5 Tips for Writing Memorable Romantic Scenes

Nov 16, 2010

I have a confession to make: I do not like most chick flics.


It's not that I'm unromantic-- it's actually the opposite. I feel like so many romantic movies are so full of tropes and stock characters that they kill the romance. This actually makes me extremely wary writing my own romantic scenes. I'm always terrified I'm going to fall into the sappy trap, and squash the real romance.

One of my favorite romantic scenes in any book or movie is in the movie The Village. You've got your painfully shy Lucius and your outspoken Ivy, who are in love but haven't admitted it to each other yet. There's just been a dangerous and frightening moment in the village, and Ivy wakes up to find Lucius on her porch. They sit and talk, but it's not particularly poetic-- they don't even touch. Then, Ivy, being her outspoken self, asks Lucius about their future wedding, which shocks him into finally saying what he's never been able to-- that he loves her.

Go watch the scene. I'm not kidding, you'll swoon over it. And why? Let's take a look at some things this scene did right.

The setting is unique
It's not a bedroom. It's not raining. It's not on a bridge. It's freezing cold, it's night, and it's on an uncomfortable front porch. Okay, so maybe it's a little cliche. But the fact that Lucius is sitting there, despite the potential danger from the "creatures," to protect Ivy-- well, that's romantic. And it's not the type of scene you'd expect to be romantic, but it is for just that reason.

The characters do not act outside their character
In fact, they act decidedly within their character. The unique blend and contrast of Lucius and Ivy's characters and how they interact makes this scene memorable. Lucius doesn't suddenly break out into poetic confessions of love. Which brings us to point three.

The characters don't break into poetic confessions of love
Okay, well, Lucius does actually make a confession of love. And I suppose you could even call it poetic. BUT. Let's look at what he didn't say. "I have loved you since before I could remember." "I can't take one more minute without telling you how much I love you." In fact, he didn't even use the words "I love you." In fact, the very thing that makes his words romantic is the fact that they are his. Even their delivery-- his frustration and agitation behind his love-- makes them better. Which brings us to the next point.

There are more emotions at work than just romance
Lucius and Ivy aren't wrapped in a rapturous romantic moment. There are a myriad of other emotions here. There's the fear of the attack that happened earlier that night, and Lucius's frustration and even irritation. There's Ivy's surprise when Lucius begins talking. And all of these emotions are inspired in the audience-- that's the key. In fact, the audience even feels an additional emotion-- amusement. Maybe it's just me, but I found Ivy's "will you dance with me on our wedding night" very funny. All of these additional emotions add realism, and even enhance the romance.

There is more focus on the relationship, and less on physical love
Now, don't get me wrong with this one. I'm not saying your characters shouldn't kiss or hold hands or even touch. They should do those things! But not every romantic scene needs to focus on them. Romantic tension is built in the scene from The Village precisely because the characters aren't touching-- but they want to. The scene is about the characters focusing on their relationship, which includes physical love but isn't limited to it.

So, my friends, now I want to know. What are some of your favorite romantic scenes in books or movies? What are some things you do to make your romantic scenes unique and memorable?

29 comments:

Julie Musil said...

I loooove scenes like this, which aren't so in your face. One of my favorite scenes (if this qualifies as romantic) is in the movie Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth version). Mr. Darcy's sister is playing the pianoforte and someone brings up the painful subject of Mr. Wickham. Elizabeth protects Mr. Darcy's little sister, and I swoon at the look Mr. Darcy gives her. I think that's when he really fell in love with her. I'm a sap for romances, but this one is my favorite.

Shallee said...

Ooh, I LOVE that scene in Pride and Prejudice. Thanks for sharing! :)

Pk Hrezo said...

I just found your blog from Julie Musil's post today.
OMGosh! That's my fave romantic scene too!!! I can't believe it!! That scene from The Village just gives me chills and it's all about the unspoken, the quiet truth of it all.
I liked your post about 3-2-5 but now after reading this, I'm sooooo happy I found your blog!
Cheers! :)

Shallee said...

I'm glad you found me too! It really is an amazing scene, isn't it?

Christ is Write. said...

Really good post. It seems as if all romantic books and movies have cheesy, unrealistic scenes. I'm definitely one that likes to be real with my readers, not make up a cute little tale just for the sake of their enjoyment.

Melissa said...

I love a scene from Pride & Prejudice (Kiera Knightly version). It's at the end when Elizabeth is walking outdoors in the early morning and Darcy finds her and confesses his feelings. Gives me chills every time I watch it.

Taffy said...

I LOVE that scene from the village too. It's so tender! And I love when they run down to the cellar he's still holding her hand.

THANKS for the post!

Rane Anderson said...

I saw The Village ages ago, but it was great to watch that clip again. Thanks for the tip. There was so much tension in that scene. His body language. His passion. Loved it.

Nice film clip choice to make your point!

Rane Anderson said...

