Monday, February 13, 2012

Tips for Kissing

For kissing characters, that is.

Hope everyone really enjoyed their weekend. I predominately spent mine blowing my nose, napping, and watching Backyardigans with my 4 year old, who was also sick and sacked out on the couch. Fortunately, we're all feeling a lot better.

We'll continue our conversation about writing books that are worthy of our shelves later this week. Today I had promised a writer that I would answer her question, "I have come across a scene where my main character and her (boy)friend have to kiss. Do you have any tips on writing kissing scenes?"

An excellent day-before-Valentine's Day topic!

I certainly have tips for how to not write kissing scenes. I specifically remember a scene I wrote in 8th grade (well before my first kiss) that involved two characters kissing. Leading up to their kiss, I described the "magnetic forces" between them, which led to no end of ridicule from my boyfriend (whom I apparently let read the scene ... very un-Stephanie behavior...) So. Step 1: Avoid the magnetic forces.


I'm assuming we're talking about some sort of Big Kiss (like a first kiss or something), not just a swift peck goodbye before her boyfriend heads to class. For a Big Kiss here are a couple things you should consider:

  • The age of your characters
  • How long they have known each other
  • What this kiss means to them as individuals

I probably don't need to spend much time explaining why you should consider the age of your characters. And how long they've known each other is likely obvious as well. If these are two people who have only met a few months ago (or less), their kiss will be different than two people who have known each other since elementary school.

But once you've considered these two factors, it's important to think about the emotional impact of the kiss. What kind of emotional state is the girl in before the kiss? What does she think of herself? What does she think of him? Same goes for the fella - what does he think about himself? Everybody brings their own unique baggage into emotional situations. If your character was once told she was ugly, she might have different feelings going into a kiss than a girl who has always been chased by boys.

Here are a few additional tips:

Leading up to a Big Kiss (particularly a first kiss) consider having a few almost-kisses. Like a few times where she thinks he's going to kiss her, or whatever. Not only will it help build tension, it'll create more satisfaction when the kiss finally happens.

Don't worry about the kiss happening someplace great or at the"perfect" time. It depends on the book of course, but more than likely you're not going for that "fairy tale, life is absolutely perfect" effect.

Don't linger too long. Seriously - a little goes a long way. The couple should either be interrupted or the scene should end shortly after the liplock. That's not a hard and fast rule, of course, just something I've observed works well.

As with the art of kissing itself, writing a good kiss scene requires some trial and error. Don't expect to write it perfectly the first time. I tend to write any emotional scenes too fast, and during the editing process I have to slow the pacing.

Also, if you write historicals, you'll need to consider what was appropriate conduct for men and women during that time period.

Lastly, every genre is different. If you write fantasy, you'll likely handle kissing differently than if you write romantic suspense. Romantic scenes in a YA novel will possibly be different than romantic scenes in an adult novel. I suggest reading books in your genre and seeing how other authors have handled it.



Alright, let's get in the Valentine's spirit - favorite romantic movie or book? Of course any of Jane Austen's are hard to beat, but I'm particularly fond of The Princess Bride, both the book and the movie.

64 comments:

  1. I love Princess Bride! The movie is good, but the book is, oh-so funny!

    Sabrina is another good one (w Harrison Ford in particular, but Audrey Hepburn is alright, too).

    That was quite a topic to cover! So few books do it well. Thanks!

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    1. Oh, Sabrina! That's an excellent movie! I should watch that again...

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  2. Thanks so much Stephanie! Glad you're all feeling better over there. ;)

    I was pretty thrilled to see "The Princess Bride" used in your post, since I only just finished reading it last week. Love. Love. Love. :)

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    1. Isn't it great, Olivia? I'm glad to see so many of us have read it!

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  3. I read the Princess Bride book as well! HYSTERICAL! :D The movie is amazing of course. If anybody dislikes the movie... well that's just inconceivable.

    I think my favorite Valentines movie would be a Jane Austen/ BBC type of movie (the new ones). I also like Pillow Talk starring Doris Day and the hotsome Rock Hudson. Or Sleepless in Seattle. Or The Shop Around the Corner. And You've Got Mail. ...okay I better stop before I get on a roll.

    I don't usually write kissing scenes, but I did recently! :D It was real quick, unexpected and then the guy's gone and the girl was like, "...oh bye...wait WHAT?! DID HE JUST??" :O but she can't dwell on it because she has to go burn her house down xD (really confusing for everyone who hasn't read it)

    Have a wonderful Valentines day everyone!!!

