Monday, October 20, 2014

The traveling writer

World Fantasy Convention is fast approaching again. 10 days from now I'm starting my travels toward Washington DC with a few days in New York in between.

As I understand it US citizens travel to other countries far less than Europeans for a multitude of reasons, one of them being that pretty much everywhere is so very far away. Since I've been traveling since I was somewhere around 5 or 6 pretty much all over the Northern Hemisphere. Over the past year and a half I've been traveling as an as-yet-unpublished writer and thus feel I have something to contribute.

Make a list and turn it into a template

Anyone planning to do this writing thing is going to end up traveling to a lot of cons. Packing is hard enough under the best of circumstances and inevitably you're going to end up missing something important. Having a packing list template that you keep updating makes it possible to have that happen as little as possible while also packing as little as possible. Which is to say: plan thoroughly then re-plan when, inevitably, your plan doesn't survive contact with the enemy.

Have make-up

I don't wear make-up in my daily life. When it's a choice of putting on make-up and sleeping for twenty minutes longer, I will always choose sleep. Ok, I will almost always choose sleep. During conventions is pretty much the only time when I exchange the latter for the former. I would recommend this for men as well as women but, for now at least, it is more socially acceptable for women to wear make-up than it is for men. The reason for this is that while at cons you're inevitably going to get photographed, repeatedly. Without make-up you're probably going to end up looking washed out, especially if your skin tone is caucasian or asian, but the problem still exists for darker skin tones. Along the same lines, you should plan on wearing colors other than black and white as most of the time backgrounds are going to be one of those. See pictures of Mary Robinette Kowal at the Hugos for a very visual reference.

Have business cards

Even if you're still unpublished, having business cards is an excellent idea. For one it's a fairly inexpensive way to impress most people. For the second, writing out your contact information in the middle of a conversation is awkward to say the least. Mine come courtesy of which I'm ridiculously happy with but there are certainly other very good services that do good work as well.

Have your work with you

Especially if you're published, you should carry examples of your work with you. You might not get to hold a reading but then again you never know. There's also the fact that people seem to find other people who make up stuff endlessly fascinating, and not just the people at the con either. If you're at all an extrovert you may be able to make fellow passengers into fans just by carrying around a couple of your own books, as apparently at least James A. Owen has done before.

Be well-slept

This seems like such a no-brainer, doesn't it? But so far I have never managed it. I'm a hopeless procrastinator which means that usually the last of my packing gets done very late the night before I leave for any given trip. Which is why I would also recommend getting there a day early if you can, though so far I've never managed to do that myself. I look forward to the day that I do, meanwhile dreaming of getting to a convention well rested, showered and generally just relaxed.

Follow up

When you get back home, once you've kissed your family and slept for the better part of a weekend, it's a good idea to get back to the people whose business cards or other contact information you've managed to accrue during your trip. Not only will that make you remember them better but it will also help them remember you better. And if someone's been particularly nice to you, it might be a good idea to send out thank you cards, though that's probably a topic for another post entirely.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Learning through Editing

I don't remember exactly why I joined Hatrack. I think it was because I had a story to send out, and I had the vague impression that I should get feedback on it in order to help myself get published. And I picked Hatrack because Orson Scott Card ('nuff said). But that turned out to be the single smartest decision I made for my development as a writer, because it introduced me to a wonderful community of writers – and because it taught me how much you can learn by editing/reading someone else's work.

Specifically, though, I want to talk about the type of editing that puts me on the other side of the writer/publisher relationship – my time as a Managing Editor at Flash Fiction Online. It constantly amazes me how much I learn from reading, and from the discussions our staff has about what stories to publish. That time – known as winnowing – is everyone's favorite. We argue. We cajole. We learn how to present detailed arguments to support why a story should be published.

And so, here are some of the main things I've learned from being an editor. None of these are particularly mind-blowing. So maybe I should say, here are some of the common pieces of advice that editing has helped me to understand the rationale behind them.

1. Pretty words are not a story

This is the newest, and one of the hardest things I've had to learn. Some of my favorite books (Heart of Darkness, The Last Unicorn, everything by Patricia McKillip) have gorgeous, lyrical prose. But increasingly I find myself frustrated at the word salad I have to slog through in order to get to the heart of a story. I still love imagery and pretty language, but sometimes I wish people would put away the thesaurus and tell the story in simple, plain terms.