Oh, and just want to say HI. I'm a new follower:-)

Kittie Howard said...

I so agree with what Melissa wrote about the ending scene in Pride & Prejudice. I don't like in-my-face romantic scenes...just too much. One of my favorite romantic comedies is It Happened One Night. Nothing seen but everything imagined!

Cheyanne said...

Awesome post! The romance scene I'm writing right now takes place in the room of a murdered woman in an abandoned old mansion. How's that for unique?

Margo Kelly said...

Oh. My. Gosh.

That is an AWESOME clip. Very inspiring!!!!! EEEKK... I feel the need to write now!!!!

:)
THANKS.

Angie said...

I love writing romantic scenes. I don't know that mine aren't totally cliche. I'll have to take a look at that. I haven't seen the village, but it sounds like a great example. I especially like all the other emotions involved. That's got to make a scene stronger.

Melissa said...

I loved this scene in the village! It was so perfect!

You nailed why I loved this scene. I don't know if my scenes are like this (romantic ones) but it's definitely something I need to think about. Well, the time for revisions is soon....

Claire Dawn said...

Wow! I've never seen the village, but thatnk you for that.

I've been watching Dawson's Creek all week, and what I keep thinking about the dialog is this: This is what people would sound like if you gave them 10 mins to think of an answer. (You know how you think of a witty comeback 5 minutes after the person goes home?)

Real people are so much more random.

And I think that's what's beautiful here. It's random. They're talking about all this other stuff, noony-noony-noo, and btw, I love you.

I feel like that's how life is.

Kelly Bryson said...

Great tips- just what I needed to be thinking about as I ramp up the tension between two of my characters. Thanks! And The Village had some great moments, didn't it?

I was trying to think of my favorite romance scene from a movie and couldn't, so I guess I'm not much of a movie romance person, either. It's so much better when I can imagine it, I think.

Emy Shin said...

I love these sorts of romantic scenes -- although, then, I'm all for chick flicks and cliches.

My favorite romantic scene in book is the one between Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. It's cliche, because it's right after she thought he'd died; but it's also so practical and them it's rather romantic. My favorite part, though, the the fact that instead of a romantic proposal on bended knees and all, there's a handshake and a marriage contract that forbids him from rendering her unconscious and running off to catch criminals. It's unconventional, and one of the scenes I can re-read forever. :)

Margo Kelly said...

I thought this post was so awesome - I gave you an award on my blog! Check it out. :)
www.margokelly.blogspot.com

Chersti Nieveen said...

Great post!

mshatch said...

It is hard to write a romantic scene that isn't sappy. Two I liked: the scene in Romancing the Stone where Joan and Jack begin to see each other in a different light, when they're in the plane. And in Pirates of the Carribean 2 when Elizabeth tells Jack Sparrow she always knew he was a good man and just short of kissing her he calls her Pirate.

Interesting post :)

Abby Minard said...

I am also not a fan of chick flicks- they are just too cheesy and predictable for me. I love that subtle romance in books- where it blooms during the journey and it's not entirely the MAIN focus, but its there and it makes you love the characters and root for them and want them to be together.

Kelly Dexter said...

I adore that scene! What an excellent example.

Michelle McLean said...

ahhh my favorite scene in the whole movie! LOVE it :D

myimaginaryblog said...

I was just telling Dean the other day that my favorite genre of film is romances or romantic comedies, but then I could only think of a handful I really liked, because I only like them when they're done very well, and those are rare. And sometimes my favorite romances are in other genres. Among my favorites are the Tim/Dawn and Jim/Pam romances in the British and American versions of The Office, probably because they're fraught with awkwardness and very plausible tension. (But I've now given up those shows because of all the vulgarity in them.)

A lot of the Jane Austen flicks have fabulous love scenes, and I think the characteristic restraint of the period--along with Austen's clever plots--add to the romantic tension.

That scene from the Village has always been one of my favorites (I too have searched it on YouTube before) although it also makes me anxious--which I guess is part of what makes it good.

Girl Friday said...

I loved The Village, this makes me want to watch it again. One of my favourite ever romantic scenes in movies is the end of The Apartment, just wonderful. And for not-at-all-romantic-yet-romantic, obviously the end of His Girl Friday, when she starts crying :)

Anonymous said...

I love a lot of romance stories, I like romance that makes me squeal and giggle outloud as I read and also the more subtle stuff. Like in Inheritance I was personally rooting for Nasuada and Murtagh. Also I reccommend the book My Ridiculous Romantic Obssessions.:)... And Charley. I cry everytime.

Alina John said...
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Lawrance Fernandes said...

I haven't seen these clips but after reading this blog i will say what a way to express ones feelings.

Top romance author in India

Destiny Mraz said...

ok this was very helpful to me thank you so much that was great i want to be a writer but i dont think im good and i end up changing my mind alot so its kinda hard thanks i will use the tips they are great

 
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