Thursday, June 21, 2012

A kiss is just a kiss. Or is it?

So there I was, typing away at the day job, when a handsome stranger dashed through the door and swept me up in a passionate embrace.

OK, it didn't happen quite like that.

In reality, a local tour operator who was pleased with my write-up of his business stopped by with a thank you note and a bottle of wine. He's a charismatic older gentleman known for his chivalrous flair, so I was charmed when he grasped my hand and planted a chaste kiss across my knuckles.

I should state for the record that I don't generally encourage people to place their lips upon me in a professional setting. This was one of those rare instances where the circumstances, participants, and silliness of the situation made a kiss . . . well, not really a kiss.

As a romance writer, I'm fascinated by the subtle nuances surrounding the smooch. Years ago, I wrote a scene in which a potential love interest kissed the heroine on the forehead. A critique partner suggested the gesture seemed patronizing.

It was something that hadn't occurred to me until then.

In reality, I'd meant for the kiss to serve as a sweet, "stay safe, honey" gesture. But my critique partner was absolutely right that the tone I'd set for their relationship up to that point gave the kiss a more condescending vibe than I'd intended.

I've written forehead and cheek kisses in plenty of other stories, and I'm always mindful of the context. A slow, breathy brush of the lips across a flushed cheekbone is a very different thing than a sloppy cheek smooch from a guy who calls you "babe" and follows it up with a punch in the arm.

I toyed with the kissing context conundrum a bit in Making Waves (which, incidentally, is part of  Kindle Big Deals 99-cent sale through June 24, so snag it cheap for you or a friend if you haven't already!)

In the scene where Alex and Juli first meet, they decide to pose as a married couple and fake their way into a beach-bar Newlywed Game with the hope of winning $1,000. Juli devises a system in which their first answer must begin with the letter "A" or involve the number "1," while the second question would require a response centered around "B" or "2."

That leaves them stuck with the letter "C" on the third question when Alex is forced to guess Juli's favorite place to be kissed. He rules out several wildly-inappropriate body parts starting with "C" before finally settling on "collarbone" – a guess that turns out to be true.

I'm with Juli on this one. There is something wildly sexy about a trail of soft, breathy kisses planted in that tantalizing zone below the throat and above the cleavage.

But I also realize it wouldn't make most people's lists of the top three places to be kissed. So much of it is based on context – who's doing the kissing, and how does the person approach the task at hand?

If the chemistry strong enough between two characters, there aren't many body parts that wouldn't be sexy to kiss.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Are some kiss-zones naturally sexier than others, or is it all about context? Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to kissing in novels? Please share!

I'm going to summon my gentleman friend to test my kiss theory. It's time he became intimately acquainted with my armpit.


Danielle B. said...

This might sound strange but my fav places to be kissed are... the corner of my eyes and the back of my knees. Don't ask.

Pet peeves in books... hmmm... as long as they are not sloppy, wet, french whore-ish types. Otherwise all the others are fine.

Patty Blount said...

I like kisses anywhere and everywhere. But my favorite kiss? A sticky popcorn flavored kiss from a toddler.

When my youngest was about 2 or 3, we'd gone to see George of the Jungle. This was his first theater outing and he sat on my lap for the whole movie. At the end, there is a wedding kiss. Chris looked at the screen, looked at me, looked back at the screen, looked at me and I thought UH OH.

Sure enough, he leaned closer, opened his mouth and...

... latched right on my nose.

To this day, a kiss on the nose makes me dissolve into a giggle fit.

Skye said...

Sigh. It's been so long I can barely remember what a kiss is like! But I do like kisses on shoulders and I like kisses other than going straight for the tongue: what happened to variety?

Sarah Allen said...

The only pet peeve I have about kissing in novels is that it's so, so easy to get cliche about it. This is such an awesome overview of how to make written kisses work, I'm definitely keeping it in mind :)

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

middle child said...

It is totally about the context.

Jamey Stegmaier said...

I hope it's okay for a guy to join in on this discussion. :)

I'm actually quite pleased to see what Danielle said about kisses on the corner of her eyes. For a long time now I've known that I don't like it when women wear a lot of makeup on their eyes (particularly on top of their eyelids), and recently I figured out why: I want to kiss them there. The makeup just gets in the way--it creates a mucky no-kiss zone.

My favorite place to be kissed? Other than the mouth/tongue and other unmentionables, of course. This is pretty standard, but I LOVE ear kisses/nibbles. No tongue, please, but lips, some teeth, and hot breath in my ear. Incredibly sexy.

Jessica said...

One of the sexiest kisses I've read is in SUSAN ANDERSON'S book PLAYING DIRTY. The hero, upon kissing our slightly reluctant heroine, slips his tongue along her lips and his inner dialogue is: Let me in.

I don't know why those three little words had me swooning, but I was glad the heroine obliged!

Geoffrey Cubbage said...

I seem to remember a passionately sexy description of armpit-kissing from one of Nabokov's books, now that you mention it. Not that being in a Nabokov novel is really synonymous with good sexual practice -- but it was a lovely kiss scene, oddity notwithstanding.

Laurie Evans said...

collarbone and ear kisses are nice.

One of my pet peeves about romance novel kisses. All the "nipping." Like: "He nipped her ear." or, "She nipped his shoulder." Nipping? as in biting? These people aren't vampires, so I have NO idea what's going on!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I thought u said "warm"pit. What line?