Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's All About the Kiss

Let's start today with a prayer. "Dear Lord, please don't let my grandma find this post and read it. Amen."

Now let's move on to the topic at hand. For the last week and a half here on The Alley, we've been talking about our favorite romances and what we love about them. Well, when I think about what I love in a good romance, four things come to mind.

Humor, snappy dialogue, compelling plot, and good kissing.

Oh come on, don't give me a hard time for that last one. You can't tell me you read a romance for the intergalactic time capsules and alien abductions.

When we follow the journey of two people falling in love, we want to see a little lip-locking, doggoneit. We want to see a kiss that sizzles through the pages, that evokes passion. (Can I get an "amen", Julie Lessman?)

So I thought it'd be fun to look at two of my favorite romances and analyze the kisses. Ahem, I meant analyze the writing of the kisses, not the kisses themselves.

First up, Plain Jayne by Hillary Manton Lodge.


I slung my laptop bag over my shoulder. "I should go."


Levi reached for my arm. The feel of his hand stopped me in my tracks. "Everything will be all right," he said, and with the utmost care he caught one of my tears with his finger.

And then, as far as I can tell, I kissed him.

On the lips.

It was just a little kiss, more like a brush. At least it started that way. It started as the tiniest nothing, but Levi wrapped his arm around my shoulder and the kiss deepened. I responded; he tasted like cookies and cream and smelled like cedar. My hands dug into his hair.

This is nice, I thought. I had stopped crying, focusing my attention on Levi and that moment until a single thought entered my consciousness.


I stepped back, ending the kiss and disentangling myself from Levi's inviting hold.


Three things I love about this kiss:

(1) It's unplanned. We can feel Jayne's surprise as she kisses Levi and then her rationalization as the kiss continues.

(2) Use of the senses. Jayne and Levi have just gone out for ice cream, thus the cookies and cream reference. Don't you LOVE that? And he smells like cedar. Good stuff!

(3) Conflict that ends the kiss. I love how Hillary takes us through Jayne's thought process, how much she loves the kiss and then *bam*, she remembers her boyfriend Shane. Um, yeah, talk about some emotional conflict.

Whew, let's take a short breather after that one. You're gonna need it before you read the next. Okay, ready?

The next one comes from Stealing Adda by Tamara Leigh.


His face is once more singular, and a crooked smile is in place that makes him look surprisingly boyish. "Perhaps not 'strictly business,'" he murmurs.

Does he mean what I think he means? Holding my breath and his gaze, I feel his hand leave my shoulder and trail my collarbone to the base of my throat. Though my lungs urge me to splurge on a refill, I'm too afraid of losing the moment. Air or no air, it's perfect just the way it is.

Though his gaze has yet to flicker, his head lowers toward me and I feel his breath on my lips. I part them and, in doing so, sip air enough to sustain me through what's sure to be the kiss of a lifetime.

Nick doesn't disappoint, though he surprises. Rather than demanding, his mouth lightly covers mine as though to test it, and he doesn't press me to the floor.

With a murmur, I curve a hand around his neck to draw him nearer. He deepens the kiss, the intensity of which causes me to startle. And my foot to strike the credenza. A moment later, the remaining books topple.

Leave it to Adda...


Whoa, mamasita! Are you breathing right now? 'Cause I'm sure not. I should clarify for Grandma's sake that the comment about the floor is because they took a tumble prior to this clip. (So don't tsk tsk, Grandma, okay?)

Here's what I love about this kiss. Tamara gives physical details that put us in Adda's skin...his hand trailing from her shoulder, along her collarbone, to the base of her throat. She could have just said, "He moves his hand to my neck." But no, she takes it one step at a time to make us feel the agony and tension right along with Adda. (I wish I could show you all the tension buildup before this clip because Tamara masterfully builds it throughout the entire chapter.)

Then after his hand shift, Tamara punches it up even more by making us feel Adda's tight lungs. And the kiss hasn't even happened yet! By the time they do lock lips, we're dying for it to happen, and it delivers the passion we expected.


So what does all this kiss talk mean for you as a writer? It means you need to study the books you love, analyze them to find the triggers that put you in the characters' skin, and don't be afraid to make the reader feel the romantic tension. They'll thank you for it!

Do you have a favorite kiss from a novel or a movie? What made it memorable?

*Kiss photo by Idea go /


Wendy Paine Miller said...