    I was going to try and find a wonderful romantic movie quote but they're all so good! So... I guess all that's left to says is- "We'll always have Paris!"

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    1. A better movie than You've Got Mail, I think, is Return To Me. Although YGM was pretty funny.

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    2. Pillow Talk! I was completely obsessed with that movie in 8th grade. Had a HUGE crush on Rock Hudson. (And is there a more studly movie star name than Rock Hudson?)

      And I like Return To Me too. I thought it was a really unique romantic movie.

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    3. My mom won't let us watch Return to Me any more, because she hates movies that make her cry... lol! Our house is extremely deficient of romantic movies, for that fact alone.

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  4. This made me think of a new novel, THE COLONEL'S LADY by Laura Frantz. Best not-a-kiss scene in the history of the world. The actual first-kiss scene was great too, but primarily because of that earlier scene that was so taut with tension, but did NOT result in a kiss. So well done!!

    I just finished a scene where I'd debated including a kiss or not. Opted to put it in, largely to illustrate the changes that the hero has undergone since the first kiss scene in, actually, the first scene, LOL.

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    1. Roseanna, I've heard a decent amount of buzz about The Colonel's Lady. I have another one of Laura Frantz's novels on my shelf but haven't gotten to it yet :(

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    2. GET TO IT!! Laura's one of my new favorites. I've read two of her three now, and wow.

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  5. I love the Princess Bride too.
    I also really enjoyed the romance story line in Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. I know this isn't really a romance book, but the story betwen Pip and Estella is excellent. A bit tragic perhaps, but wonderful nonetheless.

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    1. Great Expectations has been on my to-read list ever since I saw the movie with Ethan Hawke and ... Gwyneth Paltrow (right?)

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    2. You should definately move Great Expectations towards the top of your reading list!! It is really excellent.

      I've only read the book. I have heard that there was a movie but I have never seen it. I'm not sure who's it in.

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    3. Great Expectations is sooo awesome! If you can get it narrated, it's even better!

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  6. So glad you are feeling better, Stephanie! My three-almost-four-niece LOVES backyardigans. She now has deemed herself as Uniqua, or however you spell her name, and I'm supposed to be the little penguin...ah, the joys of a toddler's imagination. ;)

    In my YA novel, I am trying to get my "big kiss" scene, down, so this was good for me to read. I think I've written about 5 times, and I still feel like it's not quite right. :P The whole "almost kiss" is a great idea though...I might have to try that one. :)

    One of my fav romantic movies has already been mentioned. "You've Got Mail". Seriously and amazing movie. I want to be like Kathleen Kelly. She's quirky, loyal, beautiful, loves pleasing people, and loves books. Okay, I'll stop rambling now. :)

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    1. As far as kids' shows go, I think Backyardigans is about the least annoying out there. The music is decent, at least. I mean, I'm not rushing out to buy the Backyardigans CD or anything, but... And McKenna loves Tasha so her and your niece would get along great!

      Every time I watch You've Got Mail, I want to open a bookstore... Kathleen Kelly rocks.

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    2. Ever watched Veggie Tales? My niece (okay, us too) is an addict :P

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  7. This post made me laugh. :D Thanks a lot, I usually have trouble with kissing scenes. Sometimes I go by other books I have read and movies I've seen (sinceI'veneverbeenkissedsorryTMI).

    I heartily concur with your point that a little goes a long way. In a draft of my friend's book that I was editing, she has her characters kiss and it was sweet, so I went "Awwwww". After that, however, she went on to write that "The making out lasted about half an hour" which promptly ended my "Awwww" and gave way to a "Ew."
    Little moments like hands touching or a dashing rescue are more romantic than kisses, I think. In books.

    My favorite romance is 2005 Pride and Prejudice HANDS DOWN. The light is gorgeous and they are gorgeous and the man I marry has to have a coat exactly like Mr. Darcy's when he comes striding over the dewy field.

    A close second favorite to that couple are Molly Gibson and Roger from Wives and Daughters, also Robin Hood and Maid Marian from BBC (timeless).
    Anyway, happy Valentine's day :)

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    1. Ellyn, Kaye Dacus (http://kayedacus.com/) writes wonderful romance novels and says in her bio that she "isn't ashamed to say she's never been kissed," so don't sweat it!

      And yes - I completely agree that nobody needs to know the making out lasted about half an hour. Speaking of hands touching, etc. being more romantic, that's done supremely well in the latest P&P when Mr. Darcy helps Elizabeth into the carriage that first time.

      And I'm completely unfamiliar with Wives and Daughters...

