The (Dare) Devil is in the details…

I’m currently on the home stretch of the first draft of my fourth novel, and I thought it would be a good point to share with you some of the things I focus on when I’m writing about the relationships that drive my work. I also want to think about how something I’ve been watching lately, Daredevil, has a similar approach.

One of the questions that comes up a lot from readers is how does a writer write a believable romantic scene in a novel? And actually, the ‘rules’ for writing that kind of scene are exactly the same as for writing any other scene in a book; it’s all about the details. Likewise, when working with film as a genre, the same seems to apply.

Let’s take Daredevil series 2, Episode 1, as an example. Early on in the episode, Foggy, Matt and Karen are playing pool at Josie’s bar after work. Here’s the scene (well, 41 seconds of it, anyway) for reference:

What I love about this scene is the emphasis on the details. The fall of Karen’s hair so that it just touches Matt’s back is the first thing I noticed, and the mirrored poses in the mid shots. the way they synchronise their movement around the table is like a dance, too, as first her hand touches the table, and then his. They move together to the end of the table, during which time her hand rests on his shoulder, guiding him into place, but also lingering a little longer than necessary to emphasise an undercurrent of emotion. If asked, she could say she was just assisting him, but we, as an audience, see a little more than that from the languor of the movement, the need to stay connected to him as long as she can. And he’s not objecting, either.

I love the way the camera then pans to their hands on the pool table, hers over his, guiding his hand into place, for sure, but then fingertips gently brushing up his hand to his wrist, that little movement again betraying a deeper emotion than just friendship. She leans in close, her hair brushing his shoulder and you get that depth of field effect when the camera focuses from one to the other, as Matt picks up Karen’s trembling voice, racing heartbeat and breathes in. She is close to his ear, and you see, even out of focus, her eyes darting to his mouth. All subtle signs of attraction, of desire.

There’s no doubt that Deborah Ann Woll and Charlie Cox make a great onscreen representation of Karen and Matt, and their screen chemistry brings a real tremor of emotion to all of their encounters. As a viewer, I believe in them as a potential couple, and that’s absolutely testament to their brilliant performances. Thanks, both, for those wonderful moments!

That’s a similar thing to what I’m doing when I write a scene that’s rich with romantic tension. It’s about focussing on the details, letting those speak for the bigger picture, so that a reader can visualise how a character who is attracted to another acts in a heated situation. Example? Here you go, from my debut novel, The Second Chance Tea Shop:

So it’s all about the details – the feel of the jumper underneath a palm, the heartbeat, the hand moving to the small of the back, to build up a picture of a moment. It’s not about the actual kiss, as such, as there are only so many ways to describe the meeting of lips, it’s about what goes before, and the sensations that the kiss evokes in those doing the kissing. And, hopefully, that creates a sensation and emotion in the reader/viewer too!

I hope that gives a little insight into what makes me tick when I’m writing a scene like this – what can I say except I’m a hopeless romantic?!

And if, after reading that, you’d like to see some other examples of how this works in my novels, click here for my Amazon Author’s page!

The Little Somerby Series, published by Aria/Head of Zeus (UK) and Droemer Knaur (Germany)
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