I'm a sucker for the scene I'm going to write about tomorrow from The Notebook. Gets me every time!

Steamy today! Woo Hoo. Come read this Grandma!
~ Wendy

Jordan said...

*sigh* This post was absolutely wonderful! I really don't know if I could ever choose a favorite kiss...they're all so wonderful in their own way! I do love unplanned ones, and I like "almost kisses" where they're but at the last minute...we're left wanting and waiting for more. *another sigh* Both of these books are going on my MUST READ list! :)

Casey said...

Ooo, boy! Yeah, that was good. :) I like to analyze a kiss for what brought it on, emotions durings, but em...I'm often lost in the drama. ;)

Love your post here Sarah. Got me going for a good start to the day. :D

Sarah Forgrave said...

Wendy, Can't wait for your post tomorrow! LOL, love your call-out to Grandma.

Jordan, Ohh, the almost-kiss. Just as good as the actual-kiss. :)

Casey, You bring up a great point. The best kisses lose us in the drama. I guarantee the first time I read both of these clips I wasn't thinking about the writing tactics behind them. :)

Hillary Manton Lodge said...

I *loved* Stealing Adda - makes me want to read it again. Great post! So flattered that you liked the kiss in Jayne so much. Does this writer's heart good!

And love, love, love the opening prayer. I will join you in that ;-)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Hillary, I've read Plain Jayne twice now, and I couldn't wait to read that kiss for the second time. In the midst of writing and reading lots of kisses, that cookies-and-cream stuck with me. :)

Beth K. Vogt said...

See what fun we writers have? Analyzing kisses, of all things? One of the things I've learned from author Susie May Warren about writing kissing scenes came after she critiqued my first attempt at writing one. (Getting those scenes right is hard!) Susie told me to slo-ow down. Don't rush the kiss.
Isn't that true in real life? We don't want a good kiss rushed. Why should we rush a kiss when we're writing it? Both of those authors knew how to slow down time a little so we experienced what their character was feeling.

Pepper said...

Like it a LOT!
Go, Sarah!

That Stealing Adda kiss was, well, tasty.
I'm gonna go back and read it again. I love the 'delight' of it, along with the humor.
Oh heavens...
time to go write something savory

Margaret Metz said...

Great post! I don't know that I can add anything to what the others have said. You did a fantastic job. Now I need to go fan myself...

Sarah Forgrave said...

Beth, You're right...What a fun job we have! :) And I love the advice to write it in slow-mo.

Pepper, Don't those ladies know how to write chemistry? I hated chemistry in high school, but I think they may have just converted me. :)

Fan away, Lee. :) And feel free to add a tall glass of iced tea.

Keli Gwyn said...

When I tell real life friends I write romance, I'm quick to say my stories are sweet traditional inspirational romances that I'd let my daughter read. For those who want more information about what's "allowed," I tell them we inspy romance writers don't go beyond kisses--so we learn to make them special.

Those you shared, Sarah, were delightful. A kiss in a story is so much more satisfying when we see the emotional connection that leads up to it. The authors did a great job with that.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Keli, I love what you said about learning to make kisses special! I'm all about seeing an emotional connection between the characters, and it's something that requires more than a page...It's a book-long process.

Julie Lessman said...

Amen and AMEN!!! Fun post, Sarah and GREAT excerpts!!!


Sarah Forgrave said...

Julie!!! So thrilled you made it over here! I meant to send you a message about the shout-out, but life's been a little...yeah, nutty.

Angie Dicken said...

I really liked the kissing scenes in The Duchess and The Dragon. They were creative...on the eyes, on the back of the neck...and LOVED that we saw it happen to and from the perspective of the HERO by the made him seem so gentle and in love! :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

I haven't read that one, Angie. Sounds like one I must add to my TBR list.

Leanne said...

Oooh, I LOVED this! I am all about the kiss in the story, too. I get SO disappointed if the two characters don't kiss at least once before the story ends!

I have not read either of those books! They sound like ones I must put on my book recs list!

How can I pick a favorite kiss?! Actually, I just read about one recently that I loved but now I can't remember which book it was in! I've read too many lately! Oh wait, I don't think there is such a thing as "too many" books. :) Hmmm, I think it was a kiss in A Bride in the Bargain. Maybe.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Leanne, I agree! Gotta have at least one kiss before the end of a story! And I'm not talking a peck on the lips to dear Grandma. :) Have a great weekend!