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    2. A little definitely goes a long way. And yeah, I totally agree - things like rescues and hand touches can be just as romantic or way more so. (Sorry to echo, but yeah, like in Pride and Prejudice...)

      One of my friends wrote a story in which the characters actually never kissed except on the cheek/forehead, but it was supremely romantic just the same.

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  8. Hahaha . . . First, about the kiss. One of the funniest scenes in my WIP (or so I've been told), is when my MC, his step brother and sister, and another guy, are trying to evade the bad guys. They hide in a mall, and separate, with my MC giving instructions on what to do, because he's trained and they're not. Anyway, the bad guys are about to find out Jaxen and Liana, the step sister and second guy. Jaxen is hesitant, but Ryan, the MC, sees no other way out, so he tells him to do it, and Jaxen kisses Liana, without her knowing it. Oh, and Jaxen and Liana drive each other crazy. He likes her, but he annoys her.

    My favorite romance? Well, recently, my mom got Made of Honor out of the library, and I must say it's pretty much the funniest romance I've ever seen. :D

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    1. I remember wanting to see Made of Honor when it was in the theaters and my husband gave me one of those, "Are you kidding me?" looks. I had completely forgotten about it! Adding it to my queue...

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    2. Hahaha . . . It's actually pretty good. :)

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  9. I love the Pride and Prejudice movie with keira knightly:)

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    1. Me too, Talia. I've watched it at least a dozen times. Gorgeous movie.

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  10. hehe, LOVED this post! :D Thanks so much :)

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  11. Casablanca's my favorite. You just can't beat the black-and-white! As for writing emotional scenes... my characters are in all different ages, so I've had to pick up rules like this pretty fast to make my story satisfactory. And one of the very first things I learned was the very first rule here: Age matters! A pair of awkward teenagers who are sharing their first kiss will do so in a significantly different way than will an elderly couple who have been together for years, so age is one of the first things I consider when writing scenes like this.

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  12. Princess Bride is a book? I didn't know that & I've never seen the movie. I'm probably like the only person

    When said you magnetic forces of a kiss, I went "whah what?" haha

    As far as romance books I think Robin Jones Gunn has great ones! And Nicholas Sparks.
    Movies- I do like Return to Me and Who's Got Mail. I also like Serendipity and A Walk To Remember

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    1. Tonya, you must read AND see The Princess Bride. MUST. :)

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  13. The most romantic movie ever, hands down, is The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. Their kissing scene is enough to give you heart palpitations because of all the romantic tension that leads up to it. You just know if those two headstrong people ever get together, there will be an earthquake!

    When it comes to writing kissing scenes, I try to focus more on the emotions and feelings, the consequences, sensations and doubts that plague the hero and heroine more than the mechanics.

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    1. Oh, Erica, not only have I never seen The Quiet Man, I had never even heard of it! Adding it to my queue.

      And that's an excellent way to put it, to focus more on the other stuff rather than the mechanics.

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    2. Shrieks, "Stephanie, you've never seen The Quiet Man?"

      Shrieks louder, "Stephanie, you've never even heard of TQM!!??!!"

      Bump that thing up to #1, ma'am.;)

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    3. You've got to see The Quiet Man. It's the only John Wayne movie I've ever seen that I liked.

      I mean ... it's set in Ireland! What more could you want? :)

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    4. Lol I've never seen The Quiet Man either

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  14. Thanks for the tips Stephanie :) Love that mvoie :) I really like the romance Sarah Dessen writes, Julie Klassen's too. But a favorite book...maybe The Princess Of The Midnight Ball...well to many to choose from :) Sierra
    Keep Growing Beautiful♥ (Cause You Are!)

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    1. The Princess of the Midnight Ball totally made me check out every single Jessica Day George book my library had, Sierra!

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    2. I know right! I've read all of her's except her newest Tuesdays At The Castle. I especially liked Sun and Moon, Ice And Snow :)

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    3. ME, too! And I'm not usually a polar bear kind of girl. ;)

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    4. Hahaha yeah they tend to be a little distant and scary *wink* Sierra
      Keep Growing Beautiful♥ (Cause You Are!)

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  15. It's impossible for me to choose just one, so I'll do what I love and make a list :)
    Movies
    -Pride and Prejudice (Keira Knightley)
    -Sense and Sensibility (Emma Thompson)
    -Much Ado About Nothing
    -Leap Year
    -27 Dresses
    -13 going on 30
    Books
    -Pride and Prejudice
    -Persuasion
    -Sense and Sensibility
    -Love Comes Softly

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    1. Oh, 27 Dresses was such a fun movie... Watched it this weekend! :)

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    2. Gotta love it!

