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Love Scene Workshop … critiques by Tina Moss

Friday, 15 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 … 

Tina Moss Author Photo

Tina is a writer of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and historical romance. She lives in NYC with a supportive husband and alpha corgi, though both males hog the bed and refuse to share the covers. When not writing, she enjoys reading, watching cheesy horror flicks, traveling, and karate. As a 5’1″ Shotokan black belt, she firmly believes that fierce things come in small packages. Represented by Frances Black and Jennifer Mishler of Literary Counsel

Tina is a contributing author for WINTER WONDERS: THE OPERA HOUSE. Here’s some information about this fabulous book…

WINTER WONDERS: THE OPERA HOUSE The perfect book for cold evenings is out now from Compass Press; WINTER WONDERS. THE OPERA HOUSE, a paranormal tale of lost love, will be featured along with stories from twenty other authors.

All of the profits go directly to Literacy Inc, an organization that teaches teens the importance of reading and offers them a chance to win a free college education. Help others learn to read by giving the perfect gift filled with winter themed stories from all genres. Recommended for ages teen and up.

Links: Amazon, B&N, Kindle, Nook, Book Depository, Goodreads

Tina’s critiques

Title: Cold Summer

Genre: YA sci-fi


My bedroom door cracks open and Kale slips inside, wearing his gray zip-up sweatshirt and a ripped piece of cloth tied around his right hand. I untangled myself from the bed, right into his waiting arms. [I love the way this scene is set. I’m wondering why he has a piece of cloth tied around his hand and that bit of mystery pulls me in more. Add an “a” before ripped above, change “untangled” to “untangle” to stay in same tense,  and cut out “right” before “into his waiting arms”, since you use “right” as an adjective in the previous sentence.]

This is why I couldn’t sleep—somewhere within me, I was afraid he’d already left. [The tense change is a bit jarring, even though it is technically correct. You also repeat this information in the next two sentences, so I’d cut this.]

I press my face into his shoulder, inhaling the smells of summer storms and winter. “I was afraid you were already gone.” [“Summer storms and winter”? Why the contrast of both? I also have no idea what that would smell like? Rain? I want something tangible to associate the scent.]

The muscles along his back stiffen. “I didn’t come to talk about that.”

“Then what did you come—” [Nitpicky, but cutting it off at “you”, instead of “come”, sounds better when I read it aloud.]

Kale cuts me off with a kiss. It’s soft and cold at first, deepening into something more when he presses me closer. My fingers twine into his hair, feeling like this could never be enough. I finally realize the difference between needing and wanting. [Great lead in, but don’t tell me she realizes the “difference between needing and wanting”, show me how she gets it now. What’s changed that she has this realization?]

The back of my knees hit the bed. I slowly lower myself down with Kale following me without an inch of space between us, his knees on either side of me. One of his hands is around my waist, his thumb tracing along my hip. A shiver runs up my back and I break away, still feeling his chest move every time he takes a breath. [Take out “with” and add a comma to make the sentence “I slowly lower…” flow better. In the line, “One of his hands is…” consider a different verb, such as “One of his hands wraps… or “One of his hands grips…” etc. Active verbs.]

Something isn’t right and I want to ignore it. Still— “Kale . . .”

“What?” His eyes search mine.
Screw it. [Love the voice here.]

I tug at his sweatshirt and pull it free from his arms. It falls to the floor somewhere behind him, and I can swear my heart is pounding loud enough for him to hear. My fingers trace the hem of his jeans before slipping under his T-shirt, slowly raising it up. Over his flat stomach and the curves of his chest. He leans away and lifts his arms, allowing me to lift the shirt over his head. [Do a quick check through your manuscript for the word “slowly” and eliminate it where possible. This is called a crutch word and often can be overused. In the last line, you write “lifts/lift” in the same sentence, so I would recommend changing that too. Otherwise, the paragraph has good action in it and sets the tone.]

The smell of winter is everywhere. [You may have set this up earlier in your story, but I find myself wondering about this smell again. Is it pine trees? Fresh snow? Etc. What does her winter smell like?]

Overall, I enjoyed this scene. I can feel the chemistry between the characters and I love the mystery you weave in. I’m curious to learn more. All you need is to go over some of the grammar and repetition issues. You might also consider how you can dig deeper into the scene. What is she feeling at the moment? How do her feelings show in her actions and reactions? The more you can evoke that sense of intrigue and desire, the stronger your scene. 


Title: An Absence of Light

Genre: YA/NA light sci-fi

I woke sometime early the next morning. My headache was gone and I squeezed my eyes shut, not wanting to wake just quite yet. I’d had a much too nice a dream to get moving. [The opening is good, but doesn’t evoke much voice or intrigue. I know this is coming after another scene, so that may play a part. However, if it is the beginning of a new chapter or scene break, I’d consider a stronger start. For the last line, “I’d had a much too nice a dream to get moving”, sounds off when reading it aloud. Almost like the character is speaking in a dialect. Not sure if that’s what you wanted, so I’d suggest reading it aloud to see.]

Tentatively, I stretched out, tapping along the blankets until my fingers reached a warm body. “So it wasn’t a dream,” I muttered, opening my eyes to the grey pre-dawn light. [I actually like this better as an opening. It says everything we need to know, but adds the voice I wanted in the first paragraph.]

Adam grinned but didn’t move. His shirt was rumpled up, revealing a large portion of his stomach. Without thinking about it, I ran a hand over the flat expanse of skin, completely mesmerized by the ripple of muscle there. [A set of nice abs. What’s not to love? J]

Adam sucked in a shocked breath.  [I love this. I can picture it so perfectly, even though I don’t know much about Adam yet.]

“Are my hands cold?” I asked, unable to hold back a giggle.

He shook his head. 

“Am I bothering you?” I didn’t quite know why I cared. I wanted this. And to some extent, I knew he did too. Still, I started to pull away like some small frightened child. [The comparison between herself and a small frightened child gives me a clear picture, but I think you can do even better. Your writing shows you understand visuals well, so instead of “pull away” think about more active verbs that would give the image of a “small frightened child”. Not “cower” as that’s not the feeling you’re showing here, but something active like it.]

Adam grabbed my hand and pulled it to his mouth, running my fingers across his lips. With his other hand, he tugged on my shoulder until I scooted closer to him.

Rolling over, eyes still screwed shut, he folded himself in next to me. “This is a dream, isn’t it?” [I cannot figure out “folded himself in next to me”. Is he wrapping himself around her? Cuddling next to her? For some reason, this throws me off. But, it may just be me. I’d ask a beta reader for a second opinion on it.]

I shook my head, not trusting my voice to speak. My whole body thrummed with some inner energy I didn’t fully understand, but couldn’t imagine stopping. [Love!]
“Good.” With that, he rolled over me, pinning me down with his weight. His mouth found mine, and I lost any power of conscious thought. [Me too. LOL. Great job!]
You are a wonderfully visual writer and I love this scene. Using active verbs and descriptive language paints such a clear picture for the reader. In some places, you can push the envelope more as I’ve marked above. However, overall, I believe your writing is engaging and dynamic. I would love to learn more about these two characters and the story. Well done.

Come back tomorrow for more love scene critiques

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


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