Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Fine Art of Kissing

It’s been a crazy few days here at the Good Castle. Early Sunday morning sewage started bubbling up into our basement from the city’s sewer line. Short version, we used to have a finished basement and now we do not. But we do have insurance, so all is good. However, in keeping with Mr. Murphys’ law, my husband was away in Toronto and missed all the real fun stuff. When he walked through the door late Monday night I have never been so glad to see anyone in my entire life. I’d been waiting two days for that kiss.

The Fine Art of Kissing

"Then I did the simplest thing in the world. I leaned down... and kissed him. And the world cracked open.” ~ Agnes de Mille

No one seems to know much about the history of kissing. Religious references have Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss. Henry VI of England banned it in 1439 because he believed it spread disease. Over the centuries it’s been declared illegal, sinful, and controversial. If it was practised, it was carried out in private. Nowadays, most cultures hand out kisses like candy. We have the buss, the smooch and the French to name a few. We’ve been found necking in the backseat of cars. Politicians kiss babies for votes. We kiss the Blarney Stone hoping for eloquence, and we meet and kiss under the mistletoe. Kissing can lead to all number of ... things.

I may not have discovered much of a history, but I did uncover some interesting facts. Did you know the science of kissing is called philematology? That is burns 6.4 calories a minute? Could there be a better reason to pucker up? Kissing is also good for your teeth, in that the extra saliva helps clean out your mouth. French kissing involves all 34 facial muscles, which means there’s a workout available I might actually enjoy. By the way, Certs, one of America’s most popular mints, debuted on the market in 1956. One last fun fact, the insulting invitation to kiss one’s posterior goes as far back as the mid 1600’s and probably further.

This is a romance blog so let’s stick with the passionate side of kissing. What kind of side effects can you expect during a great lip lock? Apparently, your partner is twice as likely to lean to the right. Your pulse rate will go up, your blood pressure will rise, and your pupils will dilate. You’re going to start to breathe more deeply. How’s that for cliché?

As writers of the romance variety, we need to take those clichéd reactions and turn them into something fresh and different for our readers to enjoy. For instance, we might choose to describe what the kiss is not.

"She had a fleeting memory of her cousin Jacob thrusting his thick, wet tongue into her mouth when she was fourteen. It had disgusted her, and she had kicked him hard in the shins. Silverton's kiss was velvet, dark, and smoky, and Meredith had not the slightest desire to kick him in the shins." Sandra Worth, The Rose of York: Love & War

Or describe the struggle to do it properly.

“The kiss had gone from “home sweet home” to hot and deep instantly. He tried not to stick his tongue halfway down her throat, tried not to devour her, but she was already there, and he was drowning in the love he felt--in the edge of desperation pulling him under, the heat of her skin, in the all-consuming soft wetness of her mouth.” Tara Janzen, Crazy Kisses

And just because I can’t resist:

“His hands did a slow glide up her arms and over her shoulders to cup her face. He gently tilted her head and waited. Waited for the slight parting of her lips, the invitation to enter. When it came it almost brought him to his knees.” Karyn Good, WIP, Common Ground

The lips are thought to be the number one erotic zone for women. Kissing, and the art of doing it properly, is not to be undervalued. Writing the all important tantalizing first kiss is no easy feat either.

Remember it can’t come out of nowhere. The lead-in is just as important as the kiss. Your characters have got to have a pretty good reason to swap spit. The mouth is a haven for bacteria; you’re not just going to stick your tongue in anyone’s mouth. Think New Year’s Eve and ringing in the new year and being stuck at the stroke of midnight in the vicinity of the Lizard, or the Rooster, or the Ashtray. Shudder. The journey to the kiss is as important, if not more important, than the actual kiss.

Decide on a few details before you start the scene. Is it going to be sweet, unexpected, messy, erotic, forbidden? Long or short? What do you want to accomplish or reveal during that first kiss? Or because of it?

Make use of all the five senses. If there were ever a time to use them...it’s now.

Think about the theory for every action there is a reaction. Be it internal or external. Go back to being a teenager, when kissing was a huge deal, and channel all the angst that went along with the planning, the anticipation, the nervousness, the excitement, the indecisiveness. Put some of that in your scene.

You’ve done an excellent job of building the sexual tension and leading your readers up to the actual meeting of the lips. Do it justice. Again, avoid clichés. Because, so help me, if even one of you types the words “her lips tasted like honey” we’re turning this blog around and going home.

“The decision to kiss for the first time is the most crucial in any love story. It changes the relationship of two people much more strongly than even the final surrender; because this kiss already has within it that surrender.” Emil Ludwig

“A man’s kiss is his signature.” Mae West

Do you have a kissing story to share? Have you ever kissed a frog hoping to discover a prince, only to be left with just a frog? Got any great writing tips for kissing scenes?


j.leigh.bailey said...