In my own writing, I'm still trying to figure out the line. I don't think I'm going to stop using imagery, but I'm certainly going to be more ruthless about how much I let myself keep in the final drafts.

2. Emotional honesty is a rare and precious thing

One of my slushers has been complaining lately about the number of stories featuring difficult situations faced by wide-eyed children. It's something we see often – where the writer has gone for the biggest emotional punch possible. Sort of like, "It'd be sad if the main character had cancer, but it would be EVEN SADDER if he got the cancer while rescuing puppies from communists!" (You see this type of thing in anime all the time too – all the characters have to have a horrifically tragic backstory). The instinct is understandable. Emotion is what attaches us to the stories we read. However, I'm beginning to think that it's not the amount of the emotion that matters. Rather, it's the truth of that emotion, and how well the writer projects it.

This one is harder to apply to my own writing. As it is, I worry I have something of a tendency toward melodrama. I think it also has to do with the delicate balance between showing, and making sure the emotion comes across.

3. There are no new ideas – and that's okay

We see patterns of stories. Sometimes it's more obvious where they come from – I think it was about a year ago that someone must have had a Red Riding Hood anthology. I got very tired of those stories quickly. There are other phases that have less obvious of a rationale. I'm very glad we are out of the 'Husband randomly kills nagging wife' or vice-versa phase. Right now, serial killers are more popular than ever. And don't talk to me about second person POV.

The problem is, it's hard to set hard and firm rules about what stories or trends I hate. Because every time I do so, someone comes along with an exception to the rule, and I have to shut my mouth all over again. In my opinion, what separates out the good stories from the thousands of similar ones is connected to #2: emotional honesty. Sheer originality is a good thing too, but an old idea well-told can be a glorious thing.

This is the easiest one to follow: write what you want, as long as you believe in it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Staying Fresh as a Writer...

...means writing until you are terrified. It means writing when you have something to say. It means writing with tears streaming, or your teeth clenched, or your door closed, or with no worried glances at the phone from your Great Aunt Muriel to complain.

It means finding the truth, and rewriting until it's right, and most importantly it means knowing your hero or the people your hero loves can die at any point.

I just read this post from Maggie Stiefvater called Why We Love Writers Who Treat Us Bad.

I was musing today that the old saying that women love guys who treat them badly holds true for authors too. 
Before you start to snort and through your lattes at the screen, bear with me here. I started thinking about it this weekend because of the response that BREAKING DAWN is inspiring amongst readers. For those of you who live under rocks, BREAKING DAWN is the fourth installment in Stephenie Meyer's YA vampire saga. Even if you don't read them, you oughtta know what they are. Anyway. I have not read the 600 page beast which just came out this weekend, but I have read the hundreds of reviews which have appeared on Amazon and on blogs. The upshot is this: in the final book of the saga, Stephenie Meyer gives readers everything they could've possibly wanted for the protagonists. A happy marriage, a healthy baby, everyone's in love, no one dies, and they get to stay in town because the main character's dad is cool with his daughter being a vampire (I warned you there were spoilers).
And the readers hate her for it. I mean, the reviews could peel paint. These people are not just unhappy, they are out for blood. But why? They got everything they wanted, right? Everything is perfect! Every thread is tied up! Everything that every reader has ever lusted after for those characters was granted.
But we don't want that, do we? Nay, as readers, we want the author who won't call us in a timely manner after that first date, who makes us pay for lunch, and who makes eyes at our best friend. Let's compare the Breaking Dawn reaction with J. K. Rowling's series. She kills Dumbledore. She kills one of the Weasley twins. She kills Sirius. There are bodies flying left and right. Nobody gets what they want. But at the end of the day, there are no legions of fans shouting that J. K. has ruined the series. They moan "why did Sirius have to die!?" but not "what was she thinking when she killed him?"
Or how about my favorite movie trilogy ever, the Bourne movies? (sorry, Robert Ludlum, I haven't read them, only watched 'em). In the first twenty minutes of the second movie, they off Jason Bourne's beloved love slave in a ruthless and expedient matter. Do we scream and throw the remote? Nah, we rend our clothes a little and say "poor Jason, come to my house, I'll comfort you" and then we watch the rest of the movie and the next one back to back and we love them.

