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Love Scene Workshop … critiques by Mina Vaughn

Thursday, 28 February 2013  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

Over the next few weeks, some really special friends of mine are stopping by to critique participants’ love scenes. Please join us and find out what’s working and what’s not with our lucky winners’ scenes. 

And here’s something about my next guest … 


Twitter: @MinaVaughn

Mina Vaughn is an international woman of mystery and a shoe whore with a heart of gold. When she’s not writing her unique brand of silly smut, she’s plundering Sephora for any pin-up girl style makeup she can find. Mina’s debut novel, an erotic comedy entitled THE SCHOOLTEACHER AND THE SUBMISSIVE is about a punishment-seeking vampire who meets a quirky Domme with a serious role play fetish, and will be released this summer by Simon and Schuster’s Pocket Star. 

Mina‘s critiques

Thank you so much, Brenda, for the opportunity to help fellow romance authors spice up their manuscripts!  This story has a first kiss, which is always something romance readers love.  In this critique, I try to make this kiss stand out and try to make it special as most first kisses really are.

TITLE: Love Knows No Gender I’m not sure if you’re comfortable with changing the title, but I assume that in today’s society, this statement is a given.  Also, it pigeonholes your story as only being about homosexuality, and prejudice–versus about getting to know the characters and their love story.

GENRE: Romance  Is it YA romance?  The characters seem young.


“Let’s go sit on that bench,” this is a bit wordy for realistic dialogue Zander suggested, pointing to a wooden bench across from where they were currently standing. Alan nodded, tugging Zander along towards it. So Alan dragged him toward the bench even though Zander was the one to suggest?  Seems odd. They sat down and immediately Zander snuggled closer to his boyfriend, their hands still linked together.  Show me more.  I’m sure you describe their features earlier, but tell me about this moment.  Who is the protagonist and how is he feeling?  Is he nervous?  Excited?  How does his partner’s hand feel?

Zander nuzzled into Alan’s neck, his cold nose pressing against the skin there, and Alan laughed, looking down at Zander. A couple of actions and reactions in this sentence, but I still don’t know who is who.  If I had a clear sense of “OH, this is Alan’s first kiss with Zander, a boy who has more experience,” I’d understand the tension more. Their eyes met, Alan’s gaze drifting down to Zander’s lips. Describe their eyes!  Describe Zander’s lips!  We only get this first kiss once, so sloooow down. I’m sure it’s moving in slow motion for them.  They slowly inched towards each other, lips trembling, their hands holding each other’s tightly. So they are both doing the exact same thing at the same time?  Differentiate these boys!  I want to get to know each of them and how they react to this. Zander’s free hand gripped tightly at Alan’s black North Face, and their lips met. Ok, that was more specific.  He gripped it in what way, though?  Tight can imply because of nerves or passion or both.

Due to the cold, You’ve already mentioned the cold, and you’ve just broken THAT MOMENT with a “due to the…” statement.  Don’t interrupt them!  😉 Just start with: Alan’s lips were slightly chapped Here’s an opportunity to get some characterization in.  Instead of saying his lips were chapped, maybe say he was insecure and worried, “what if my lips were chapped?” , but they were still soft and warm. Their first kiss was everything Zander could’ve asked for. Like what?  Walk us through it.  It’s a first kiss—that’s epic!  Slower!  It was soft and gentle and loving and Zander knew from that kiss that Alan cared a lot for him.  How?  Explain.

Alan’s hand slowly untangled from Zander’s and moved up to cup his face, deepening the kiss a little. He didn’t want to push things too far, but Zander was so irresistible—he didn’t think Zander was aware of how adorably cute and innocent he was.  This gives more detail but I still don’t really know who is who.  I think your personalities really need to be clear in this scene.  Who is the aggressor? 

Zander’s fingers wrapped around Alan’s wrists, keeping his hands in place on his face. Alan’s tongue poked out Can you rephrase this a little sexier? and slid along Zander’s bottom lip, surprising Zander a little, but he quickly adjusted and melted into the kiss.

There were so many feelings and emotions at once.  Tell some!  It was probably due to the fact that he hadn’t breathed in some oxygen in a while Is this humor?  If not,  it really breaks the flow and the romance of this. but it’s not like living was important in comparison to kissing his boyfriend for the first time. For whom?

Overall, I think you have something great to work with here.  A first kiss is a once-in-a-lifetime moment, and if you slow it down and really capture what each of them (or just one of them) is feeling, this can be really special.  Thanks for the opportunity to let me look at your piece!

TITLE: Null City Very cool title!

