how to make the confessional of heartfelt love feel earned and not pasted on or saccharine is an interesting question. But, in truth, the answer to both, or even really ALL scenes – love, sex, fight, daily conversation – believable is to ground them in character.
This is true whether you are a plot-driven or character-driven writer. Stories are about the emotions of the people in them – what they want, what they can’t have, what drives them to chase what they want anyway. So, a fight scene is never just about the choreography and who wins or loses. It’s about what that win or loss MEANS to the characters, what impact their injuries might have on them beyond the physical.
Likewise, a sex scene is never just about tabs and slots fitting together. It’s about emotional intimacy, what the sexual interlude means to the characters. It has nothing to do with whether or not multiple orgasms are believable or making first-time encounters awkward or including realistic body noises and accidental passing of fluids and gases. Those things might factor in if they relate to the characters’ emotional lives, but by themselves, they don’t change anything, one way or the other.
Because believability comes from emotional truth, regardless of everything else.
Good morning everyone this is Jeffe Kennedy author of fantasy romance and romantic fantasy I’m here with my first cup of coffee. Delicious. Ah today is Thursday may fifth I want to say March Fifth may fifth ah, one of our nebula conference organizers made that mistake the other day. She. Said if we could have that back by March Sixth that would be great and she had to follow up with the extra email saying I mean may sixth. Um, so I of course helpfully chimed in and said we only wish it was march. Alas, it’s a little chilly here this morning. Chill breeze blowing I started to go out to the grape arbor and it was too chilly. That’s why I put my jacket on now I’ve taken it off could see I’m on video having a little mister Rogers moment I did not mention this the other day and I meant to when I was talking about. That episode of Julia which faithful listener Laura Darnell tells me has been renewed for a second season. So I guess she started watching it and found it delightful that is a perfect word for it. This show is just delightful. You guys. There are so many things about it that um are heartwarmingly wonderfully delightful. So brief spoilery moments if you don’t want to know I mean I don’t think it’s not an actual like plot type spoiler. But it’s a really cool moment. When you figure out who this person is so Laura if you don’t want to know cover your ears for a moment but at the end of that episode that we watched last week there was this lovely moment where after Betty Friedan has like gutted Julia unfairly totally unfairly. And she is Julia has gone out to lobby just to get a breath of air and she’s sitting there and she’s trying not to cry but actually crying as so many of us do and this man comes up to her and says how much he liked her speech and he is so gentle and so kind. And he and he’s he says how magical and it was a really great speech then and I will not spoil her that way because there’s some lead up to what is she going to say and he said he really loved what she said and a particular thing about it and.
And he is so kind and he is kind and warmhearted in the same way that she is and I went. Oh it’s it’s Mr. Rogers and it was it was Mr. Rogers and I don’t know I mean this is sound goofy you guys it was lovely. it was it was in and he asks some if you should leave her alone and she said no if you would just sit with me for a few minutes. Why does that make me verklempt I don’t know ah some of the girls in the faro group were talking about. Um. Bridgerton second season of bridgerton I was talking about it too. But then they continued and there there was a debate over whether they liked second season better than first a lot of people didn’t seem to like second season as much as the first I liked it. Better. But um I love slow burn I love I love Richard Firstborns hello only child you know who feel like they have to do and be everything and I I love I loved everything about it. So again, slightly spoilery. Towards the end after Kate has like sacrificed everything they were saying that these were things that they didn’t like about it. They didn’t like how her ah the relationship with the sister which I actually loved and but I’ve also read the books a couple times so I had. I don’t know strong opinions already. Um, but 1 of the things they were saying they didn’t like was that after the sister figures out what’s going on I’m trying not to spoil her but you know maybe maybe I will spoil her and. Cover your ears or or go away I’m not going to say anything interesting today anyway. Ah so so the premise is I’m I’m going full spoiler here. Folks Kate is the older sister. She’s given up on marriage. She figures she can’t anyway. Ah, there are a lot of reasons for this and everything’s been put into grooming her younger sister to get her the ideal marriage which will get her an inheritance that Kate will never get and all ah all of these things Kate now see now I have to tell you guys all the details. And you probably don’t even care if I’m going to tell you anyway. So there’s 2 sisters Kate Nedwina and Kate is the daughter of an East Indian man and a british woman fell in love with him and he already had Kate.
