Thursday, June 24, 2010

The First Kiss . . . or . . . No Kiss At All

Recently on a writing loop we were discussing the first kiss in Christian Romance. Some prefer that the characters either never kiss at all, or that they spend a good portion of the novel working up to that one first kiss. Others prefer kissing from the get go, as long as it's clean, of course. Really, it comes down to what's true to the character. Are they acting "in character" or doing something that their character wouldn't normally do?

While, THE MASTER'S WALL doesn't fall under the romance category, it still has a love story. I personally like to build up to that first kiss in my fiction. After all, once you reach that ultimate climax of the first kiss, what more is there to build up to? Well, I think we can all come up with plenty of physical activities to build up to after that first kiss, but imagine a story with characters so full of longing for each other, yet without ever touching in an intimate manner, that once the characters finally reach that first kiss, it's the ultimate in satisfaction . . . and relief. And on another platform, makes them more crazed for each other. E-hem.

I love the tension and the build up to that one monumental first kiss. But think about it. What is it that can make the first kiss so monumental in Christian fiction? To me it would be the struggle between our fleshly desires and wanting to do what's right. Keep in mind, our bodies were invented by God. He's the inventor of sex, kissing, etc. The question is, are we exploring those subjects in a manner that's pleasing to Him? Let's say our character has no desire to be pleasing to God and later has to learn about his/her sin. How do we portray that successfully in our work without going too far?

In THE MASTER'S WALL, Alethea and David finally kiss in chapter twenty out of twenty-four chapters, a little over three-fourths of the book. They're both in love with each other. Problem is, David is a slave, and Alethea is the slave-owner's granddaughter. David sees no hope for them to ever be together, and because of his status as a slave, and his desire to be pleasing to God, he fights his attraction. But Alethea doesn't make it easy. From the time she was small, she would dance for the family. Well, now that she's grown, David has the worst time of it. Frustrated, he finally confronts her about it and tells her she needs to stop (after all, she's a Christian and she's causing men to undress her with their eyes). Horrified by his confession, she slaps him, not understanding at all, and the most significant reaction he gets out of her is her ire.

Despite his warning, one evening Alethea pulls a risky stunt, while David is juggling torches for the family and some invited guests (not only does she risk the family noticing her attraction for the slave, she's going completely against David's warnings about dancing before the men). Musicians are playing, the lights from his torches are turning and dancing, and of course . . . so is Alethea. She tries to get David's attention by dancing in front of him, and she gets it all right. As she tosses her sash into the air during one of her dramatic, and most "enticing" moves, her sash catches fire. Shouts of horror carry up from the family, and David burns himself trying to save Alethea from her foolishness. So that night, feeling guilty and stupid, Alethea finds him alone in the stables. She's there to apologize and thank him for "rescuing her" once again.

The following is the most sensual scene out of the entire book, and they don't even touch, let alone kiss . . . but oh, how they want to (try not to critique the writing, e-hem):

"David?" Alethea whispered into the darkness as she made her way toward the dim light in the back. She turned the corner and there was David hanging from the rafters, pulling his chin above the beam, then down and up again. She stopped at the sight, his muscles flexing and shimmering as the torch cast long shadows about the chamber.
David released the beam and dropped to the dirt floor. Their gazes met and his eyes narrowed. With a severe gait, he walked toward her, jaw tight and hands fisted at his sides.
Instinctively, Alethea stepped back until she came against a wall. His mere presence held her there as though an invisible force pressed against her. Sensing she'd better say something to tame him, she said, "I came to thank—"
"Don't ever do that to me again." His voice was a fierce whisper as he pinned her with his words.
"I . . . I . . . ." Alethea stammered, taken aback by the force of his tone, her apology dissolving on her tongue. In an effort to regain her dignity, she straightened. "Or you'll do what?"
His eyes flashed as he moved closer.
Gasping, she stepped back, but the wall blocked her feet.
David loomed over her, his broad shoulders engulfing her into a cavern and his threatening stance making her aware of how small she was compared to him. The fire from the torch reflected on his face, its softness contrasting with the harsh tension set in his jaw. He placed his palm against the wall over her shoulder, holding her captive. He lifted his other hand, and she held her breath as his closeness whispered a promise of more.
Little by little, he brought his knuckles toward her cheek as if he wished to touch her but didn't dare. His hand trembled, and . . . she waited. His smoky blue eyes drank in her face as they focused on loose tendrils curling against her cheeks and then her mouth. Without touching her, he ran his knuckles down her cheek and then her neck, leaving a trail of heat in their wake.
She shivered from the impact.
He placed both hands against the wall, encasing her in his strong arms, and he leaned in closer. She breathed in his scent. Sweat. Pine. His lips hovered over hers, his breath mingling with her own. He held steady, hovering over her mouth, desire and heat emanating between them.
His nearness sent waves of heat to every limb of her body, from the top of her head to the tips of her toes, and she feared she might melt into the wall before they came together.
"David," she whispered, aching for him to touch her, to kiss her.
A light came to his eyes, and as if awakening from a dream, he pushed away.
Abandoned, she wanted to grab him, to yank him back to her, but she didn't dare touch him, no more than he dared to touch her. Would they even be able to stop if they did embrace? It would be like flint striking stone. One brush of contact would ignite flames between them.
Growling, he ran his hands through his hair, his chest heaving. He paced like a cat wanting to escape the confines of a cage. Suddenly, he turned and punched a wooden beam. She jumped from the fierceness of his thrust, the crack of the wood echoing in the silence, echoing in her heart. Without a word, he stormed away.
Still leaning against the wall, she gulped in a breath. Cold air chilled her, as if a blanket had been ripped off her warm body. She pushed away, her legs wobbly. In a daze, she touched the beam, running her trembling fingertips along the prickly splinters. Shattered by the same fist that dared not caress her cheek.
Breathless, she ran after him.
He marched out of the stables, cloaked by the shadows of the dark night.
Watching him go, she felt as though he were taking a part of her with him, a piece of herself she could never reclaim again, for she'd never shared such an intimate moment with a man. Now, he left her there, empty and unfulfilled. She leaned against the doorframe, pressing her back against it for support. Tears welled in her eyes. "Oh, David." Her hoarse voice carried after him, only to die in the darkness as he left her alone.

To me, it's this kind of struggle between right and wrong and what we want/desire that makes a kiss more powerful in the end. And sometimes, a scene like this can be more powerful than the actual kiss, in my opinion. It's deeper on so many levels with passion and struggle intertwined.

I think it can be handled very simply by narrowing it down to that old saying, "Less is more."


  1. Oh, that is lovely, just lovely. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you, Rachel! I'm so glad you stopped by. :-)

  3. Powerful writing, you made your point beautifully.

    A J Hawke

  4. Well done. Especially on the cultural/historical level.

    I think contemporary romance demands more enactment of physical contact, depending of course upon the circumstances and characters.

  5. Thanks for stopping by, Nicole! It's always great to see you.

    Yes, contemporary would have more physical contact. That's another reason I like historical. :-)