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    3. I really liked Love comes Softly, one of the author's sons worked at my school back when.

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    4. The lingo is hysterical! But, like my sis, I'm a sucker for those "Get married, then fall in love" stories - they're just so awesome!

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    5. Alana, *jaw drop* Wow. I'm a huge Oke fan.

      Lydia, me, too, me, too. :)

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  16. Awesome advice - thanks! :-)

    Favorite romantic movies: The Princess Bride and Star Wars Episode II (odd choice, I know ;-))

    Favorite romantic books: Redeeming Love (Francine Rivers), The Scarlet Pimpernel (Madama Emuska Orczy), and The Falcon and the Sparrow (MaryLu Tyndall)

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    1. I. LOVE. The Scarlet Pimpernel! High five for reading the classics! :)

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    2. High five then!!! I a-d-o-r-e the Scarlet Pimpernel.

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    3. Also ... Star Wars - I forgot to list that as one of my ultimate favorite romances. Epic.

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  17. I love the new blog background, Stephanie! And this post is a much needed one. There's no kissing in my WIP, but I think there will be in the next one.
    Sarah F.

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    1. Why, thank you, Sarah! It's a little more feminine than I'd like (I try to keep things somewhat gender neutral out of sensitivity to the fellas who hang out here) but it matched the banner the best. :)

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  18. Me, too! Love the new background...ahhh, now I know why. Feminine. :) :) :)

    You handled this topic extremely well, Stephanie! Did you have any idea that the Writers Ally was doing the same topic? Ya'll supported each other well. :) Had to laugh when I saw both of those emails in my inbox. :)

    I'm going to see The Vow this weekend and I hope that is just as much a romantic home-run as the previews promise. Otherwise, my vote goes to Karen Witemeyer. I recently finished Head in the Clouds, which I looooooved, partly because the heroine is feminine, feisty, short, and clumsy (like me) and partly because it is sooooo funny. I'm reading Tailor-Made Bride right now and it's looking just as good!

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    1. I really liked Head in the Clouds, and have been craving to read Tailor Made Bride!

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  19. The Scarlet Pimpernel and Pride and Prejudice are my all-time favorite love stories, I think - book and movie for both of them. They are just beyond epic.

    Interestingly, in both The Scarlet Pimpernel and Love Comes Softly (which I also adore, especially the book), the romance takes place between two people who are already married. Kind of gives it a twist. Very well done in both, though.

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  20. Thanks for the post and advice, Stephanie. They were very helpful :) I haven't thought of the almost-kisses-thingy before, I should include it in my book.

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  21. Okay, this was actually really helpful. :-) Thank you! Oh gosh, my favorite romantic movie or book? I don't read many romantic books, but probably the Last Song would be my favorite romantic book. (Not the movie. I didn't like the movie. Just the book. haha) And favorite romantic movie? Well, it isn't a 'romance' movie, but the Lord of the Rings has fantastic romantic content. It was great. :-) Happy late Valentine's day! Or, in my case, Happy late single and proud day. ;-)

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  22. Haha, sorry I'm late commenting here! I just started following your blog, Stephanie, and the other day I spent an hour or two just browsing through your posts. I'm currently revising my WIP, and so I bookmarked a ton of posts and compiled a whole bunch of notes from your blog to keep in mind as I rewrite it. Things like, "Don't let characters say what they mean all the time," and "R.U.E." and "Let her throw up!" Your tips and information have been really helpful, thank you so much! This post is very good as well, and I'll have to keep it in mind so any kissing scenes in the WIP aren't too corny, haha. ;)

    As for favorite romantic movie, I have to say that mine is Titanic, hands-down. I can't tell you how much I adore that movie!! It's pretty tragic, of course, but still absolutely amazing. I'm planning to rewatch it soon, and cannot wait. :)

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    1. Taylor, I'm so glad you've found Go Teen Writers! And I'm about due for a Titanic viewing. It came out when I was a freshman in high school, and I saw it four times in the theaters. (This so dates me, but movie tickets were only $3.25 to $5 at that time...)

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    2. Thanks, I'm glad, too! :) And haha, if I hadn't been two years old when it came out, I might have gone to see it four times in theaters as well. But under the circumstances... xD

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  23. ... Uh, left out here. I'm very clueless about what many people are talking about when they see the Titanic. ... I've never seen it before. ... Oops. ... Hehe?

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  24. The first time my MMC kisses my FMC she slaps him in the face XD

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Disagreement is welcome. Rudeness is not. Please be considerate of each other!