First kisses

What is so special about a first kiss? Seriously. When reading, the anticipation of the first kiss between two characters is almost better than the kiss.

So, I was thinking about my opportunity at a first kiss. And yes, we’re going back to middle school.

My close friend had a party –with boys and girls. The lights were somewhat dim and music played in the background. The smell of Doritos and spilled soda lingered in the air. I’m pretty sure the boys were making farting noises under their armpits and telling bad jokes because they were just as scared. Or I like to think so.

Somehow a game was suggested. Spin the bottle. The girls and boys rushed to form a circle. All I could think was – there are some boys sitting in that circle, who I do not want to lock lips with. What if they opened their mouth? What if people laughed? How many ways could I screw up with everyone watching? At that point, I had never kissed a boy.

I was terrified.

Luckily, I found an ally, another girl, and we huddled around the kitchen table and watched from afar, while eating the left over snacks and convincing each other we made the right choice.

Tips for kissing scenes, because they’re not all created equally (from a reader’s pov)

  • Less is more.
  • Use sensory details to involve the reader.
  • It’s not really about the kiss but the emotion behind it.
  • Don’t focus too much on the physical reaction every time.
  • A kissing scene is much more interesting if it’s forbidden.
  • Almost-kissing scenes ratchet up the romantic tension.
  • Read lots of kissing scenes.
  • Avoid cliché.
  • Physical reaction is fun but the impact lies with emotional reaction.
  • The kiss should affect the story line. More impact.
  • A powerful, emotional story makes for a great first kiss.

Any other tips? And feel free to share your own kissing story.

28 Responses to First kisses

  1. Sheri Larsen February 14, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    Um, yeah, spin the bottle. You just sent me through a timewarp. Hah… All your advice is wonderful, but I think one of the most important is ‘less is more’. Totally! Give a taste and take it away. Makes’em want more.

  2. Jen Daiker February 14, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    I love this post!!! I always wonder how to work with a kissing scene and you nailed it! This was wonderful!!

  3. Samantha Vérant February 14, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    You should have joined Stina and Christina’s Just Kiss Already blogfest! Great post! And, oh yeah, spin the bottle…

  4. Becky Taylor February 14, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    Great post! Yes, I always think the build up in the best part.

    • Laura February 14, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

      Sheri – A time warp I have no desire to go through! 🙂

      Jen – These are just my thoughts as a reader. I haven’t written near enough kissing scenes to be knowledgeable. 🙂

      Samantha – I wasn’t quite ready with a scene to join the blogfest. Maybe next time!

      Becky – The anticipation of it is the best part – in real life too. 🙂

  5. Anna February 14, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    That’s a great list! It’s funny because I’ve only written one kissing scene in my life, and I was definitely giggling the whole time. My inner ten-year-old was very embarrassed. 🙂

  6. Kris February 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    Very timely for Valentine’s Day! I’ve written a first kiss scene, and it’s so easy to fall into “cliche” rather than making it real. I try to focus on sensory details. Late bloomer here–my first kiss happened well past the traditional YA age. Still nerve-wracking. 🙂

  7. anne gallagher February 14, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    Spin the Bottle, ah the memories. They still want to make me vomit, or was it the Doritos?

    Great list Laura. And I think you’re right, the tension before the kiss, makes the kiss just seem inconsequential.

  8. Laura February 14, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    Anna – I know what you mean. After writing so much middle grade my first few kissing scenes feel weird – but so much fun!

    Kris – I think we all fall into cliche the first time around and then make it better!

    Anne – Dorito breath is the best! Not.

  9. Kelly Polark February 14, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    I seriously got a call from the principal of my daughter’s school to inform me that Spin the Bottle was played at the lunch table recently. She just wanted to call the parents to let them know no one actually kissed! (my 8 yr old daughter swears she wasn’t involved 🙂

  10. Sherrie Petersen February 14, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    My first kiss happened so fast I almost missed it. I definitely spent WAY more time thinking about it afterward, than the time it actually took for it to happen!

  11. Aubrie February 14, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    Hey, great advice on kissing scenes! I tend to go into cliches and have to watch it!

    I also live in NH and write YA novels. How wierd is that?

  12. Lisa Green February 14, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    I especially like the “read lots of kissing scenes” advice. I must get to work immediately!! 😀 Great tips though, seriously!

  13. Quinn February 14, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    You know, I have never played spin the bottle. I missed out. Anyway, good tips!

  14. Donna February 14, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    *writes down the list*

    Great post. I especially love the ones that talk about the emotions. That’s what I’m interested in.

  15. Leigh Moore February 14, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    excellent points–and I’ve found it’s true. The sensory details are the key, and always less is more… :o) Thanks, Laura! Happy V’day~

  16. Margo February 14, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

    Once again, you’ve nailed it! I never thought about it before, but you’re right, the emotion behind the kiss is at least as important as the kiss itself, and the “almost-kissing scenes ratchet up the romantic tension.”

    I am getting really close to the first kiss in my YA and I’m glad I came across this advice.

  17. Tana Adams February 14, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    Fun post! My first kiss was in eighth grade at a boy girl party in my cousins garage. Careless Whisper was playing and the cute blonde boy I was dancing with pecked me on the cheek. *sigh* Still like that song.

  18. Susan R. Mills February 14, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    On my last project, this one of the things my beta readers commented most about. My first kiss scene was mediocre at best. I spent an entire 2 weeks revising it. Your tips here are perfect!

  19. Angela Felsted February 14, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

    I never played spin the bottle either. I was a first kiss old maid at 22. 🙂

  20. Joyce Shor Johnson February 14, 2011 at 6:12 pm #

    If you can capture the emotion that leads up to the kiss, it is magical for the reader.

  21. Len Lambert February 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    First kiss! What a nice Valentine’s Day topic! 🙂 I remember my first kiss but I was too old for it, at 21! LOL!

    I’m writing a MG book so this is very informative, thanks so much! Sorry can’t contribute a lot as I didn’t have my first kiss at middle school 🙁

  22. Lydia K February 14, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    Hmm, not sharing my first kiss story. Okay, I will. It was in kindergarten. Does that count?

  23. Jennifer Shirk February 14, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    Yes, I think writing a kiss scene is definitely less about the physical kissing part and more about the feelings behind it. 🙂

    Happy V-day!

  24. Stina Lindenblatt February 15, 2011 at 4:30 am #

    LOL Where were you, Laura, when I was writing my kissing scene? I was just going through the list checking off which ones I did. 😀

  25. Susan Kaye Quinn February 15, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

    I love first kisses – reading them, writing them, watching them (on the screen!). Probably because my own first kiss(es) were disasters! 🙂

  26. Jennifer Hoffine February 16, 2011 at 5:22 am #

    I agree, you should have participated in the Just Kiss Already blogfest…great tips here, esp less is more and focusing on the emotions. Those also seem like good ways to avoid cliche’s.


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