There were a lot of drafts of 'While the Sun Shines'. The earliest were written in Penny's POV, though I quickly realized that Drew was the best one to tell their story and that manuscript was shuttled to the side. Scenes came and went, story arcs got trashed, and edits upon edits upon edits happened.
To my surprise, one scene kept sticking around: the kiss in the swimming hole. I'd never written a best friends to lovers story before and that moment felt like such an important beat to the entire story that no matter how much the rest of the novel changed around it, I kept coming back to that moment again and again. I loved the idea that these two people, who had swum in this river before, who had lived this exact afternoon so many times, suddenly and so abruptly changed their whole dynamic.
And then! Didn't talk about it!
They do later, of course. But they share this incredible kiss, this moment of high emotional tension, and then Penny just gets up and leaves. Frustrated, upset, lonely in the midst of all her friends, she just takes off. And Drew's left processing everything that just happened, a giant '404' error in his brain.
Penny... kissed him? All these years, all this time, she did that? But she's mad? And why, exactly, is she mad again? Drew did something - or he didn't do something, or he did the wrong thing, he's not exactly sure and oh boy did he drink too much on an empty stomach.
Stories are built around a cascade of events that lead the characters into a series of unavoidable moments, all of which serve to change them fundamentally from the person they were at the beginning into who they've become by the last page. Drew and Penny have swum together before. They've been alone together before. They've gotten drunk together before. In all likelihood, they've been swimming alone together, with drinks before (be careful, though, that's not actually author-approved behavior: swimming can be dangerous!). And yet this time, things are different. Abelardo's at the farm. Whit and Cooper have fallen headfirst in love with each other. Drew's nearing his breaking point running his business. And Penny's realizing that she's lonely enough and unhappy enough that something's gotta give.
I've always been fascinated by best friends to lovers stories because there has to be some spark, some change, that occurs that shifts these two from where they were to where they're going. The narrative then becomes puzzling out why now and why not back then, and why they don't continue to wait, and what is enough of a push that their relationship will finally shift.
This kiss in the creek isn't the change itself, because it's all the other events in the story that have pushed them to this point. But it is the moment that all of these other smaller events converge, boiling up until that shift finally comes.
And afterwards, everything's different. You can't un-spill milk, and you can't un-kiss your best friend. Penny might try, walking away from Drew right then, and Drew might try too with his terror of seeing her the next morning and having to talk about what just happened, but no matter how much they try to avoid it, there's no going back.
I'm glad that one scene stuck around so long, holding on no matter how many paragraphs I rewrote, or how many chapters I set aside as I kept taking the story in different directions. That kiss, that afternoon, between these two people, was as unavoidable for them as it was for me to write it, and I always appreciate those moments when the story reaches out and lets me know what it needs to truly shine. Penny and Drew got their kiss, and I got my scene that stayed with me through all the hard parts of revisions, my wonderful, magical moment I could never quite let go of.