We don't want authors to treat us well. We hate 'em when they do. Complain as we might about a beloved character dying, hell hath no fury like a reader who actually gets what they think they want. 
Note to self: kill someone off in the next chapter of my WIP. counter

K, now I want you to watch this video.

When you are done, watch a few seconds of this. It's the same group. The same song, and it's beautiful, but it's not the same.

This one is safe. The sound is clearer, but they are in a completely different location, and it's sung with far less passion and heartbreak. The story isn't as powerful, which means the music isn't as powerful. It's still fantastic, don't get me wrong, I love these guys, but to me, it illustrates the difference between writing with acoustics, and writing in a safe place.

The echoes from that church, man. Just brilliant.

Things only echo, if the walls are raised.

Write something that scares you. That's how you'll stay fresh.

~Sheena (and Maggie Stiefvater, and The Lone Bellow)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Working with a writing coach

To tell you the truth, I suggested we do a theme about education as a writer because I wanted to talk about my experience with a coach. But now that I'm actually here, I'm not entirely sure what I wanted to tell you. So I'll start at the beginning.

Back around the end of May I finished the first draft of my fourth novel. It is also the first of my novels that I'm actually planning to have reach publication of one form or other. And yet it is deeply flawed on a number of levels, not least of which being the fact that the original ending was the most contrived thing to be contrived since Home Alone 2.

Like a good little planning-to-be-pro writer I started working on the outline of the next book I'm planning to write while I was letting my novel rest for the recommended month. Since I haven't yet found a novel plotting method that would completely work for me I was also reading Cathy Yardley's Rock Your Plot. Cathy's site Rock Your Writing has some lovely free dowloads to accompany the books and while I was there, I took a look around (something to think about, marketing wise) and it turned out Cathy had a range of services to offer, including revision coaching. I bet you can guess what happened next.

Ryan Gosling understands my pain

Pain! That's what happened next. Pain and suffering though thankfully no bloodshed. Cathy's coaching package consists of four one hour calls by phone or Skype and email answers to any questions. On our first call we went through character motivations then Cathy had me read through the whole manuscript, making notes and taking down scene motivations. It's a good thing I subscribe to the "dare to be bad at first" school of writing because reading through that book left me feeling more or less like I'd been run over by a series of trucks.

It's a far better thing that Cathy has been doing this for a while. I sent her a scene outline of the first draft as it was, warts and all and in two consecutive calls we went through it scene by scene, cutting mercilessly where necessary, adding new scenes and revising character motivations as well as tightening tensions all round. The result was an outline for a much better book and a plan for revisions. As I write this I am in the middle of executing said revision plan and outline and I have one more call remaining to use when I eventually melt down in the middle of my revision round.

That's nice of you, Ryan, but I know you're just saying that because you love me.
I would highly recommend working with a coach, especially when you're starting out. My experience with Cathy has brought me that much closer to finally understanding novel structure and I'm going to end up with a great book because of it. Going through my first draft with someone more experienced has given me perspective that I might have gotten without it but it would have taken me a long, long time more than it did with Cathy's help.

Now all I need to do is finish my revisions, get my query letter in shape and start working the rounds.

Oh yeah, there's that too...

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Staying Fresh as a Writer

We’re working on monthly themes on The Prosers, and for October we’re talking about Writerly Education, or as I've titled it, Staying Fresh as a Writer.

For your visual enjoyment, here is a photo of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Nom nom.

I’ve covered this topic in two ways before – once discussing writing workshops, and another time talking about getting unstuck/addressingwriter’s block.

Today I’ll take a different approach. One of the ways I’m trying to keep my overall writing skills fresh is by tackling non-fiction writing in addition to the fiction projects I have going.

Non-fiction writing is a different beast entirely, but I find a lot about what draws me to fiction, the process of unfolding a story, the beginning, middle, endness, etc. is applicable to non-fiction writing. I think my fiction experience makes me a better writer of all kinds of words, fiction or not. Ask yourself how many times you’ve forced yourself through an article you need to read for work or because it covers a topic you’re interested in, but find your mind wandering? What could the author have done to include more anecdotes, personal stories, or even introspection akin to that inner monologue that makes so many novels so interesting? Did the author have a clear sense of where their piece was going, and did he/she do the right things to bring the reader along on the journey?

Another aspect of non-fiction that is potentially of interest to writers is that there are many many markets for non-fiction writing, and most of them pay at least a little. The trend in non-fiction markets has been toward greater and greater use of freelancers over the last several years. This is a double-edged sword, as it means companies are trying to cut corners and pay less, offering no benefits to those who sweat words for the pages of their digital or physical copies.

