This past week, two of my favorite shows had the near-kiss episode. Beauty & the Beast and New Girl. You don't have to be familiar with these shows to enjoy the concept of the almost-kiss. But there's something to be learned about the psychological effect the missed kiss serves for the reader.
If the almost-kiss is done right, the reader will feel cheated, and maybe even mad at you as the author.
So how do you do it in such a way that you make readers pant for the real deal? Here's this therapist's tips on how to do it "right."
1) Do not write the scene too soon in the novel.
Why the near-kiss between Jess and Nick on New Girl worked so well is that the audience was fully, 100% invested in the two of them eventually ending up together. We have been rooting for it since the pilot episode last year. Having this felt tension between the two characters guarantees a tension in the reader.
2) Make the stakes incredibly high for each of them.
If the stakes aren't high for both, then it won't be as powerful a near-kiss. Jess is dating another guy. Nick is trying to get with another girl, which was the sole reason why they were playing the drinking game in the first place which landed them in their predicament. Finally Jess, who is tired of being cooped up in the closet, tells Nick to just kiss her and get it over with. They comically begin the dance to do just that, when Nick blurts, "Not like this!" to Jess, meaning he didn't want their first kiss to be the result of a drinking game.
Folks, that amped the tension up by ramping the stakes. Now Jess knows that this kiss would mean something to Nick...which means something to her. I was practically hyperventilating in my seat, wondering if they would or not!
3) Be creative about the interruption.
This is your chance to really shock them good with something out of the ordinary. Give it some thought. What would make the reader gasp even louder than they were planning to gasp had the characters melded their lips together after all?
4) Do not have too many almost-kiss scenes before the real deal.
Less is more. Once is enough. You don't want to be seen as teasing your readers along. I really appreciated an interview I read where Liz Meriweather, the director of New Girl, explained why she had Jess and Nick do more than just near-kiss in season 2. (They kiss at the very end of the same episode.) "Keeping them apart, at this point, felt more fake then bringing them together for me."
Since film is different from books, she went on to say that just because they kissed doesn't mean they will have a relationship. In a book, however, a reader will roll their eyes just as much if you dangle the carrot in front of them too many times. They will eventually throw the book down and say, "Enough already!"
Let's AnalyzeDid any of you see Beauty & the Beast or New Girl when the near-kiss scenes happened? What did you think? Any other suggestions you'd like to see me add to my list?
And don't forget...you can still answer my How Does That Make You Feel question from last week and be entered to win a free mini-assessment of your character!