Saturday, April 09, 2011

Kiss and Show, Don't Tell: Kissing With Purpose

I admit it-- I like books with the potential for kissing. I’m not saying it’s a requirement or anything, but the possibility for K-I-S-S-I-N-G is an element that adds to the page-turning-excitement, and often to the power, of an already awesome story.
But like any kind of scene, kissing for its own sake is a missed opportunity to enhance our stories. It's about more than the physical act, but the emotions, what's driving the characters to act, and just as importantly, how they REact.

Whether characters brush lips after stammers and blushes, or lock lips with intensity after a raging argument, kisses can (and should!) offer insight about the characters, highlight their strengths or even their flaws, deepen our understanding of who they are, and move the story forward. 

Here are some examples of kissing scenes that left me knowing more about the characters and the story... and OKAY, they're a lot of fun to read:

Sweet Kiss: ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins
Anna and the French Kiss had one of the sweetest kiss scenes I've ever read. The romantic buildup left nothing rushed; every breathless, hopeful, will-they-really-kiss moment led to beautiful, generous description, and I love that the author wasn’t skimpy in the details, while Anna’s ever-humorous and adorable internal monologue ran the entire time. 

Passionate Kiss: GRACELING by Kristin Cashore
Graceling is one of my all-time favorite books. The first kiss was a long time coming, and after so much hesitation, denial, uncertainty, I was right there with Katsa when she finally moved forward and fully accepted her feelings. Like everything else between these two characters, they came together as equals.

Forbidden Kiss: CITY OF ASHES by Cassandra Clare
Mention the Seelie Court, and anyone who’s read The Mortal Instruments series will remember this infamous scene in City of Ashes. It’s one of the most intense kissing scenes I’ve ever read, not because of how they kiss, but because of the suppressed longing behind it. Emotion runs high, even if the kiss is achingly short.

Other books with well-done, meaningful kissing scenes include PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles (for its intensity) and CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins (for the sadness behind it). 
Do you agree every kissing scene should have a purpose beyond just the act of kissing? I could be overthinking this... is kissing for its own sake worth putting in our novels? What books would you add to this list?

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Diana Paz is a web content writer and aspiring YA author. She grew up on Miami Beach, moved to Los Angeles in high school, and went to college in San Diego. Basically, she's a beach bum, but she did graduate from California State University, San Marcos with a Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts. She loves old movies, epic fantasy, all kinds of music, and heading to the beach with a good book. Preferably sipping a caramel frappuccino. Find her at her blog: or on Twitter @dianapazwrites


  1. OH good choices. I totally agree, I love that about books. The emotion is what makes us invested! OMG Seelie Court!! *swoon* I LOVED Anna's kiss. I love the tension. It's my favorite part. I think you have the best of the best here ;o) Great post!

  2. *sigh* to all three... Seelie Court will be hard for anyone to top. Ever.

  3. Erica- Thanks! And YES it's all about the emotion, which is what makes some kisses stand out more than others for me. ;)

    Tina- Agreed on Seelie Court; it wasn't the kiss itself that made me swoon, it was what the kiss MEANT.

  4. Omg, I adored all of the scenes you mentioned (except Catching Fire, because I havent read it yet lol). Good list, darling! And I agree, its all about the emotion behind it. =)

  5. Great choices, love kissing scenes that build up and make us as eager for the kiss as the characters are. Wonderful post, Di, now I have to go back and read my kissing scenes to see if they deliver. :D

  6. I like kissing as well, but I don't like books that are porn without pictures. Characters that have incredible romantic tension, and yet keep themselves apart really float my boat.

  7. Nat- Thanks! I had fun coming up with them!

    Brenda- Thank you. I agree on the build-up, and I'm going back over my story too!

    Scooter- Good point. I think, without the emotion and reasons behind the physical, books might cross that line!

  8. There's also the art of the almost-kiss. I have a WIP where the characters didn't kiss for almost 40k (and it was only a 55k book!) and apparently that's like, frustrating or something :P

  9. Oh, yes! I've liked those kinds of books since I was about nine-years-old. I'll keep reading a badly written book if I anticipate a kiss. :)

  10. Laina- I completely agree!! The almost kiss is one of my favorite kinds of scenes *swoon*

    Anita- Hahaha!! I've read kissing books since I was quite young too! I'm a little more selective now, but I do like to read about falling in love. :)