But with the onset of “digital editions” of major newspapers and magazines, there are even more opportunities open for non-fiction writers. The online sites tend to pay less than print, but they often do pay. If you write fast and develop relationships with several editors, you can often cobble together a reasonable career out of freelance. Those who are open to corporate writing can find even more paycheck-enhancing work. The general feel in the non-fiction groups I operate in is that a combination of some corporate clients and some regular magazine or online site gigs plus some pitching to new markets is the best way to keep your portfolio diversified and to keep the paychecks coming in.

There’s an entire industry around pitching to non-fiction publications, including great coursework. I highly recommend the online class How To Pitch (which I would appreciate a mention if you sign up – I get a little bonus…) from The Thinking Writer, which is where I learned most of what I know about non-fiction writing.

And because there are more paying markets, while there is still plenty of rejection in the non-fiction space, there are occasional wins! I sold two articles this year (having pitched about 8.) I haven’t sold any short or long fiction in quite a while, though that’s also because I haven’t submitted any in quite a while. Still, my hit rate on fiction was never as high as 2 out of 8.

So from an ego perspective, non-fiction writing is a little easier on my poor bruised writer brain. I also find that there is much to be gained from the discipline of paying close attention to what I’m writing, going back through with a fine-toothed comb (much of the non-fiction I pitch is pre-written essays, though most pitches are done on a summary level.) Looking for mistakes. Fixing words. Focusing on the words I’m using to express my ideas. Being clear. These are skills that readily translate to my fiction writing.

This week I had a major hit when an article I pitched to theNew York Times’ The Motherlode column was bought. It was a timely piece about an internet brouhaha and the whole process took less than a day. I wrote a pitch (including the full article) in the morning, sent it to the editor by 11 AM, she called me at 3:45, a few edits and a signed contract later and it was live on the site before 6 PM. It was tremendously exciting and an excellent addition to my non-fiction portfolio.

They even used one of my photos of my daughter's lip glosses and lip scrubs, I'm famous in multi-media!

One big issue w/non-fiction work is the need to have clips to get clips. I suggest here that you choose a sample of some of your best writing that is readily available online, personal blogs or what have you, and write up an “about me” blurb that covers the basics of you (where you are, what your platform is, etc.) and include links to those few articles you think represent your best work. If you have any actual bylines, include those as well. I have one that’s uncredited, but it’s a piece I’m very proud of so I include it in my about me and reference it as uncredited. If you have a website, add a freelance page so that you have one place to direct potentially interested editors.

But most of all, what you’ll hear from writers of all stripes, is to keep writing!

How about you – have you dipped your toes in the non-fiction writing space beyond your personal or group blog? Have any niche interests you can exploit or that you love to talk about?  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Internal vs. External Conflict in Romance

Our theme for this round of Prosering is kissing. Problem is, I don't write kissing stories, usually. I write dark fantasy and horror the vast majority of the time. And sure, there can be kissing in those stories, but as of yet it's happened so rarely that I don't feel like I have any sort of authority to speak on that subject. Not that lack of knowledge on a subject usually keeps me from blogging about it, but I decided instead to take a step back and look at the part of the stories that gets you to the best kinds of kisses: Conflict! (#2 on Sheena's list for writing kissing scenes that rock). 

My favorite fictional kisses are those that have been well-earned. In a lot of discussions about romance in fiction, I've seen conflict divided into two categories: internal and external.

External conflict is any force (parents, wars, strict social class rules, zombies, evil sorcerers, evil fianc├ęs, rabid beavers, etc.) are keeping the couple from Being Together. This obstacle is the only thing standing in the way of the characters living happily ever after. Examples of movies and books with external conflict in romance: The Princess Bride, Cold Mountain, The Mummy, most YA dystopian romances that aren't love triangles (and some that are), and Romeo and Juliet.

That actually looks like a really uncomfortable position to be kissed in for Juliet.
Photo from sofi01's Flicker; shared under a Creative Commons license

Internal conflict is when any emotion, thought pattern, or belief is keeping the couple from being together. There's no physical person or thing standing in the way of the couple; rather, the couple is standing in their own way. A prime example of a story with an internal conflict is everyone's favorite, Pride and Prejudice. When you get down to it, there's nothing really keeping Lizzie and Mr. Darcy apart except their perceptions of each other. Another way of saying it, and one that makes it sound less boring, is that the characters' love for each other has to become stronger than any prejudices or previous bad experiences in their lives.

