Monday, June 7, 2010

Modern . . . Smooches

Last week on my historical loop, we got on the topic of kissing in novels--where it should come in, how it should come in, if it should come in. Obviously historicals have different issues here. You must deal with the fact that propriety was different in various eras, so if your characters kiss, it carries meaning/consequences that it wouldn't today.

But in contemporaries? Yeah . . . kinda free rein here. While there are those admirable people who don't kiss until engagement or marriage even now, most of the citizenry of the world kiss pretty freely. On the above-mentioned email loop, it came up because someone commented on how half the time kissing in a modern novel didn't seem to have any purpose other than "and I ought to throw in a kiss now, because readers expect it." Yeah, not a great reason. =) Even in a modern setting, it's still a plot. A kiss must have purpose, people! (And not just to curl your toes;-)

It made me consider kissing in my contemporaries. In Yesterday's Tides there's a kiss early on that serves to hammer home what has changed in my characters' lives since they were involved nine years earlier. The second kiss, late in the book, is filled with temper and completely destroys the friendship the hero and heroine have built. The third and final kiss comes at the end, when all is repaired and the truth finally acknowledged. You'll note that each serves a very specific purpose.

In my contemporary work-in-progress, my heroine has a really traumatic past that involves being used badly by men. Though she's attracted to the hero from the get-go and he's slammed with it all of a sudden on day, the sparks are banked because of outside conflict for a good while. When they finally kiss before the big show-down, it's going to be soft and full of promise rather than sizzling with passion. Now, those who read my books know I'm a fan of sizzling, LOL. But there's something about going for what isn't expected in this realm. The kiss that stands out in my memory from all the books I've read is one where the H&H rush at each other on horseback, about to be torn apart for who-knows-how-long. They meet, grip each other's arms, lean in . . . and barely touch lips in a kiss that's chaste, sweet, and a promise to meet again. Not the storm-tossed embrace I expected, but so perfect . . . that's the kind of thing I'm going for in this one.

So where do you come down on kissing in novels?


  1. Because I'm single and have never been kissed, I tend to make the characters---and the readers---wait until the tension is almost unbearable before allowing the first kiss to happen, in both my contemporaries and my historicals. Of course, for me, the greatest part of the romantic storyline is the tension that's built out of the intellectual and emotional part of the growing relationship, not the physical, which is why I really have gotten disgusted with mainstream "romance" in which the hero and heroine are going to be intimate with each other when they still don't even like each other. (I do have to say, there is much more kissing in my second historical---but that's because the characters are now married.)

    My favorite romantic movies are the historical costume dramas in which the characters *might* have one kiss, and then at the very end of the movie. The whole story has built to that moment . . . and it's perfectly sigh-worthy. So that's the way I want to see it happen in novels, too.

  2. Tension really is the kicker here, isn't it? And a lot of mainstream romances lose a lot of their tension because of free passions. In the right situation kissing *can* increase the tension . . . but not always.

    I think CBA does a fabulous job of using this question to create really great dynamics. And your books are fabulous examples, Kaye! Love them.