Stop the world.
Stop everything for the moment he crosses the room and pulls me into his arms and pins me against the wall and I’m spinning and standing and not even breathing but I’m alive so alive so very very alive
and he’s kissing me.”
—Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi (Pages 316-317)
My characters like kissing. Some more than others, but amongst my characters at least, it’s a well-known fact that kissing is fun.
Kissing, as it turns out, is also fun to write (coincidence? I think not), but when someone on Twitter asked me for tips for writing good kissing scenes, I realized I’d somehow managed to neglect this topic here on Writability. What. An. Oversight.
I’m remedying that right now.
When it comes to books, kissing scenes tend to be significant for one reason or another. Whether it’s a first kiss, a make up kiss, a crap we shouldn’t have done that (but we really wanted to) kiss, a love-declaring kiss or a kissing because we have to but wait I actually like this kiss (or something else entirely), kissing, in novels, tend to be pretty big turning points for characters.
The best kisses, I’ve found, are rife with meaning. What makes them so fun to read and write isn’t just that the characters are mashing their lips together (though don’t get me wrong—that’s fun too), it’s the implications behind the kiss. Whether it’s theyes! Finally they’re together! or noooo you two aren’t supposed to make out! what makes kissing so fun to read and write is that it means something.
Now, that’s not to say that your characters can’t ever kiss just to show affection, or because they just can’t keep their faces off each other (both are valid reasons for lip-smooshing). But chances are, in writing and in reading, the kisses that get the most page time and in-depth description are the ones that are significant for one reason or another.
As far as the actual writing and description of said kissing goes, it really depends 100% on you and your book. Whether you’re writing YA, NA or even Adult, how much description you go into completely depends on what you’re comfortable with and what’s right for the book. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, for example, completely glosses over the kissing and sex, barely getting into any description at all—which is totally okay. Ignite Me and Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi, meanwhile, go into way more description and include a lot of metaphors and poetic language and those make out scenes last several pages. Let it be known Ignite Me and Unravel Me have some of my favorite YA kisses ever. Which is why I shared that one above.
The important thing to pay attention to while writing kiss scenes is what the kiss means for your characters (especially your POV character). If your character is kissing some random stranger at a party and thinking about what a terrible kisser the partner is, that’s just as important to note as a love-declaring let’s be alone together kiss. Even if your characters don’t know what this kiss means, just that they’re kissing and they like it (or not), it’s important to get that across to your readers.
So next time your characters start getting it on, make sure you take some time to think about the significance behind their physical togetherness. Oftentimes an extra spike of meaning into an already awesome kiss can be exactly what you need to take it to the next level.
What books have some of your favorite kisses?