On Kissing (I Think Deeply About Making Out so You Don’t Have To!)




My first round revisions for MIDNIGHT THIEF involved ramping up a romance arc. Specifically, this required MOAR KISSING.

And it was kind of difficult.

Okay, okay, I know this is hard to believe, given the hot and heavy action MIT neuroscientists get on a daily basis, but really truly, it was. Maybe it says something about me that I wrote five unique fight scenes in my novel, but by my second kiss scene, things were already starting to feel repetitive.

(Those tempted to explain in the comments section exactly what that says about me, do so at your own risk. Did I mention that I write a lot of murder scenes? :-P)


So I spent a week brainstorming one or two kiss scenes per day and rejecting them one after another. It was incredibly hard work, and definitely interfered with my day job. Here I was in lab, trying to run my data through another analysis, and then I’d start thinking about the latest version of THE KISS, and what INTREPID HEROINE and HOT LOVE INTEREST were thinking, and whether they were standing close to each other or far, and just what exactly is that look in his eyes and whether her heart was beating faster…

Anyways. Very annoying, and SERIOUSLY INTERFERED WITH MY SCIENCE.

Since I had to suffer through all that, I thought I would share the lessons I learned about writing kiss scenes. (Plus some shoutouts to some fellow 2014 debut authors who shared their own tips).

1. Employ All the Senses.

What does the HOT LOVE INTEREST look like? Smell like? If it’s cold outside, does your viewpoint character feel cold, or does she feel warm despite the weather? Are the two of them close enough to be touching? What about taste?

2. It's All About the Emotions

The emotions are just as important, if not more important, than the physical actions. To quote Jenny Martin, “Some bad love scenes feel like biology 101.” It's the emotions and context behind a kiss – the history between the kissers, what it means, how it makes them feel – that’s what makes the kiss interesting and unique. In fact, you can take the exact same set of kissing actions, change the thoughts behind them, and it becomes a completely different kiss.

3. Kissing is Pacing Dynamite. 

If you want to characters to kiss, be prepared for tension in your story to change drastically. If a kiss comes out of nowhere, it introduces tension, uncertainty, and angst. But if your characters have been flirting since Chapter 1, a kiss will probably release the tension -- perhaps too much. Jessica Corra adds, “Kissing is great for tension, but you also have a certain catharsis or release once chars finally do it. You can play with this by varying your kissing - interrupted make out, a single chaste kiss, indecision on where to go from the kiss, etc. “

and finally, one last bit of advice from Julie Murphy...

4.  Make sure your characters brush their TEETH.

Now readers, what about you? Do you like (to write about) kissing? Any tips?


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14 comments:

  1. The science of snogging ... I love it! :-D

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    1. Thanks, E.J. "Science of Snogging" has a nice ring to it...

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    2. The Science of Snogging... a brilliant subject!... I'd love to read more... perhaps some field tests? Or feedback from student actors, who have to study it too? The process of field testing can also help to identify the various factors of nervousness leading up to it...

      Personally, I wrote the multi-award winning trilogy Diamond Eyes, which has a blind heroine who can see through time, so she learns about sex by watching "yesterghosts" but can only experience it herself through her other senses... yet still makes for very hot scenes as she gets more experienced...

      And field research was tremendous fun! LOL

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  2. Kissing can get in the way of my science too. I need to stop myself from envisioning things in the lab...

    I agree that it's all about emotion and thoughts, though you don't want to let your characters think too much or it doesn't sound real.

    My novel is social science fiction and has all sorts of different kinds of kisses. There is a kiss as the inciting event (which generates all sorts of tension), one at the midway turning point, and one at the resolution. I spent a lot of time thinking about those kisses and how they needed to be different because the characters are different.

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    1. Patchi - Having a kiss as an inciting event/turning point/resolution seems like it'd be a good writing exercise. I wonder if there are any other plot points a kiss could be...

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    2. Ohh, that'd be an exercise alright: design a short story where the kiss is the *dark moment*.

      Love the post. :)

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    3. Ooh, good idea Jess... *runs off to brainstorm*

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  3. From an engineering standpoint, you must not exceed the tensile strength of your materials. That said, I'm a fan of writers who imply the deed instead of showing the reader the flesh and blood. But if you must give in to temptation, include an element that will make it unique, such as humor.

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    1. Jilanne - But it's so much fun when everything shatters :-)

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  4. On advice number 4 - what if you're writing about someplace that hasn't yet discovered dental hygiene? And what if your protagonists not used to that fact yet *giggles* Thank you. I shall have to remember this maybe there's a good reason my two don't go for more than a peck until the end of book 3 He he.

    :} Cathryn

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    1. Cathryn - Yes, definitely. Have a talk with your characters and I'll bet they'll fill you in on the halitosis problem.

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  5. When it came time for my first protagonist to get busy, I found that scene difficult to write--harder than scenes in which I killed off characters (and cried while doing it). Even now, more than a year later, I'm still moving things around, trying to get my timing and amount of description correct.

    But that book isn't supposed to be a romance (it just has a romantic sub-plot). When I tried my hand at writing a historic romance, I had no problem getting my characters to get busy. Go figure.

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  6. I too feel a revulsion to the love scene as biology lesson school of writing. I think perhaps what motivates someone to go down this line isn't necessarily the desire to write porn but to follow the familiar edict of show don't tell, let the actions imply the emotions. And think that's a sound instinct, except if all you're doing is showing physical acts of intimacy, the scene loses its heart.

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