Writing the First Kiss


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Okay so I've finally gotten to the first kiss chapter of my manuscript, other than a few snags here and there this draft has gone smoothly... until now.  My book isn't romance but there is a love interest and a  romantic subplot (think along the lines of Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games) and for some reason this is the hardest section for me. 

So I got to the big kissing scene and realized it feels overly dramatic and cringe worthy (at least it does to me, my beta readers said they thought it worked fine).  I sat down this morning determined to find what part just wasn't working for me and how I can fix it.  I thought I'd share my process and discoveries with my awesome followers :)

I wanted to focus my efforts into three areas of the scene that weren't working for me:
1. Tone
2.  Character
3.  Cliche Sentences

Tone

The first thing I wanted to work on was the tone of my scene.  Romantic scenes can be sweet, awkward, combustible hot, and several degrees in between.  My scene is a forbidden, stolen moment so I want the tone to be a little awkward but also sweet (there will be time for true heat in the second book).  There needs to be a lot of tension, almost anger at the situation.  The connection between my characters has to be strong and very obvious, otherwise he wouldn't jeopardize his position to act on his attraction to her.

Character

My character's reactions didn't feel as genuine as I'd like them to be.  Jag is older, wiser, and knows better than to get involved with Bernadette (Brett)... but in my scene that doesn't come through.  I need him to be more reluctant, hesitant.  All the reasons why *not* to have a relationship need to go thought his mind.  I need to find a way to show this, which is difficult because the book is told from Brett's POV.

I think Brett needs to feel more surprised, floored even.  They've been dancing around each other for weeks an now they've finally acted on their attraction.

The growth that comes from this scene will be important to my characters later so I need to be careful about showing the changes.

Cliche Sentences

I'm so guilty of resorting to cliches when working a romantic scene.  I'm not sure why, but I need to fix it.

I first turned to some of my favorite fictional couples and looked up their first kiss.  In The Hunger Games the first time they kiss isn't very romantic (Peeta's sick and Katniss thinks they're just pretending) so that won't really work for comparison purposes.

In City of Bones Jace and Clary's kiss almost seems like an accident.  Jace seems almost mad about it.  The line "Her heart was hammering, and there was a rushing sound in her ears, like beating wings--" is perfect for them.   Cassandra Clare is a genius when it comes to describing things.

Another of my favorite couples is Rose and Dimitri from the Vampire Academy series.  In
Blood Promise she's hunting him down.  When they finally reunite the chemistry between them is so dynamic and real despite the situation.  Richelle Mead handled it brilliantly, no over dramatic or cliche writing at all.  The heartbeat quote from this book is simple, "His heartbeat might have been steady, but mine was racing." but more effective than mine.  And then the first kiss:  "His hand snaked behind my neck, shoving me against him, and he tilted my face up, pressing his lips against mine." seems much less forced than mine. 

With these great scenes in mind I took another look at my scene and tried to revise the lines that didn't quite work for me.  It's still not perfect, but the scene seems much more effective and honest than it did before.

There's a bunch more that I learned, changed, and worked on but I won't bore you with more details :)

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