Other examples of love stories with internal conflict include Much Ado About Nothing (Beatrice and Benedict), Lord of Scoundrels (by Loretta Chase; the all-time favorite romance novel of many a reader), and North & South (the Elizabeth Gaskill one).

Types of conflict split by genre more than I'd realized before starting this post. For example, the romance writing/reading community tends to favor internal conflict in their stories. Which I think is fair; for a genre that revolves around the examination and exploration of love, I think that's fair. You can only examine cruel parents so many times. But it seems that external conflict is much more common in YA and fantasy - perhaps because there is so much going on plot-wise, and other sorts of conflict with good and evil, that external conflict is also the simpler way to go (and rightfully so, in many cases).

Whichever way you decide to go for your story, maintaining the perfect balance in your conflict isn't easy. Love stories are absolutely awash with excessive conflict, where the writer feels the need to draw out the love story as long as possible. For example, you know that scene, where the bride is standing at the altar with the wrong man, and she suddenly has this massive epiphany that she really should be with the hero, and so she goes running through the streets in her wedding dress? (I'm looking at you, Spider-man 2). And they never show the bride's parents sobbing about the tens of thousands of dollars that were just wasted, or all the wedding guests that flew in from Oklahoma  and took time off from work that are now seriously irritated? That is internal conflict going too far. Big dramatic moments rarely feel like anything but contrivances.

External conflict can definitely be pulled to far as well, to the point where you the viewer are thinking, really? More rabid beavers? Didn't they take out their whole dam with laser cannons?

 Why is his mouth so red? That's creepy.
Photo by Roland zh; shared under a Creative Commons license

Of course, you don't have to just have one or the other. Most of the advice I found online talked about layering conflicts, which is something I hadn't thought about but really makes so much sense. I liked this article, and this one too (though it's more about m/m romance, the tips at the beginning are applicable to all romance). 

When I was searching around the internets for further info on this, I was fascinated to find these guidelines at the Harlequin Presents website for how they want internal or external conflict in submissions:

Here are the Harlequin Presents editors' top tips:
-Choose internal conflicts as the main drivers of your story
-Use external conflicts as added twists
-Make sure your chosen conflict is well developed, well motivated and consistent with the characters and their situations
-Check that your conflict is believable, relevant for the reader and sustainable over the course of a whole book
-Ideally, construct two or three emotional conflicts that can be played out and resolved through your story
-Conflict isn't a continual argument between the hero and heroine!
-Layer your conflict with highs and lows, advancements and retreats, passion and withdrawal.

 What are your favorite examples of internal and external conflict in romance?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How to Write Kissing Scenes that ROCK!

Oh my gosh I'm so excited. I have never felt so well prepared for a blog topic ever. I have studied this subject extensively, and have so many opinions, because to me, plot is just the stuff that happens between kissing scenes.

So...How to write kissing scenes that ROCK!

Step 1. Make a couple that rocks. You can write a good kissing scene between a doomed couple, but a kissing scene only ROCKS if the reader believes in them. Which means they should be able to communicate like humans long before they lock lips. This couple should sacrifice for each other, long for each other, and complete each other - one character's strength balancing out another's weakness, etc. 

Step 2. Conflict. There should be a reason why they aren't kissing. And the stronger the force pushing them apart, the more you can show the longing and the desire to be together, so make it a good Conflict. Make it impossible. Make the reader doubt that it will happen.

Step 3. Time. They need to long for each other way before their lips meet. They need to earn an awesome kissing scene, and that takes effort, pain, sacrifice, and time. And not just for the characters...I'm actually talking about the readers. The readers need to be invested, which means they need to make a sacrifice, they need to be emotionally connected to these characters, and it needs to happen later on in the book, so the reader has invested their time in a couple.  If a kissing scene isn't working, then maybe it's just too soon. Just don't wait too long, because that also is a thing.

I went through this with my book The Waxling. I wrote the scene where Ari and Henry get together way too soon, and it didn't work for any of the beta readers. So I changed it into a fight scene, where Ari and Henry break up instead, and it works so much better. The longing to be together is still there. I remember where they kissed, and the point in the conversation, if they were just brave enough to say what they were feeling, they would be making out is, so there is an undercurrent of loss through out the fight that really works.

