Hey everyone! Last week, my coffee-talk with Beth K. Vogt on writing kisses was so much fun, we’re back for part two! In case you missed it, Beth is one of my favorite people in the world and the acclaimed author of two contemporary romance novels, Wish You Were Here and Catch A Falling Star, both available from Howard Books.
Carla: Welcome back, Beth! Last week, we left off last week talking about how kisses can reveal character development, and each kiss is really dictated by the characters involved. What’s one thing you try to avoid in writing romantic scenes in your own work?
Beth: One thing I don’t want to do is write the same kiss over and over—you know, retread the romance by using the same setup or even the same phrases. Do you ever worry about that, Carla? And how do you ensure that each kiss is distinctively swoon-worthy?
Carla: I think staying true to the characters makes each kiss different. In general, I try to avoid the same set-ups (or really, the same types of scenes!) from book to book so it doesn’t begin to feel formulaic. But there are definitely times I feel like I need to keep a spreadsheet of what words and phrases I’ve used in past scenes! Even for romantic moments, writers tend to have their pet ways of describing actions or emotions.
Speaking of “pet” things … as a reader, what is your pet peeve about kisses? What one thing do you try to avoid at all costs?
Beth: Graphic – and inappropriate – details! It’s a kiss, not an anatomy lesson. Kisses are a delicately balanced blend of emotional and physical responses. And while I want to develop romantic tension, I refuse to write a scene that mixes-and-matches a physical exam and a wrestling match.
I’ve discussed the do’s and don’ts of writing romance with lots of writers – and there’s always the question of where to draw the “line.” Let’s chat about lines, Carla. Have you drawn one?
Carla: Ooh, so are we going to talk about sex now? Because really, that’s the big line, and one of the reasons I gravitated towards inspirational fiction. I won’t write detailed depictions of anything more than a kiss, and like you, I avoid the body parts.
In terms of what I’ll let the characters do… that just depends on the story arc and themes. Characters, just like people, are not perfect. Sometimes they get carried away. If grace and forgiveness relating to sexual sin is part of that theme, I’m not opposed to letting them make mistakes. I don’t want to shy away from authenticity in that area purely because it’s a sensitive topic. But I’m not going to glorify it either, or worse, write sex into the story to titillate. Married couples are another question entirely, but just like I wouldn’t peek into my neighbor’s bedroom window, I don’t think readers need to see what goes on behind closed doors.
Beth: Married couples … that’s where I invoke the “let the marriage bed be undefiled” rule. If it’s true in real life, let it be true in the novels I write.
Carla: Obviously, I agree with you there. I let the story dictate where those lines are drawn, and if I’m afraid I might be getting into a questionable area, I pray over it. What about you? Do you ever worry about taking things too far? Where and how do you draw your own lines?
Beth: I’ve drawn a number of lines, both broad ones and specific. But it comes down to this: I will never make every reader or reviewer happy. So I must stay true to my values and know that I will stand before the God I love for every word I speak and write.
All right, Carla, I’m turning this Q&A around a bit. What’s your favorite movie kiss? Or novel kiss? Or do you have a memorable real life romantic moment you’d like to share?
Carla: That’s so tricky! I’m going to keep my personal romantic moments to myself, but as far ones in a novel… I’d have to go with Gone With the Wind. Rhett Butler quite literally sweeps Scarlett off her feet. (Talk about unwilling participants in a romance!) It also has my favorite line about kissing in any book:
“No, I don’t think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.”
As far as movie kisses… this will surprise you. My favorite has to be the single kiss from the wonderful and touching Scottish film Dear Frankie. The fact it involves Gerard Butler helps, but really, I love it because it’s such an achingly tender and bittersweet moment. The storyline involves a woman who has written fake letters to her son from his absentee father, whom she’s claimed is a merchant marine. When the ship in question comes into port, she hires a stranger to pretend to be her son’s father. What could have devolved into melodrama is really a beautiful, subtly-acted movie. This kiss really sums up the heartfelt but restrained tone of the film. So wonderful!
Your turn, Beth! What are your favorite book/movie kisses?
Beth: I’ll start with a favorite movie kiss from The Lake House, starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. I can’t explain the whole fantastical time-line of this romance, but Alex and Kate “meet” across time, and the first kiss doesn’t happen until the end of the movie. They finally get to see each other – after a lot of obstacles. Kate says, “You waited” – and then Alex kisses her with all the emotion of “at last!”
Love. That. Scene.
Favorite literary kiss? I keep coming back to a scene in These is My Words. It’s a wedding night scene, handled so beautifully by the author, Nancy Turner. Before Jack, the hero, kisses Sarah’s lips, he kisses a scar over her heart, telling her that he hopes to heal the hurt inside. It is such a tender moment – and reminds me of what best-selling authors Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck teach us at My Book Therapy: God heals the Lie and the hero heals the Wound.
Carla: I love that! What a perfect way to sum up what we write in inspirational romance. When it comes down to it, what all these kisses have in common is that one element: hope. Hope that things might be different this time, hope that the characters have finally found that one person who understands them better than anyone. And who can’t relate to that?
Thanks so much for joining me today, Beth! I’m sure my readers loved this as much as I did! Stop by any time… the teapot’s always on! Now I have a question for all of you: