For kissing characters, that is.
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.