Writing the Critical First Kiss


When it comes to definitive moments in film and literature, the first kiss is a daunting mountain to scale. For a director or actor, the first kiss must convey the chemistry and memorability of the people they portray. The success of such a critical moment on film is often owed to that sought after, golden gift of tangible and undeniable heat between two actors. The kiss that steals the breath of the audience, is nearly as good as an Academy Award, for the couple that burns the screen becomes something far greater than a golden statue: they become unforgettable.

If the perfect filmed kiss, is hard to achieve (with its coordinated lighting, flattering cameraKian and Ana 10 angles and flowing music), then the soul-twisting written kiss, is even harder to pen. Constricted by only the inky black letters of the alphabet, the writer must orchestrate the music, convey the camera and (most importantly), create a passion that cannot be forgotten. We create the chemistry, within an often fictional realm, between people who do not truly exist. We want characters who will haunt the reader long after the last word has been read.

eila and raef10

For the YA author, such a moment walks a super-fine line between too much ecstasy and not nearly enough. The irony is, that even in G-rated animation, I have seen some serious liplocks (TANGLED comes to mind). Television sets the bar higher, even on Nickelodeon or the Disney channel. I am not implying that the entire book must be judge on this one kiss, but a kiss represents the chemistry a writer has created between the characters. Get it right (hello Twilight, Fallen and Romeo and Juliet), and YA can become a crossover. Get it wrong, and even a great storyline can be derailed completely. The first kiss, quite simply, is critical.

So how does a YA author attempt to write such an intimate, sensual moment on a one-dimension page without jumping to a virtual R-rating? The simplest answer is to remember what is conveyed through a kiss. When I wrote (and re-wrote 60 times) the scene for Eila and Raef, I thought of their kiss as a recipe. A recipe that would cause the reader to (hopefully) hold their breath, and create a moment that showed their forbidden heat for one another.

eila and raef 13

CRITICAL, FIRST KISS RECIPE:

1 cup HISTORY – the establishment of chemistry and love WITHOUT the kiss.

1 cup HUNGER – the drive to consume the other person on a mental and physical level.

1/2 cup PAIN – the seizing of the heart from finally connecting, combined with ingredient 1.

1/4 cup BODY – the sweeping need to touch more than just lips.

1/4 cup OWNERSHIP –  the moment the initiating character realizes that the person they kiss, is the one they wish to lock within their heart, forever.

3 tbs SELFISHNESS – the understanding that we kiss to bring pleasure to ourselves at first.

3 tbs FIRE – the inability to think of anything else, but the flame that ignites within oneself.

1/2 stick TIMING – the right moment, created naturally, to make the recipe tasty.

2 tsp BREATH – the inability to breathe normally once the kiss is released.

2 tsp IRREVOCABLE CHANGE – the realization that a line has just been crossed and cannot be redrawn.

** MIX ALL ABOVE INGREDIENTS UNTIL PERFECTLY BLENDED. WHEN FINISHED, REMOVE ALL SCRAPS OF SELF-CONTROL AND BAKE ON HIGH **

Do you agree?

Can a book be ruined by a poorly conveyed, first kiss?

Disclaimer: While they did an outrageously awesome job at portraying characters bound to one another (Eila and Raef / Kian and Ana), the kids above were not BF / GF.

10 Comments on “Writing the Critical First Kiss

  1. I love to see how writers portray the first kiss in their books, and I think there is some truth in that a book can be ruined by a poorly conveyed first kiss.

  2. In college, we used to read out loud really bad first kiss and love scenes in novels– tearing the use of language apart and generally mocking them. I think The Clan of Cave Bear came up a number of times (yes, we were geeky girls, clearly not kissed enough!)

    • LOL!!!!!!! I just read a good YA Dystopian story and it was rolling along well until the kiss scene and it completely FLOPPED. I was so pissed! LOL!

  3. woah, nelly!! there sure is a lot more to think about in preparing for that first kiss… I suppose it isn’t all that different being put into writing than it is in real life, is it??

  4. Writing the kiss is ten times harder. Especially if you write in 1st person, because you have to show the emotion of the other person without showing their thoughts. It is like nailing Jell-O to a tree . . .

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