I am very lucky to know Elyssa Patrick. She knows more about Romance while she’s napping than I do when I’m straining my brain. And I am just as lucky to have gotten to read her soon-to-be-released book. To the point where last year I said to someone, You need to buy this book I just finished. It’s great and… Oh, wait. It’s not out yet.
But it will be soon!
Thanks, Bria, for having me blog about one of my most favorite subjects ever to write in romance—kisses!
Now, for those who don’t know me, I can most assuredly say that if there’s two thing I’m very confident in writing, it’s dialogue and kissing scenes.
Why do you ask?
Well, to make my Oprah story short: when I was growing up, I had a horrible speech impediment and was bullied because of it, so much so that they would throw boxes over my head and call me “Bow Wow” because a dog would be easier to understand than me. Oh, middle school children, you can be so cruel. My outcast position continued in high school where I ditched Dante’s Inferno, otherwise known as the cafeteria, and found refuge in the library. I had a few friends and was in clubs, but I mostly never belonged and never ever went to any parties. And I most definitely never had a boyfriend.
I always loved to read and in high school, I started watching classic movies and reading romances. Classic movies developed my ear for snappy dialogue. If the movie happened to be a romantic comedy, I focused on the relationship between the hero and heroine, especially that “first kiss” moment.
For romances I mostly “borrowed” them from my mother’s nightstand and would secretly read them while she was out doing errands or borrow a book from toward the end of her pile. (My reasoning was that if it was at the end then surely she wouldn’t know it was missing and I could return it in a day.) This stealthy habit honed my speed reading skills and, because I couldn’t dog-ear the pages, I would have to memorize page numbers or the scene I was on.
I loved all the romances that I read (mainly historical and all Avon!). The heroines were usually wallflowers and being a very shy sixteen-year-old I loved how these equally shy girls came into her own and how the most desirable man fell for her. I sighed at the grand gesture, loved the black moments, and almost always when the woman threatened to escape for her to actually follow through on this plan to create more drama, lol.
But I especially loved the kisses.
Kisses in the classic movies and the romances I’d read were . . . transforming. It was a definitive Before the Kiss and After the Kiss. When the kiss happened, it changed the hero and heroine.
So when I started to write, I thought of what I’d seen and what I’d read, drawing on those experiences, and also adding what I knew what I wanted to accomplish with a kiss.
I always wanted the kiss to be a sweep away moment. You know what I mean. It’s those moments when all breath leaves your body as his mouth slowly descends to yours, where every fiber of your being in focused on that one moment when lips meet lips, and when you finally—finally—get to find out if he’s as good as you’ve hoped him to be.
Of course there are a lot of frogs out there. And some first kisses aren’t exactly what you imagined them to be. My first kiss actually took place on a stage—as in I was cast in a role and the actor had to kiss me. As you can imagine, I obsessed about this moment and was so paranoid I ate so many mints. And when the time came, it was over and done with in a blink of an eye.
I write kisses that I want to write. And most often when I’m critiquing one of my cps’ books or beta reading for someone else and the kiss feels short, I will write SLOW THIS MOMENT DOWN.
Kisses are powerful. When you kiss someone—even if you are acting with the person—it changes the relationship. You can never go back to not kissing someone.
So, if you’re looking to improve your kissing scenes, here are some things I do. They may or may not work for you:
1. Slow everything down. This is a huge moment for the characters, and, despite what some may argue, kissing matters! You know what that kiss feels like, the type, the feel of the lips . . . I like to make details stand out so that the kiss feels very real.
2. Do not shortchange the kiss. This goes along with #1. In my opinion there is nothing worse when there’s been such a build up between the hero and heroine of this longing as in one character has been deeply in love with the other without his/her knowledge, and then you get to the kiss and it happens in a blink of an eye. Do not build up all the tension and leave your characters—and your readers—high and dry. Reward your characters. Reward yourself. Reward your readers. Even if the kiss is a harsh, fast one—you still make it count.
3. Anchor the kiss in emotion. Whether it be in anger, desire, pent up frustration, longing, etc, I like there for the kisses to have an emotional factor to them.
4. Kissing changes things. And show that—how it changes the relationship, puts things into motion—because these characters can never go back to how they were before. Even if they’re married but separated for x many years, this is the FIRST time that they’ve kissed. So how does that change them? What do they do?
5. The kiss is a lead up to sex . . . or something more (if you don’t write sex scenes in your book). You’re building the foundations of the relationship between the hero and heroine with the kiss. Hopefully you want your characters to have an awesome sex life (even if you close the door on your sex scenes). Every kiss you write should build up to sex or something more or just keep raising the sexual tension.
6. And have fun! If you honestly enjoy writing kissing scenes and take pride in them, it will show in your writing.
Kissing matters. And if you do it right, you’ll create powerful stuff in your story.
And to show you one of my kissing scenes, here’s my second kissing scene from AS YOU WISH, which I’m self-publishing in September. To anchor the scene for you, Portia (the heroine) has just kissed Aubry (the hero) and it didn’t go that well. This is what follows. Please note though that this scene is unedited:
She’d acted rashly and now paid the price. And she couldn’t look at him any longer.
Portia turned around and went to the table where they’d eaten dinner. When there had been an easy camaraderie between them, and she had felt an elusive spark when he’d touched her palm.
