Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dissecting The Kiss Off

In September, agency sister, Bria Quinlan and I hosted the Kiss/Kiss Off Contest where one lucky writer got the chance for some one-on-on agent time with the fabulous Lauren MacLeod. Here's my post dissecting the Kiss Off before we took entries.

After Angi did such an awesome job EXPLAINING what’s a kiss off, I realized we needed a post about WRITING the kiss off—as in, here are some tips (*hint hint*) for writing your kiss off scene for the super awesome Kiss/Kiss Off Contest.

I picked my favorite kiss off, which of course is from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Because who doesn’t love Anna and the French Kiss?? (Crazy people, that’s who!)

So I’m going to break down the kiss off scene with my notes. All words, rights, blah blah blah are Stephanie Perkins. Typos are mine. And, seriously, buy this book and read it because it’s ah-may-zing.

I jump backward. “What’s going on?”

[Your first line of your Kiss Off needs to hook. This might not be the greatest example, but if your character asks “what’s going on?” you know you are going to get an answer. DISCLAIMER: Do not change your first line to “what’s going on?” for this KKO contest!]

“What’s going on? What’s going on? I’ll tell you what’s going on. That girl in there, the one who wanted to kill me? That’s Ellie’s roommate. And she saw us dancing, and she’s called her, and she’s told her all about it.” [If a character asks, the other character really should answer. Also, we can see the friction spark right here.]

“So what? We were just dancing. Who cares?” [Poor Anna is still clueless.]

“Who cares? Ellie’s freaked out about it as it is! She hates it when we’re together, and now she’ll think something’s going on—”

“She hates me?” I’m confused. What did I do to her? I haven’t seen her in months.

He screams again and kicks the wall, then howls in pain. “FUCK!”

[Notice that Caps, Italics, and Exclamation points are used really sparingly and strategically. Don’t load down your scene with them. Use them wisely—only in the places that you really need them for emphasis. Also, if a character curses, it has to be for a reason. This F-bomb isn’t just an F-bomb. It has a purpose—he’s in pain physically but also is at his wit’s end emotionally.]

“Calm down! God, Etienne, what’s with you?”

He shakes his head, and his expression goes blank. “It wasn’t supposed to end like this.” He runs a hand through his damp hair.

What was supposed to end? Her or me?

“It’s been falling apart for so long—”

Oh my God. Are they breaking up?

“But I’m just not ready for it,” he finishes. [Right here. This is the line that shifts the anger over to her.]

My heart hardens to ice. Screw him. Seriously. SCREW HIM. “Why not, St. Clair? Why aren’t you ready for it?” 

[Short choppy sentences build tension. Watch how the angrier Anna is, the shorter the sentence.]

He looks up at me when I say his name. [And this is the line where he realizes it. All his anger has just transferred over to her. AND HE HAS IT COMING!] St. Clair, not Etienne. He’s hurt, but I don’t care. He’s St. Claire again. Flirty, friends-with-everyone St. Clair. I HATE him. Before he can answer, I’m stumbling down the sidewalk. I can’t look at him anymore. I’ve been so stupid. I’m such an idiot.

He calls after me, but I keep moving forward. One foot in front of the other. I’m focusing so hard on my steps that I bump into a streetlamp. I curse and I kick it. Again and again and again and suddenly St. Clair is pulling me back, pulling me away from it, and I’m kicking and screaming and I’m so tired and I just want to go HOME.

“Anna, Anna!”

“What’s happening?” Someone asks. Meredith and Rashmi and Josh surround us. When did they get here? How long have they been watching us? 

[And now there’s an audience, so you know something is about to go down! *grabs the popcorn*]

“It’s all right,” St. Clair says. “She’s just a little drunk—”


“Anna, you’re drunk, and I’m drunk and this is ridiculous. Let’s just go home.”

“I don’t want to go home with you!” 

[Note that right here is where she finally turned that anger on him. She just turned away before and it was all treated in her inner monologue so we knew it was coming—but now he knows]

“What the hell has gotten into you?”

“What’s gotten into me? You’ve got a lot of nerve asking that.” I stagger toward Rashmi. She steadies me while giving Josh an appalled look. “Just tell me one thing, St. Clair. I just want to know one thing.” 

[If you ask one thing or want to know one thing, that thing better be really good. It has to sting.]

He stares at me. Furious. Confused.

I pause to steady my voice. “Why are you still with her?” [This is building right up to the kiss off. His answer determines everything.]

Silence. [And he blows it.]

“Fine. Don’t answer me. And you know what? Don’t call me either. We’re done. Bonne nuit.” 

[Don’t be distracted, this is the build up to the big kiss off…wait for it…]

I’m already stomping away when he replies.

“Because I don’t want to be alone right now.” His voice echoes through the night. 

[This is the line that’s going to push her right over the edge. She might have just walked away if it weren’t for THIS line. This is the set up for the kiss off.]

I turn around to face him one last time. “You weren’t alone, asshole.” 

[BOOM! Kiss off! The line stings and changes everything!]
So that’s how I interpreted Anna and Etienne’s exchange but I’d love to hear what you think. Leave it for me in the comments section below. And if you have a favorite kiss off line or scene from one of your favorite books, tell us!

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