Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How to Write Kissing Scenes That ROCK!

Oh my gosh I'm so excited. I have never felt so well prepared for a blog topic ever. I have studied this subject extensively, and have so many opinions, because to me, plot is just the stuff that happens between kissing scenes.

So...How to write kissing scenes that ROCK!



Step 1. Make a couple that rocks. You can write a good kissing scene between a doomed couple, but a kissing scene only ROCKS if the reader believes in them. Which means they should be able to communicate like humans long before they lock lips. This couple should sacrifice for each other, long for each other, and complete each other - one character's strength balancing out another's weakness, etc. 

Step 2. Conflict. There should be a reason why they aren't kissing. And the stronger the force pushing them apart, the more you can show the longing and the desire to be together, so make it a good conflict. Make it impossible. Make the reader doubt that it will happen.

Step 3. Time. They need to long for each other way before their lips meet. They need to earn an awesome kissing scene, and that takes effort, pain, sacrifice, and time. And not just for the characters...I'm actually talking about the readers. The readers need to be invested, which means they need to make a sacrifice, they need to be emotionally connected to these characters, and it needs to happen later on in the book, so the reader has invested their time in a couple.  If a kissing scene isn't working, then maybe it's just too soon. Just don't wait too long, because that also is a thing.


I went through this with my book The Waxling. I wrote the scene where Ari and Henry get together way too soon, and it didn't work for any of the beta readers. So I changed it into a fight scene, where Ari and Henry break up instead, and it works so much better. The longing to be together is still there. I remember where they kissed, and the point in the conversation, if they were just brave enough to say what they were feeling, they would be making out is, so there is an undercurrent of loss through out the fight that really works.

I think ninety nine percent of the work that goes into a good kissing scene happens before the kiss.


Once they've earned the moment, and the reader believes in the couple, and their longing for each other is bigger than the conflict that is standing between them, then you have a kissing scene that really works.

Now you just have to write it.

Tips for writing the scene itself.


1. Turn down the voice in your head that gets embarrassed, but don't turn it off. A good kissing scene can get weird easily, and so try to keep a weird meter running while writing it.

2. Remember the senses, but you don't need to use all of them. I don't need to know the sound of a kiss. Gross I tells ya. I don't want to read about it. But the reader needs to know what is actually happening, and what it feels like. They've put the work in with the couple, and you can give them a few details to make it special. Go in close for the POV. Notice the smell of the girl's perfume, the taste of orange juice on lips, the rough stubble, or soft skin, increased heartbeat, etc. 

3, Remember the setting. There are a lot of kisses in the world, and two people  kissing can feel unspecial. One kiss can blend in with another, so don't forget what makes your couple special, and remind the reader of that while in the scene. Choose the location, setting, and moment of the kiss in a way that it reminds the reader of the struggle to get there. 

This is an example of a kiss that really works because of the use of setting, and even the theme of the story. Start at 1:30. 





 I also love how in that kiss, you can see him waiting, and wondering, and oh my gosh James McAvoy is adorable, and once he knows it's her, he doesn't wait. He is done waiting and runs to her. It's adorable.  

So while you are zoomed in close for the moment, don't forget to show the whole picture, because otherwise they are just giant heads.


4. Remember the moment BEFORE the kiss, and give it time. There's fear before a kiss, awkwardness, longing, and something special, so whatever you do don't forget to take a breath beforehand, or not have time to have a breath so all those stomach clenching moments happen so fast it makes the kiss itself sparks fire.

5. Remember the moment AFTER the kiss. This is a real pet peeve of mine, but you got to remember to pull back, or to have an awkward smile, or a consequence to the kiss. I hate when you have a kissing scene, and then they start talking, and as a reader you're like..."wait when did the kiss end?"

 A good kiss is like a good story, it has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

This clip is a good example of a powerful beginning, middle, and end. Also James McAvoy. 





6. Remember the fear. Every good kiss is a risk. To love at all is to be vulnerable, so don't lose the heart pounding vulnerability in favor of steam. And don't forget also the character's age and experience.  Pet peeve number two, is when a character is acting out of character just for a kiss. You get invested in characters being together, so don't forget to invite them to show up. 

7. Less is more. Sometimes yes, you need every sense and every moment of a kiss, but sometimes, you simply don't. If you've done the work before the scene well, then you don't need every moment for the reader to get it. Sometimes simple is the best policy.

This is a non James McAvoy example. This is from The Waxling, which will be coming out, you know, sometime, whenever. This is near the end, after Henry and Ari have struggled and longed and earned each other. Henry writes a letter and finally tells Ari he loves her, and then a disaster happens, and they work together to solve it, and he keeps asking her if she got his letter, because he doesn't know what her reaction will be, and she's terrified, and keeps changing the subject. Then once the disaster is solved, this happens.


I clutched the folds of my nightgown between my fists. “I got your letter,” I said to him. Sarah took three steps forward without us. Henry swallowed, his jaw tense.

“And?”

I let out a breath. “I read it four times.”

The terror didn’t leave his eyes. “And?” 
I smiled. 
And then Henry Johnson, the boy who sat with me, and painted for me, and found me, ignored my parent’s watching, and the council members, and the Singers, and he put his hand around my cheek, and he kissed me like he’d waited his whole life to do it.


Oh my gosh it's so cute. It probably only works for me, because I've read all the work I've done, and I know what "sat with me," and "painted for me," and "found me" means to Ari, (You'll have to read it to get the full toe curling experience) but it works in one sentence, without any taste or touch or embarrassingly too personal moments. When you go less, the reader gets to imagine their own moment, and that gives them ownership of it. 

Which of course is the goal and secret to a kissing scene that rocks. It has to rock for the reader. Remember them. Their reaction and experience is more important then the character's reaction and experience.


Or you can just cast James McAvoy or Benedict Cumberbatch. That will also do it.

~Sheena Boekweg




1 comment:

  1. This is awesome advice! Totally what I needed for my scene! You've got an awesome blog here, keep up the great work!

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