Monday, May 21, 2012

A Kiss is Just a Kiss (NOT!)

As a writer of contemporary YA fiction, I find myself creating a lot of romantic plot lines. I'm currently digging deep to finish a second round of revisions, and one of the things I'm looking to clean up is parts where I'm 'overdoing it'. My problem is characters who over analyze their feelings...maybe too much heart-thumping, breath-catching, lip-biting, sighing, staring deeply into each others get the picture.  Then I'll read some current YA and growl in frustration because it feels like all I'm reading about is

lip biting,


heart-thumping kisses,

and wonder where am I going wrong?

See, my first kiss was amazing. No awkward nose-bumping, no fumbling. He was the boy next door (okay, not right next door, but close enough), two years older and suffice to say, had skilled lips. Being kissed by someone with experience was like getting a hit of the most delicious, pleasure-inducing drug imaginable. If I'd only known the side effects - confusion (Does he like me?)...despair (Why is he ignoring me?)...desire (When can we do that again??!!)...I would have run in the other direction.

Yeah, right.  A kiss in NOT just a kiss for me.  It's a life altering experience.

And so began, as kd lang sings, this constant craving for those yummy feelings that come with the territory. Romance - even just the hint of it - is an essential part of a book for me. And it's part of who I am as a writer. Most stories I've written have some element of l'amour in them. Does that make me a sap?

Over the years, some of the most biting editorial remarks I've received regarding my writing have included words like "melodramatic" and "cheesy" - yeah, ouch. My cheeks are reddening as I type this. Not exactly buzz words you want on your jacket flap. 

So Paper Waiters, I know there's a fine line between true romance and mawkish romance, but how do you know when you've crossed it? What are some good, contemporary YA romances that have gotten it right? 

*photo credit  Alfred Eisenstaedt (photographer of The Kiss)


  1. I certainly wouldn't call THE FAULT IN OUR STARS a romance, but I think John Green got the emotional details about kissing and love quivers just about right.

  2. Gale, Totally agree!! I LOVE TFIOS! I think in other less skilled hands the whole book may have been more melodramatic. I especially loved the scenes in Amsterdam. One of those books that will stay with me for awhile!!

  3. I third that!

    And Robin, I know just what you mean about writing it right. I vividly remember those first kisses. And I don't really know how you can go over the top -- because they were over the top!

    But good writing is all about balance. And we sure do know that just 'cause it happened, doesn't mean it translates to fiction.

    And does it mean anything that I didn't log in here and so blogger is asking me to prove I'm not a robot -- and one of the words I must type in is obscene! Literally. The word is obscene.

  4. Getting a kiss scene right is REALLY hard. So good on you for trying to recreate those feelings so a reader can imagine themselves in that moment too. I think anything by Sarah Dessen is usually pretty honest and well done.

  5. JA - Obscene, lmao!! Getting the balance is so key. I think that's where I"m trying hardest - enough to make it poignant and real, but not to much so it's considered purple prose!

    Woodwork - So true. It is really difficult to get a kissing scene just right!! Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors, and yes, she gets it right!

  6. I think it's all about the skill of the writer--at that particular point in time. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor is very lyrical but also sensual, dreamy and romantic. Her previous work I found terribly over-written.