Why is all of your real-life romance exciting, while your kissing scenes read so lame?
Whenever you were the protagonist of romance in real life: Palpitations, edginess, Learjets… I mean, butterflies in your stomach. Or at least steamy windows in your eyes.
And on paper?
Shallow words, predictable actions, and empty shells of emotions.
Why is that? And how can you get to the heart of what makes a kissing scene exciting, and transfer that onto paper?
Not an easy task. But this post will equip you with all the tools you need. Read on to get answers to these questions:
- How can you stay far, far away from any cliché?
- What are some excellent tricks to let your readers feel the love?
- Why is awkwardness your best friend?
- How can you take advantage of your personal experiences as secret wonder weapons?
- And yes, it’s gonna get juicy and steamy too in the end…
But before we get into it, read this kissing scene and tell me what you think:
Heavy rain was pattering down on the streets.
“Wait, wait,” he suddenly shouted from behind, running after her. “You forgot something…”
Under her umbrella, she turned around surprised, with an expectant look on her face: “What is it?”
Panting he stood before her: “You forgot to give me a chance to tell you that I love you. More than I have ever imagined that I could love someone!”
“Oh, Mike!” She fell round his neck. Suddenly teardrops were mixing with the pouring rain: “I promise to love you forever, every single day of eternity,” she sighed. “Being with you is… like magic.”
They kissed passionately under the open sky, lost in a bubble of time and space, not even noticing the heavy waterfalls pouring down on them while they were getting soaking wet.
Did this scene touch you deeply? Did it get to you?
To me, it did nothing.
What you just read is a pile of clichés we have seen a thousand times before, all pressed into one single scene. I just fed you a learned code instead of serving you fresh fiction; yes, I force-fed you a learned code like traffic signals or like the bell that trained Pavlov’s dogs. The signals above are intended to get you salivating romantically… ring, ring!
Cliché setting? Check (“Heavy rain was pattering down on the streets.”)
Cliché expressions? Check (“I promise to love you forever, every single day of eternity”)
Cliché feelings? Check (“…I love you. More than I have ever imagined that I could love someone”)
Cliché comparisons and similes? Check (“Being with you is… like magic.”)
In short, the snippet above contains too many clichés and relies way too much on what the author thinks romance should look like.
Fiction needs to speak truth, it needs to be raw and bold and unconditional, it has to touch our inner beings – like love. It shouldn’t be a preformed template.
Here is the problem though: No feeling in fiction is harder to convey than love. That’s because being in love is a feeling that escapes any description – it’s too exciting; too strange; too magnetic; too rare. Pain, joy, disappointment, anxiousness are all easier to describe than love. They are more one-dimensional, more common and in most situations not as overwhelming as love.
Because love is so difficult to describe, many writers circle around it. Instead of taking a shot at painting the feeling itself for you, they give you placeholders you recognize from movies: “Ah, they are saying they will love each other forever! That’s how it works in romance novels, so that must mean it’s a wonderful romance.”
This post aims to show you a couple of ways to craft more authentic kissing scenes, drawing from deep inside, step by step. And once you have gulped down all of the theory in spades, I have something really cool for you:
The How to Write a Kissing Scene Template
Download this How to Write a Kissing Scene template to make sure you include the spiciest ingredients in your own kissing scenes. The template will guide you through your entire scene. Just print it out and fill it in, so you have everything ready at one glance. It also contains short reminders for the most important points of this post.
How to get rid of all of the clichés and write a heart-felt kissing scene
When you are writing a kissing scene, you are Cupid in the sky. You are flying high above your two love-birds with your bow and cutie locks. It’s your challenging task to bring them together with the power of your pen and arrow. Look:
It’s like you were mixing your protagonists a love potion with several ingredients. You don’t always need to include all of the ingredients, the following are just offerings. But the more of them you use, the stronger your love potion will be…
Let’s see which parts make for an irresistible kissing scene, from beginning to end:
1. Setting the Scene: Let Your Guy and Girl Talk Differently
There is a big misconception about men and women.
Maybe it’s just a misconception of language, because when somebody says, “Men and women are equal,” he is only half right: We are equal in value, but not equal in nature.
We don’t feel alike. We don’t act alike. We don’t talk alike.
For example, can you quickly tell if the following phrase likely comes from a man or from a woman?