As his daughter she was like eight years old when they got married and so she raised Kate as her own and then she also had edwina so edwina has british grandparents and edwina is the one who stands to inherit whereas Kate is you know the daughter of this. You know indian merchant um, she’s got no british blood in her and she know she’s not supposed to be part of this british aristocracy whereas it’s Edwina’s birthright via her mother right? So everything’s been put into getting Edwina the perfect marriage. And so even though Kate falls in love with Anthony Bridgegerton very early on she is determined that well she actually hates him and she doesn’t want to phone for eduwina but Edwina sets her sights on him and he sets his sights on Ed Weida and it’s a brilliant match. It’s like everything that Kate could want for Edwina. And Edwina is like I really want this I want you to be nice to this guy and so Kate does Kate sacrifices everything even though you know like she’s in love with Anthony she doesn’t do anything about it and Anthony doesn’t do anything about it because you know hello Richard Firstborns who are going to do their duty before anything else. Which I love I eat that up with a spoon and then towards the end Edwina realizes the paraho are in love and I mean it’s this fantastic moment because I feel like season 2 borrowed heavily from some of the is it. Okay drama I wanted to say k-pop k drama the korean dramas where they do these long long looks and Anthony and Kate just exchange these searing glances that are full of all of their. Denied lust and love and and at one point a critical point and I won’t spoiler that but Edwina sees it and it’s like the scales fall from her eyes. It’s almost a classic classic mythological moment and Edwina says like. Oh my god have they been doing this the whole time has everybody seen this but me and she feels totally betrayed and I was all right with her feeling totally betrayed. Other people didn’t like this so much I think they wanted it to be like less fraught. But then. Edwina is very unkind to Kate. She is cruel to Kate in her pain and feeling of betrayal and she basically says to Kate um, but she just accuses Kate of some of some terrible things.
You know of hurting her and and we really feel with Kate this whole time because we we know that Kate has only ever done this to sacrifice for Edwina that she was ready to sacrifice her most basic happiness like this her one true. Love. So that Edwina could be happy and have her inheritance and have everything and it’s dramatically unfair and so some of these girls did not like that at all because they felt like it was unfair to Kate and it’s like it is unfair to Kate. It’s awful and it. Made it so good. It was um I just loved I I loved it and I’m going to do a rewatch. So so there it’s um, maybe part of the reason I love it is because it’s always a story challenge. To get the reader feeling along with the protagonist so that even when they make mistakes and both Anthony and Kate make a lot of mistakes they make a lot of mistakes out of pride. And out of this sort of single minded determination to do their duty by their families and that’s um, it’s not always easy to find that sweet spot where where the protagonists are doing. Absolutely the wrong thing through the very best of intentions and that this is tied into their character and into their internal wounds their blind spots and when it’s well done where you are like totally on board where you. You know what choices they’re gonna make youre like oh don’t do this thing I know you’re gonna do this thing I know why you feel like you have to do this thing but don’t do it and then they do it, you still feeling along with them. Um know clearly it doesn’t work for everyone. Ah, let’s see so me and my work. Ah I’ve started revising this book. But you know I definitely um that act 2 climax crisis I whip back and input. All of my notes. From reading the first 3 books and the novella into a document and I’m revising with all of that in mind and I definitely was hitting a point. Um yesterday where I was feeling like I hate this book.
This book sucks this is going to be the book that ruins my career I need a particular name for this crisis. Ah, it’s so funny because I can feel all of those emotions and even knowing that I do this every time I still feel them so we’ll see. Right now I think the book is terrible. Um, cheers I was talking with a friend of mine last night and I won’t say who but 1 of my author friends was ranting and. This is what we do right? when we say step away from the keyboard. Don’t don’t put this online what you do is you call up your author friends and you rant to them and on the phone where nobody ever will ever repeat it and this friend of mine even said she said you know this is why I love you because I can rant to you. She says nobody ever knows that I think these things and I said no everybody thinks you’re super sweet but it’s totally cool. This is this is what we do but she was upset because she had seen a review saying something about 1 of her books or stories. That that said well um, this the author didn’t put in her best effort and and she was frankly incensed because it’s fine if you don’t like the book. Got all stories work for everyone right witness season 2 of Bridgegerton right? Not everybody likes everything like we don’t have to but because a particular book or story didn’t work for you doesn’t mean that the author didn’t put in her best effort and it’s. Think that reviewers do sometimes where they project and I think most authors find it very irritating because they’ll say things like well the ending was rushed because clearly the author was attempting to meet a deadline or you know the the author was thinking this or that and it’s like you know. You hear us say it on the podcast. You don’t know you don’t know what goes on in our heads and ah creating something is. It’s not a science It’s not an exact thing you know where we are not building widgets. There may be some authors who can crank out books like widget I’m not saying names I’m thinking them. Um, there are authors who can reliably deliver the same thing over and over again and they make a good career doing it not everybody wants.