I think ninety nine percent of the work that goes into a good kissing scene happens before the kiss.

Once they've earned the moment, and the reader believes in the couple, and their longing for each other is bigger than the conflict that is standing between them, then you have a kissing scene that really works.

Now you just have to write it.

Tips for writing the scene itself.

1. Turn down the voice in your head that gets embarrassed, but don't turn it off. A good kissing scene can get weird easily, and so try to keep a weird meter running while writing it.

2. Remember the senses, but you don't need to use all of them. I don't need to know the sound of a kiss. Gross I tells ya. I don't want to read about it. But the reader needs to know what is actually happening, and what it feels like. They've put the work in with the couple, and you can give them a few details to make it special. Go in close for the POV. Notice the smell of the girl's perfume, the taste of orange juice on lips, the rough stubble, or soft skin, increased heartbeat, etc. 

3, Remember the setting. There are a lot of kisses in the world, and two people  kissing can feel unspecial. One kiss can blend in with another, so don't forget what makes your couple special, and remind the reader of that while in the scene. Choose the location, setting, and moment of the kiss in a way that it reminds the reader of the struggle to get there. 

This is an example of a kiss that really works because of the use of setting, and even the theme of the story. Start at 1:30. 

 I also love how in that kiss, you can see him waiting, and wondering, and oh my gosh James McAvoy is adorable, and once he knows it's her, he doesn't wait. He is done waiting and runs to her. It's adorable.  

So while you are zoomed in close for the moment, don't forget to show the whole picture, because otherwise they are just giant heads.

4. Remember the moment BEFORE the kiss, and give it time. There's fear before a kiss, awkwardness, longing, and something special, so whatever you do don't forget to take a breath beforehand, or not have time to have a breath so all those stomach clenching moments happen so fast it makes the kiss itself sparks fire.

5. Remember the moment AFTER the kiss. This is a real pet peeve of mine, but you got to remember to pull back, or to have an awkward smile, or a consequence to the kiss. I hate when you have a kissing scene, and then they start talking, and as a reader you're like..."wait when did the kiss end?"

 A good kiss is like a good story, it has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

This clip is a good example of a powerful beginning, middle, and end. Also James McAvoy. 

6. Remember the fear. Every good kiss is a risk. To love at all is to be vulnerable, so don't lose the heart pounding vulnerability in favor of steam. And don't forget also the character's age and experience.  Pet peeve number two, is when a character is acting out of character just for a kiss. You get invested in characters being together, so don't forget to invite them to show up. 

7. Less is more. Sometimes yes, you need every sense and every moment of a kiss, but sometimes, you simply don't. If you've done the work before the scene well, then you don't need every moment for the reader to get it. Sometimes simple is the best policy.

This is a non James McAvoy example. This is from The Waxling, which will be coming out, you know, sometime, whenever. This is near the end, after Henry and Ari have struggled and longed and earned each other. Henry writes a letter and finally tells Ari he loves her, and then a disaster happens, and they work together to solve it, and he keeps asking her if she got his letter, because he doesn't know what her reaction will be, and she's terrified, and keeps changing the subject. Then once the disaster is solved, this happens.

I clutched the folds of my nightgown between my fists. “I got your letter,” I said to him. Sarah took three steps forward without us. Henry swallowed, his jaw tense.
I let out a breath. “I read it four times.”
The terror didn’t leave his eyes. “And?” 
I smiled. 
And then Henry Johnson, the boy who sat with me, and painted for me, and found me, ignored my parent’s watching, and the council members, and the Singers, and he put his hand around my cheek, and he kissed me like he’d waited his whole life to do it.

Oh my gosh it's so cute. It probably only works for me, because I've read all the work I've done, and I know what "sat with me," and "painted for me," and "found me" means to Ari, (You'll have to read it to get the full toe curling experience) but it works in one sentence, without any taste or touch or embarrassingly too personal moments. When you go less, the reader gets to imagine their own moment, and that gives them ownership of it. 

Which of course is the goal and secret to a kissing scene that rocks. It has to rock for the reader. Remember them. Their reaction and experience is more important then the character's reaction and experience.

Or you can just cast James McAvoy or Benedict Cumberbatch. That will also do it.

~Sheena Boekweg