Kissing Scenes... Can't help but be cheesy!!!
Question: I'm writing a short story and there is a love sub-plot between two shy characters who discover that they have been secretly crushing on each other. After their initial embarrassment ('cause love can be embarrassing and/or awkward for shy people) I wanted to include a sweet, tender moment followed by a short kiss (there's blushing involved somewhere, just not sure where). The problem is, I don't know how to do it without it coming off cheesy or elementary. It's a book for teens (specifically age 15 and up) and I obviously don't want an R-rated smooch fest (besides shy people would never go for a passionate kiss the first time they kiss someone) and I want to keep them in character. Sorry, I'm rambling but I just want to know how to make it seem relevant to the story as well as the characters. I hope I've made sense and included all the necessary information. Love your website, your responses are always spot on. Thanks again.Answer:
You have two key considerations here. The first is the story consideration: what this moment means to the arc of the characters, how it will affect their relationship, and how it fits into the plot of the story.
The second consideration is the need to make moment authentic.
Both are important. But if you are worried that it is coming off cheesy, that's a sign that you may need more authenticity.
Authenticity generally comes from the specific details that add realism to the scene, and that have the ring of truth because they are consistent with what you have established about the characters. Authentic details can include both the feelings of the characters and how they handle those feelings.
It can also help to consider what else might be going on in the scene. Perhaps a less than ideal time and place can reflect or augment the awkwardness of the characters.
At any rate, your instinct towards keeping the moment true to the characters is quite correct. Anything else could come across as inauthentic.
If you are lucky enough to know some teens or younger adults who are willing to talk about their first kiss, they could be a source of ideas. The personal experiences of you and your friends can also help (bearing in mind that attitudes change a little with each generation). Having a strong sense of your characters will help too. You will also need a little imagination to find what will push them into that awkward moment and how they react afterward.
Best of luck.