GENRE: NA Paranormal Romance

Thanks again for the opportunity to critique!  In this scene, we have a surprising first kiss, possibly quite unexpected.  I think here we need a little more sexual tension to make the kiss really sizzle instead of startle.


When GABY PARKER told her employer LUIC LeMUIR that she and her young siblings were targeted by the group that murdered their parents, he called her a liar and ordered her to leave. But Luic discovers that Gaby was telling the truth and sets out in a desperate attempt to find the three Parkers before their enemies do.  

Luic had eaten in some of the most expensive restaurants in the world and considered himself sophisticated about food. These are technically the same thought, so I’d break up this sentence in a different way, or combine it in fewer words. But the turkey with stuffing and mashed potatoes he ate off a paper plate balanced on his lap in a tiny cabin was the best meal he could remember. Lots of details but they bog the sentence down.  Maybe cut one?  Listening to the three Parkers teasing each other, with Carey getting in rephrase “getting in” about ten times as many comments as the others put together, he felt like one of the children in a picture he’d seen once, standing with hungry faces pressed up against a treat-filled bakery window.  I’m not sure about this analogy.  You just said he was having an incredible meal, so to say that he’s like a hungry child doesn’t really work here.

After they finished eating, and with much complaining rephrase “much complaining” from Carey, the twins started to clean up while Luic drew Gaby outside.   Ok, does he draw her out seductively? Secretly?  How do we know it’s not business as usual?

“How did you find us?” she asked quietly. “Gus?”

“Yes. Talk later,” Luic said. Is Luic foreign?  This dialogue seems confusing. “First I have to…”  Would a guy really say “first I have to” before kissing her?  It sounds like SHE is the one getting cut off.  Why wouldn’t he finish his thought first, or just end on “talk later”?

And then his arms were holding her so tightly she couldn’t breathe and he was kissing her.  Too fast!  Slow down.  Does he approach her slowly?  Does she feel his proximity to him and what does it do to her?  Was she in any way expecting this?

Gaby’s thoughts didn’t get beyond “Finally!” She didn’t have Connor’s gift but her compulsive demand for order and organization was singing this was perfect. I’m not sure what this sentence means, so try rewording it and saying it out loud.  He was supposed to be holding her so desperately she couldn’t tell where their air was coming from, his tongue was supposed to be checking out I’d definitely use different wording than “checking out” hers and taking busy inventory of her teeth, and his hands were supposed to… I’m not 100% sure what you’re trying to do here.  Are you implying it’s rough and uncomfortable?  That it doesn’t fit her fantasy? Taking inventory of teeth doesn’t sound like a first kiss I’d like.  If it’s ferocious, find ways to make his passion for the kiss seem exciting and not scary.

“Oh, wow,” said If her voice is awed, maybe say whispered? Carey in an awed voice. “Are you sure you should do that out in public?”

I think this entry would benefit from some serious UST—unresolved sexual tension (that gets resolved pretty quickly, haha).  Tell us how she feels before he gets dragged out.  The scene starts with dinner and children and transitions far too quickly into a kamikaze kiss out of the blue.  Slow down, tempt the reader, and this will be much stronger.

Come back tomorrow for final love scene critiques and Pitch Madness submission details

Comments welcome! As always, be respectful and kind with your comments.

*****Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win one of three copies of GABRIEL STONE AND THE DIVINITY OF VALTA by Shannon Duffy here.*****

Filed: Workshops

  • amberlin says:

    The analogy in the second one worked for me. I read it this way:

    This is a man with sophisticated foods in taste and enough wealth to support that pursuit. But when it comes to emotions, connections, and family, he is starving.

  • I agree with Mina on both critiques. First kisses should never be rushed. Take time to slow down and let the tension build, so that we can feel that tingle of nervous anticipation right along with your characters!

    You have both constructed scenes that have the potential to really take our breath away, but rushing through the action leaves us only dazed and confused, instead of dreamy and breathless.

    One other minor note:
    In the scene from Null City (I also love the title, btw), I’m assuming that first paragraph is just a set-up, so we’ll know what’s happening in the story, and not an actual part of the scene, correct? Because if it’s supposed to be a part of the scene, it’s much too rushed.

  • I agree with Mina about the analogy. In other context, the analogy of him being ‘hungry’ for something he can’t have would work. But while he’s eating a delicious meal, it’s just jarring. The first thing I thought when reading it, even before I moved on and read Mina’s comment was, ‘But he’s not hungry.’ I understand what the writer was going for, but it pulled me out of the story in that context.

  • Thank you for both critiques, Mina 🙂 I learn so much from reading the critiques, and am trying to put this knowledge to use in my own manuscript. So many thanks to the authors willing to put themselves out there and be critiqued. That takes a lot of courage.

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