To do that and not everybody has the same creative process to allow for that and if I were going to be really bitchy which is why I’m not naming names I would say that some of these authors who essentially create book widgets are not actually being all that creative. They’re just following a mold and doing the same thing over and over again which can be very satisfying audiences. So while I I will admit that I that doesn’t work for me. You know it’s like well you know if it can make a good living doing it and it’s satisfying to find. Go ahead, but not everybody works that way and you know as I often say that’s and as I was saying with my friend last night I actually talked with 2 of my writer friends yesterday because I’d had a distress that we were doing mutual ranting I did. I’m like what does this even mean a conversation that I had with somebody else sorry to be all obscure but I don’t spill all the tea here at first cup of coffee. That’s why it’s not first cup of tea. But oops I lost. My train of thought there. Oh you know what? when we oh this sorry but but but if we were editing I would edit that but we’re not so oh well, the. The whole point there is and we were saying this back and forth to each other. You know it’s like if it would be There are easier careers to have this what I’m trying to say and I even said to her. Yeah, you know if um, if we wanted to. Just make money just have a job that makes money we would be stockbrokers or bankers or finance people or something like that. It’s this is not the easiest way to make money and being the creative process is so fraught that way and not always within your control. But. Part of why she was so offended by that particular line was she was like every time I sit down to write. It’s my best effort she said I don’t I don’t care what else is going on in my life when I write it I promise it is always my best effort and so she was actually she was like. You could say a lot of things you could say that I didn’t write this book as well as another one or that I have you know, rushed the ending or you know that this story didn’t work for you or that you didn’t like the characters or whatever but don’t say it wasn’t my best effort.
Because they’re all our best efforts and and I totally feel that I mean that’s like here I am with my act 2 climax crisis and it’s like um, it’s totally my best effort but and i. I don’t know if I’m going to pull it off I don’t know if it’s going to work. Um, yeah so I’m I’m pausing because I’m debating saying a thing and I think I’m not going to say it? yeah. I’m not going to talk about what kind of bothered me from from yesterday. Alas, if you could be in on our venting phone calls you all would probably enjoy that the fly on the wall for these things but that’s why we have venting phone calls. It’s it’s a funny thing. You know about the business and it’s a piece of advice that I sometimes give to younger writers and then sometimes withhold because I don’t want to um, rain on their happy parades. But you know like some of this stuff just never gets easier. And and and we talk about you know like you know it’s good to have writers who are like the same face that you are because the problems that we have you know are are champagne problems they are problems that you know that my ten years ago self would have been thrilled. Have no like the thing that is currently aggravating me I would have been thrilled to like people to have this conversation with this person in the first place it would have like felt like a huge success just to be even having this conversation with the people involved you know and now it’s like. I am happy to be having the conversation but some of the content is aggravating to me and it’s like I don’t want to be dealing. That’s some of this. Um you know sometimes I feel like you’re a garmma and I I want to be left alone to write my books. Dont buck me about them which is probably why so many writers end up becoming that person I totally get it now. So yeah, we um, yeah so I guess I have no idea if I was going to like say anything. With relevant content today. It’s always amusing to me when you guys comment and say really good podcast today and it’s like ah I don’t I don’t know why please tell me I’m it’s always interesting to hear which ones you guys think are really good podcasts. But um, yeah, it’s not like I plan it much like my books. Ah.
All right on that note I’m gonna go hope you all are having a great Thursday winding up the week and I will talk to you all tomorrow take care bye bye.