“Do you think he/she looks better than me?”
How about the following one, man or woman?
“If he does this again, I will teach him some manners!”
Call me biased, but the first phrase is much more likely to come from a woman, and the second much more likely to come from a man. Women just tend to be more concerned about their looks, and we men have big egos…
So the first step is to keep in mind to lend different voices to your boy and your girl. Let the differences between man and woman get into your scene.
2. Early Stage: What do your lovers have in common? Let them explore!
There is one thing all romances share in real life, and that’s definitely not a cliché: It’s the lovers’ commonalities.
The salt in the soup of any romantic encounter is discovering what you have in common:
Tom and Marry are discovering how they have both seen every single season of that awesome TV show. Or that they both love mountaineering. Or that a trip to India shaped both of their values.
Richard and Barbara are discovering that they both share the same thoughts about happiness. Or about marriage. Or about Donald Trump.
Floyd and Lara are discovering that they share that annoying tick of opening public doors only with their elbows (germs!). Or that they are both doctors. Or that they both want to move to France one day.
What excites them is not as important as why it excites them though. The point is the feeling they share: Maybe spending time on majestic mountains gives them a sense of freedom and purity. Maybe they both became doctors to help people. Or because they felt pressured to become something “better” by their families. Discovering that the other one exactly understands them will make their eyes light up.
Let them talk about how they feel, and what their passions and fears are. Then let them feel that strong affection when they feel understood and “at home.”
3. Early Stage: Desires, Hopes and Dreams
Nothing connects more than sharing the same vision. If you can get your characters to get excited about each other’s dreams, you will be a potent love wizard. Admiring who the other one is or what they can do, can also make your characters desire each other.
Mara wants to be a DJ, and she admires James’ passion and talent for painting; he wants to live off his art one day.
Rudy is working with Amnesty International and wishes for world peace. He likes that Sally has a big heart for stray dogs. They find that they would love to go on a charity mission to Africa together one day.
This entire point is just a sub-item of the previous one. As it’s such a strong ingredient in your potion, it deserves to be emphasized.
4. Heating it up: Yes, make it awkward!
When you are really attracted to somebody, you want them to feel the same. That often makes you insecure and shy. So don’t be afraid to show some awkwardness!
If you display awkwardness in your scene, it will make your readers remember their own romantic experiences and connect even more. Plays right into your cards, Julia (or Romeo)!
But insecurity only comes up once they really like each other and have something to lose. So only insert that awkwardness once your lovers-to-be like other.
Here are some possibilities for awkwardness: Your characters could talk about how much they like the other one.
Or they could share something so private it makes them feel uneasy.
Some signs for awkwardness: Your characters could be beating around the bush, or even stuttering; some body language you can use: Fidgeting, kicking the ground, turning away, neck touching, avoiding eye contact, etc…
And of course… the big, red-eared, tight-lipped mother of all awkwardnesses: Dead silence…
5. Heating it up: Less is often more
Don’t always let your characters plainly say what they mean!
The finest notes in good love scenes are often articulated without words. And sometimes the lovers bring out their thoughts delayed or in short form. It’s because their situation feels like a tight-rope act. A lot of desires, reservations, suspicions and fears play into romance.
Kissing scenes are ideal to use some hidden meaning! Your figures have very believable reasons not to talk. It could be awkwardness, reservation, or just that they don’t know what to say next.
Maybe they think they have to say something and suddenly say: “This is a nice place here!” or “It’s hot today!” You know, the stuff people say when they don’t know what to say…
Operate with unspoken words, silence, a sentence too short at the right time. Like I showed you above, you can let body language speak for itself.
This technique should force your reader to read between the lines; to turn on her own imagination, which is the most amazing thing you can do for her. Let your reader watch her very own movie!
Here is a quick example:
“Sometimes I feel like there is nobody to turn to,” Joe said, “like… like the world is an empty place. Do you know what I mean?”
Scarlet just stared at her shoes.
“Nobody,” he said.
6. Still heating it up: Draw from your embarrassingly private experiences
Movies and TV shows hold pre-canned experiences ready for us. But don’t commit the error we just talked about in the introduction. Don’t fall back on clichés just to make it easier for you, or because you feel like you don’t have the ability to describe something with your own words.
