Love Notes: Hitting the Right Ones
by Rebecca Forster
It’s Valentine’s Day once again. Time to express our love, admiration and/or adoration with candy, flowers, and cards in colorful envelopes. It is cards in a colorful envelope that cause me to sweat. Over the course of thirty-five Valentine’s Days, I have penned every permutation of ‘I Love You’ that I can think of to my husband. Sitting with the yearly card in front of me, wishing it was already in the envelope, I was stumped, so I started thinking about the words we choose as authors to express love between our characters.
To that end, I took my favorite passage from Hostile Witness and analyzed why I found it sexy, deep and real. Every author is different, but here is here is how I believe I hit the right love notes between Josie and Archer in the Witness Series.
Introduction of character’s relationship
Josie got out of bed and searched for her clothes. She found her muscle shirt and panties but the sweats and sports bra were missing in action. (It would have been easier to say ‘naked’, but I liked that she was comfortable without her clothes. This passage felt sexy to me) She shimmied into what she had, glanced at the picture of Lexi, Archer’s dead wife, and then went looking for the man they shared. (This note creates an instant characterization of Archer as unafraid of commitment and Josie as a woman who honors his first love) She found him on the rooftop balcony, a perk of owning the building.
“Morning,” Josie walked up behind him and wound her arms around his waist. He was a big man; made her feel downright dainty. She loved the smell of his shirt. Starched and pressed by the man who wore it. (Archer is a guy who can fend for himself, something an independent woman would love. Josie’s note about his size making her feel dainty, tells us that she is not a small woman and that she doesn’t mind feeling protected.)
“Don’t move,” he commanded.
Josie didn’t but only because she didn’t want to. (Josie chooses to do what her lover asks.) She held her breath, loving the feel of him when he was excited by what he saw through his lens. His gut tightened beneath her hands. A solitary muscle rippled. Quick like a snake. A click. He sighed with satisfaction and stood up slowly, surveying the beach once more before turning around to kiss Josie. (To me, a detail is very telling. Her notice of the one muscle rippling speaks to how familiar Josie is with her lover’s body.) She kissed him back just long enough for them both to be happy. (She cares about his needs). When she slipped out of his arms, he let her go. (He understands her.) No nonsense. No jealousy. No neediness. Respect. Affection. Comfort. Chemistry. It was the kind of relationship people who could take care of themselves did well. (Deep love in a nutshell).
Writing love scenes is as challenging as writing sex scenes. Sometimes they are one and the same, sometimes they aren’t. The way to create successful, believable relationships between characters is to ‘show’ their reality and shade a your character’s lives with the extra notes that provide a background to the more prominent melody.
The end result of communicating a fabulous fictional relationship should look effortless even though a lot of hard work goes into composing it – just like love in real life.