I love the fun and random facts about kissing. The advice was well-timed as well. I'm mentally choreographing my main character's first kiss, so now I have more info to make it work! Thanks!

Nicole Murray said...

How about when the environment plays a part in a kiss or the moments after a kiss? In some stories its the moments before a kiss and after that I enjoy more than the kiss its self.

"Out over the horizon, lighting spread out like skeletal fingers across a chalk board, the sound of thunder had been rolling in closer and closer after each strike. The western winds whipped up around the lovers and then the rain began to fall. Still holding her tight, Wyatt pulled from their kiss and closed his eyes, while raising his head up into the rain. Mary watched the water course down the lines of his handsome face and fell for him just a little bit more." Ghost Mountain, WIP

Karyn Good said...

Good morning, j.leigh.bailey! I'm glad you enjoyed the fun facts. I had a lot of fun doing the research :)

Mentally choreographing the scene with the first kiss is a excellent start. It's an extremely important scene and by giving it the care and consideration it needs you'll have lots figured out before you start to write.

Happy writing!

Karyn Good said...

Hi Nicole. Excellent addition! The environment definitely plays a part in creating the perfect atmosphere and mood to draw in the reader.

Thank you for sharing a part of your first kiss scene.

Still holding her tight, Wyatt pulled from their kiss and closed his eyes, while raising his head up into the rain.

Oh my, I could just picture it. Wonderful job! BTW, I love the combination of thunderstorms or rain and kissing. sigh.

connie said...

Hi Karyn,

About the basement, oh my. What a four alarm mess! Did you have it declared a disaster zone, blame it on BP and write to the president specifying which bums in this world you wanted kicked? No huh?

"He urged her behind a pillar and trapped her with his hands against the wall. "But we might be seen!" she cried.

Her hair had the fragrance of wild flowers, she leaned into the length of him. (lenghth not specified although I am sure she felt his erection pressed into her stomach - they all do. Anyway, back to the gripping (sorry) scene.

He teased her lips apart and thrust his tongue in and out in the rhythm as old as time. Her velvet mouth tasted like wine. The stars blazed in the heavens above, casting shadows on her silver gold hair...

No time to turn around and leave...I upchucked right where I was.

Karyn Good said...

Too funny, Connie. You need to start writing comedy sketches! Thanks for sharing!

I can't even imagine having to deal with the horror of waves of oil erupting up out of the ocean floor. It was hard enough dealing with the sewage bubbling up from our 4" drain. shudder.

Janet said...

Great post, Karyn. And some very important items to keep in mind as we bring our characters together for that first kiss.

Just a reminder - the second and third and fourth...are just important, and you want them to further the story and stay with your reader when they close the book.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Karyn,
Good stuff! Thanks for the great examples, including your own.

The only thing I would add is that it's always the emotions of the characters, before, during and after the kiss that we remember, not the mechanics of the kiss. Tara Janzen's snippet is a good example of that.

And you are very right about using the five senses. Because senses are heightened when we kiss, they go hand in hand with the emotions our characters feel to make a kiss truly memorable.


Anita Mae Draper said...

I love your snippet better than the rest, Karyn. Great job.

Well, as I mentioned in one other post, hubby doesn't like kissing because his mom taught him it spread germs. sigh

I did have a boyfriend in Trades' Training, though... He wasn't a looker but man, when he looked at me... and that snippet about him cupping her face and tilting her head... that's what my old boyfriend used to do. But instead of waiting, he'd lay one on me and minutes would pass before he came up for air. LOL Thanks for the memory.


Karyn Good said...

Hi Janet. The first kiss has to be a memory. Of course, the rest of them have to be unique and well thought out, too. Every scene, every moment needs to build momentum.

Karyn Good said...

Hi Jana. If it weren't for emotion there'd be no kiss in the first place. So hopefully its there, woven in and carefully crafted.

The five senses are a wonderful way to convey emotion. To channel all that feedback, the experience, and internalize it.

Karyn Good said...

Thanks, Anita :) Ah well, he brings you flowers and makes you supper and does all those other wonderful sexy things.

What a lovely memory! I'm glad I made you think of it.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Belatedly stopping by! I loved your examples Karyn, beautiful scenes. I actually love the first the most. There's something so powerful about the mix of simple, unembellished sentences, and the massive implication in the final line. One would hope, of course, for a little more context to follow it in a book, but it's a beautiful quote.

I agree with Jana, emotion is key, blending emotion into the senses. Not just taste, touch, scent, but the POV character's response to those things. We're empathetic creatures, and we respond to other people's emotions very quickly :)

And some fun kiss tidbits I bookmarked ages ago because I like them: Give us a kiss then, luv!