That would be like sidestepping the challenge.
Instead, draw from your private treasure trove of experiences.
In other words: Risk something!
Drawing from your own past experiences is a great way to avoid clichés and to make your kissing scene raw and real. The more it makes you cringe to write about them, the better. Go where it hurts!
You have a broad range of emotions in your arsenal as a writer: Anger, hurt, attraction, admiration, enthusiasm, guilt etc… Let your characters draw from all of this. Love is complicated.
Try to express things the way they felt to you personally when you were there, not in the way you have seen in movies or read in books.
For example, do you have an ex-suitor or boyfriend who had a hard time expressing his feelings, and that made you undesired and confused you? Or did you try to kiss a girl and she turned her head away, even though she was clearly attracted?
Use these bits and pieces!
Oh, and one more thing. Try not to use the word “love” in your scene. It’s so overused it has become one giant cliché in itself. You can find it everywhere, be it in movies, novels or song lyrics, not to speak of oversized ads or everyday language.
Instead of using the word “love,” just describe what love does to your characters. That will make a lot more impact.
Using your private experiences means that you will have to get naked and expose bits and pieces of your private feelings for everybody to see. Luckily, nobody knows which parts stem from you personally and which parts you just made up. And contrary to an actor, you don’t have to pour out your soul directly in front of an audience. You have the laptop screen between you and your readers to protect you…
7. Boiling over: The Kiss
Are you ready for the kiss…?
It is what this whole buzz allegedly is about: Two people pressing their lips against each other, gnawing and sucking. It’s supposed to be good.
Make sure to introduce the kiss at a high point:
Gerry hears how sweet Gina says he has a cute smile… and leans forward to kiss her.
Randy has to laugh about a cute joke Laura makes and playfully motions her to come closer, so he can kiss her.
Noah confesses to Olivia that he has loved her for eighth months, but never had the guts to tell her… and he leans forward for the kiss.
Make sure the kiss is the cream topping on a remark, a notion or an idea that we have heard the moment before.
8. Going even further: Steamy Windows
You still want more? Oh, you! What kind of smut are you looking for? He he…!
You can always just cut your scene before any sex part, and just hint at the sex. But if you want to include sex in your scene, the trick is to make it not prude, but not too graphic either. Hm, how about this?
He was with her like a bee that landed on a flower.
Not really… besides its over-the-top cheesiness, it’s also very prude. This text is scared of what it wants to describe. And the following one?
He [xxx] and [xxx] her [xxx], pressed her down and [xxx] [xxx] [xxx].
Nope; unless you are a porn director… That’s too hardcore.
So you will have to find a middle way, and without sounding cheesy. How about this:
He could feel her soft, warm body underneath him, and he caressed her thighs, while he slowly began to thrust inside of her.
And there you have it… your complete kissing scene that will get under your readers’ skin. Now it’s time for the cigarette after. And also to download this awesome template:
50 Shades of Grey
The How to Write a Kissing Scene Worksheet
Make this worksheet the backbone of your kissing scene. Just fill it out, and you will have the most important ingredients of your scene ready at one glance. Then you can concentrate on writing your scene (it also summarizes the most important points of this post):
Kissing Scene Writing Prompt
Owen and Paola are two waiters at a diner. They have been flirting for a while. During a smoking break amongst dusty storage cartoons, they finally kiss. Describe the scene!
You can insert anything that’s described in this post: A commonality that brings them together, some desire they lay out (maybe to get out of that greasy diner?), a bit of awkwardness, maybe silence, one private moment from your own love life, and finally what we all came for: The kiss!
Just write out two paragraphs of the scene, a snippet that tells us what this is all about.
Then post your prompt in the comments. Yes, just do it, seriously! I will give you a kiss for it.
Harness the Power of Being Real
With this post, you now have it in your hands: Describing an extraordinary kissing scene that will go deep under your readers’ skin and remind them of their own past loves. Download that template, and go way past clichés, to the raw and real core of a beautifully crafted love scene.
Love is the most amazing feeling we have – and if your story shares a heart-melting kissing scene, you have an unforgettable tale at your hands…
Images: Header Image: LuckyN/Shutterstock; Cupid in the Sky: rangizzz/Shutterstock; Romance: Ganna Demchenko/Shutterstock; Bee: succo/Pixabay