Writing the First Kiss Scene

It always amazes me that, no matter how many times I write a “first kiss” scene, it’s always different. I’m always worried that I’ve reached my limit, that I won’t be able to write another first kiss to save my life, but I still somehow pull it off. I still find myself getting sucked into the moment. And, to me, if I’m not feeling it while writing it, my readers sure aren’t gonna feel it.

Because I’m neurotic (or maybe dedicated to my craft), I was thinking about what makes a first kiss scene while making my coffee this morning. There are three elements:

  • The anticipation
  • The kiss itself
  • The aftershock

The anticipation is the buildup, the suspense. It’s every little thing that happens between the signal that there might be a kiss and the actual moment. When the POV character realizes that she wants to kiss the other character (or that they’re going to kiss her), it triggers the anticipation. You can approach this with that character’s reaction in a few different ways. Maybe she’s longing for that moment when their lips lock. Or maybe she’s completely flustered because she’s not even sure she wants the kiss. Attention to detail here is key. Which things does she notice about the other character? How quickly or slowly is time passing?

Then there’s the kiss itself. It’s a checkpoint, another affirmation that these two really do belong together. It’s got to be fireworks, baby. There can be adorable awkwardness, but this kiss cannot fall flat. After all, it’s one of the 12 stages of physical intimacy. (Of course, just like any other writing rule, once you know it, you can break it with good reason.)

Whenever I write a kissing scene, I think of my top three all-time favorite kisses from my actual life. Even though those kisses were with three very different people, I mentally highlight what made each of those kisses magical. I like to pick a couple of those elements, mix in my characters’ personalities, and bam! Whip up a first kiss.

Finally, there’s the aftershock—the physical and emotional reactions to the kiss that has transpired. This is a perfect opportunity to make sure that your readers are ‘shipping. I like to physically separate my couple and send them off to their own spaces where they can bathe in that afterglow. It’s also a good place to switch POV, to get a sense of how the other character is feeling.

If anyone has any doubts or if you want to ramp up the angst, this is a good time to weave that in, too. Or you can set up anticipation for the next encounter.

There are a million ways you can go about a first kiss. It really can be different every time, no matter how many of “those kissing books” you write.

What’s your all-time favorite fictional first kiss? Let me know in the comments!


Become one of my Patreon supporters and be the first to read snippets from my latest WIP—including Char and Amarie’s first kiss! Click here.

Creating Characters for Any Other Love

Usually the first thing I do before I start writing a new book is sketch out the characters. Since Any Other Love is a companion novel, that part was mostly done for me. I just had to build upon the characters I’d already created for Just One More Minute.

Whenever I start a new book, I create a stylesheet for it. A stylesheet is something an editor will put together during their first pass of a book, making note of character features, style choices, and other things. I can’t remember where, but I once read a blog post suggesting that authors start a stylesheet from the very beginning to keep track of these things. Doing so has been a game changer for me. Because I love spreadsheets, I create my stylesheets in Numbers.

The stylesheet includes the characters’:

  • name, any nicknames
  • current age
  • date of birth
  • occupation
  • goal
  • fear

I took the Just One More Minute stylesheet and updated it for Any Other Love (which mostly involved aging everyone up by a year—tough work, I tell you).

I’ll often fully sketch characters in my dev doc—the document where I develop the plot structure, outline, and other important pre-writing elements. My dev docs range from a few to dozens of pages. While sketching characters, I list their physical features, typical outfit, any quirks, and other things. I also complete exercises I’ve picked up from different places over the years.

Sometimes I’ll do some writing where I throw the characters into a short scene, just to play with them or get to know them better.

There are also some things that are just for me to know, referred to as author headcanon—official things about a book or series that only the author knows. Usually I’ll make a note of these things in the stylesheet or dev doc. These are often things that won’t make their way into the book, but help me flesh out the character—like their favorite movie, or something else minor.

Inevitably I’ll end up on Pinterest. Don’t judge me—Pinterest is a fantastic place for writing inspiration! I always create a board for each new project, pinning pretty things that remind me of my story and characters. This includes everything from celebrities that look like the characters I see in my head, to typical outfits that my characters would wear.

And if I get sucked down the Pinterest rabbit hole, I’m still technically working. 👀

Speaking of pinning, I’ve got to, um, get to work…

While I do that, check out basic character sketches of Charlotte and Amarie!

This Book Will Be the Death of Me

via Unsplash

I’ve scrapped and restarted Cruising with the Blues, the fourth and final book in the South of Forever series, more times than I can count now. I don’t even want to think about how many thousands of words I’ve thrown out and how many outlines I’ve crumpled up because this damned book just isn’t working.

Sometimes that happens.

It’s super frustrating, especially when you can’t figure out why. It was driving me absolutely bonkers, and I was thinking about it so hard that I swear smoke was coming out of my ears. Being a chronic over-thinker is simultaneously one of my worst and best traits. I can get in so deep that I think myself all the way into a state of woe, or I can think my way out of a complex problem in seconds.

This time things started to go the woe way—until I started talking things out with my friends J.C. Hannigan and Molli Moran. I’ve noticed that I’m much more productive if I start thinking out loud with someone who will listen and let me bounce ideas off them. Both of these ladies are super good at that, and it didn’t take long until it dawned on me.

The reason I’ve been having so much trouble with SOF4 is because I’d strayed from my brand.

I write stories starring strong belles who chose a different path.

That’s my brand whether I’m writing YA or NA, romance or suspense—women who do things they aren’t supposed to, who are strong in many different ways. In each draft so far, Krista wasn’t conflicted about her path. When I compared it to the other books I’ve published, each of my heroines did something she wasn’t supposed to. I couldn’t find any place where Krista railed against her expectations of herself or someone else’s expectations of her. So I grabbed my book of writing ideas and scribbled down some questions.

What does Krista think she should do or is supposed to do? Which path does she take instead?

I’m still trying to find the answers to these questions—especially since I also “have to” wrap up the series with this book. In the meantime I’ve decided to put it aside and work on something else, rather than make myself crazy. I might realize that there might not even be a fourth book. At the end of What Happens on Tour, the band has defeated their rival and strengthened their bonds. They’re planning on organizing their own tour and continuing recording and playing. That’s a pretty good happy-for-now ending; I might need to let go of the idea that I “should” write a fourth book.

That’s the not so exciting part of the writing process. Sometimes you have to let things simmer on the back burner. Sometimes you think you know something, but then everything changes because art. The creative mind is a beautiful but mysterious thing. It can also be kind of a jerk.

Plus, let’s face it: I tend to put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself, rather than going with the flow or letting my instincts guide me. I tell myself I “should” do something, even when I don’t necessarily have to, and stubbornly cling to the idea until it dawns on me that I can let it go.

So, for now, I’ve decided to let the South of Forever series be. Things are stable enough that there’s no cliffhanger to resolve but I can also come back and write more books later if need be. In the meantime, I’m going to focus on some other projects.