Tips for Writing Romantic Scenes that Aren’t Cliche?


Dear Elle…

It’s tough to write the kissie stuff in a fresh way. And with the intense close-up on bodies and words, the burden of conveying the emotion can fall on the dialogue, making it sound hammy. Step back and look around your characters. The props in your setting can freshen up the scene with subtext. Subtext refers to what’s going on behind the spoken words and the obvious action. Subtext adds depth to a scene, undermining, contradicting, or reinforcing what’s being said. Imagine a scene where the couple makes out on a couch that the boy’s mean mom loves, making the girl struggle to push away images of his mom. This is great subtext for young lovers sneaking around behind parents’ backs. Or move them to his bed where a pillow sewed by his ex-girlfriend rests. You can almost write that scene around the pillow and all its significance. Settings and props particular to your couple’s history avoid cliché, and subtext liberates your dialogue.

Happy writing!
The Editor


  1. I have the same problem, so thank you, thank you, thank you for your intelligent and timely answer. Inserting an emotion inspired by another source never occurred to me.

  2. Very good suggestion. My experience with “The Editor” is filled with good advice like this. It’s never just the linear story. You need to enrich with subtext because we are all complicated beings and when we are on that couch with our HS sweetheart, years of experiences come along with us. These peripheral things make the cliché very un-cliché. I don’t always exercise this in my novels, but it’s good to be reminded…again. Thanks!

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