She picked up her coat and hugged it to her chest as she sat down in the booth and searched for a pair of headlights. Nothing. There was no salvation in sight. Portia heard footsteps coming toward her. Closing her eyes, she prayed he wouldn’t sit down.
The prayer went unanswered.
Her eyes flew open, and she let out a little squeak as he sat down next to her, pushing her over to make room for his tall, lean body. Her coat was taken from her and thrown to the opposite seat. His hands went to her upper arms and turned her until her back was pressed to the wall, her head against the cold pane of glass.
He leaned over, his hair falling over his shoulders and forehead. He didn’t let go of her to brush his hair back. Without thinking, she did it for him and let the soft, silky fibers of his hair slide through her fingers.
His hands let go of her arms and cupped her face. His thumbs brushed under the hollows of her cheekbones. “I didn’t mean what I said—about your kiss being unpleasant.”
Suddenly, the weights were cut off and she broke the surface, sucking in grateful breaths of air. His thumbs continued to caress her cheeks, then outlined her mouth.
“You have such a wicked mouth. Fuller right here. Bee stung.” He lightly tapped against the middle of her lower lip, almost like he was testing the softness. “You tasted as sweet as honey. You could taste even sweeter.”
His fingers left her mouth and tilted her chin upward. Aubry lowered his head, his lips inches away from hers. His breath fanned over hers, and she shivered in delight. “See, a kiss is not just a kiss. To make it good—really good—anticipation is the key. You don’t go all-out, full throttle as you did. Slow and steady.”
“Slow and steady,” she repeated in a shaky whisper.
He held up one hand and raised his index finger. “You employ the five senses. First sense: smell.” Aubry’s forehead touched hers. “Peonies and peppermint. I can smell your perfume when you shake your head. I can smell it at the base of your throat and behind your earlobes. I want to take your earlobe in my mouth and suck it.”
“Oh,” was all she could manage to get out.
“Next is sight. You know what I see? Your flushed response. Parted lips. A moist, pink tongue. Dark hazel eyes full of need and want. You want my kiss, don’t you, Portia?
“I can feel how you want me.” His finger skated a path down her throat, traced a small circle in the hollow. Her pulse hammered in the side of her throat. “Even here, your heart is beating fast. You’re so soft. Very soft and you feel better than the finest satin. Third sense is hearing. You hear how I want you. How I want to place my mouth over yours. Show you what a kiss really is and can be. How I want you naked under me, where your skin would be pale in the moonlight, and you’d be like hot velvet closing around me.
“But you don’t want a one night stand. I respect that.” His mouth still hovered over hers. Only his hands touched her. “Last are touch and taste. I’ve touched you. Here on your cheeks. Here on your lips. Here on your neck. Only with my fingers. I want to place my mouth on you. Lick you where the sweet meets the spicy. Taste you. Before I do that, I have to show you how to kiss. I could tell you. Give you a step by step instruction.”
“Don’t do that. Show me. Kiss me, Aubry.”
“As you wish.” Aubry’s hand left her throat, cupped her chin. She placed her hands against his chest, felt his heart pounding away. His mouth lowered so slowly, closing the painful few inches between them. Then his lips were finally on hers.
A soft, tender kiss nipped her lower lip gently, and when one kiss ended, another promptly began. He was slow. Steady. His lips moved over hers in an easy rhythm, teaching her how to move in tune with him.
It was dancing. Waltzing in his arms in some grand ballroom, one where he led and she gladly followed. Because she’d never danced like this. She’d never been really kissed until now.
She moved her hands up and around his neck. Surrendered. Let everything else fall away and finally began to live in the moment.
He kissed her again. Devastatingly light. One that promised more; it left her in . . . anticipation. Her fingers caressed the back of his neck and his lips left hers. She whimpered and tightened her hold. She didn’t want it to end so soon.
His knuckles ran down the side of her cheek. His lips trailed a patchwork of kisses along her jawline to her ear. He stopped. “I want to put my mouth on you everywhere. Kiss you where I haven’t touched you yet.”
Oh, yes, she wanted that, too. Desperately. She wanted to touch him. And kiss him from head to toe.
His teeth nipped at her earlobe. Suckled on it. A pinprick of electricity raced through her body, zapping her in delicious shockwaves. He kissed the side of her neck, licked the pulse racing there. Placed his lips at the hollow of her throat, traced a circle with his tongue followed by another soft kiss. Kisses back up to her mouth.
This time his kiss wasn’t soft or tender. It was fire. His lips demanded and urged her mouth to open further. His tongue slipped inside, teasing her. When he retreated, she followed him, tasting him in return.
He cupped her face tenderly, even though his kiss was nothing of the sort. It made her feel delicate and strong all at once.
His kisses made her hear music. Not the Christmas music that played from the speakers. Deep, dark rhythmic pounding, and the sound of chimes and footsteps.
Footsteps? Why did she hear footsteps?
So tell me . . . what do you think matters in kissing?
Elyssa Patrick is a former high school English teacher who left the classroom to write fun, sexy, and emotional contemporary romances. Besides being slightly addicted to chocolate, she loves cupcakes, classic movies, and Shakespeare. She is a member of RWA. Elyssa lives in New York, where she is currently working on her next novel.