Author of Rescuing Harmony Ranch – A feel-good romance from Hallmark Publishing
Have you ever wondered how to write a kiss that will send your readers into a heady swoon? Or thought about what goes into that moment that makes a reader finish the sentence on a sigh as they press the pages of the book or Kindle to their chest?
As a romance author, I often get questions about how to describe kissing in writing. It’s about more than just the mechanics of “pucker up and smooch.” The writer builds the tension and chemistry between the characters, then brings the readers along on the wild ride to that one magical moment where everything changes. And make no mistake: everything must change after that kiss.
In Rescuing Harmony Ranch, my newest book with Hallmark Publishing, marketing exec, Jocelyn Stone comes home to Harmony Ranch to help her grandmother, who has been in a car accident. Mack Talbot, her first love, is now the blacksmith and caretaker of the ranch, and the two of them must work together to save her grandmother’s legacy. Jocelyn and Mack are complete opposites and still find themselves competing over everything. But that fire of attraction is still there, and I had the best time forging these two characters’ hearts back together and making sparks fly. (Did you catch all that cute blacksmith humor? Don’t worry—there’s more where that came from in the book.)
Here are my best tips, along with a few examples from Rescuing Harmony Ranch, on how to write a first kiss. Most of these apply to the second, third, or tenth kiss, too!
- Build Tension Between the Characters First
A lot of emotion goes into a first kiss—vulnerability, want, need, fear, desire, terror, or maybe all of the above. A good writer lets the reader experience all the highs and lows and the yearning for that first connection.
A great way to build tension is to create a moment where the characters almost kiss. Maybe they pull back…or maybe they’re interrupted.
Here’s an example showing Mack and Joss in an ‘almost’ moment.
“You look exactly the same.” He lifted a strand of her hair and then released it. “Except your hair is shorter. And fancier. No ponytail.”
The brief touch of his fingers in her hair had her wanting to close her eyes and lean into him, to savor the feel of him again. After all these years, she hadn’t expected the feelings to still be so strong.
His eyes darkened, narrowed as his gaze dropped to her lips. She caught her breath as her body froze. Was he going to kiss her? Did she want to kiss him?
No. She’d been back less than a day and hadn’t seen this man, the one who shattered her heart, in years. She should be backing away, thinking this through and putting a stop to it before someone, like her, got hurt again. But instead, she drew just the smallest bit nearer.
A loud rap sounded on the door, as if her good sense had been locked out and was knocking to be let back in.
She sucked in a quick breath as she took a step back.
“Hellooo?” a voice called through the screen.
- Set the Scene
The setting can be as much a part of the kiss as the actual meeting of their lips. Where are they? On a crowded bus? Standing in the kitchen? At the top of a Ferris wheel? Trapped in the vault during a bank robbery? At a funeral? Are they in the perfect place to have their first kiss? Or even better, in the worst place to have their first kiss?
- Appeal to All the Senses
Think through each of the senses—sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste—and let readers know what the character is experiencing. Do they hear a neighbor’s dog barking, or rainfall on the windows? Do they smell perfume, or the scent of smoke from the campfire? What do they taste? The cinnamon scent of gum? The lingering taste of chocolate from the piece of cake they just shared?
This is a tiny moment where Jocelyn is peering around the ranch and it shows what she sees but also brings in smell, touch, and the emotion in her memories…
The massive white barn stood sentinel over the ranch, the home to several horses and cows, and the center of so many memories of learning to ride, of helping her grandfather bucket-feed a calf…and of kissing Mack in the rafters above the stalls. She could almost smell the earthy scent of dust and feel the scratchy hay that always found a way into her clothes.
- Show What Their Bodies Are Going Through
Are their bodies tense or loose? Are they sitting or standing? (Or hanging upside down like in that swoony scene in Spiderman?)
Think about what they’re doing with their hands: one might be gripping the counter behind them, or cupping the cheek of the other. Where are they looking right before the kiss? One of them might be gazing into the other’s eyes, staring at the floor shyly, or sneaking glances at the other one’s lips.
What are their mouths doing? Nibbling a lower lip? Parted in anticipation? Swallowing at the dryness of the Sahara desert that has become their mouth?
And what is happening inside their bodies? Can they hardly breathe, or is their breath coming in rapid pants? Does their chest hurt from the way their heart is hammering so hard against it? Are their cheeks tingling or their palms sweating? These are all things you can consider when you’re thinking about how to describe a kiss.
- Convey Emotion
What are your characters thinking and feeling? Have they been wanting this forever…or are they hesitant, because they know this will change everything? They don’t need to have an entire inner monologue running through their heads, but readers want to know what is going through their minds. It can be as simple as thinking, “yes, please, I’ll die if he doesn’t kiss me” or “I shouldn’t be doing this.”
And all the emotion doesn’t have to be in their heads. I love dialogue in a kissing scene, like a hesitant “Are you sure?” or “Is this okay?” right before a kiss. Or even a funny line afterward, like “Do you smell something burning?”
Show what they are thinking before the kiss, during the kiss, and after the kiss. How will this kiss change everything?
Jocelyn and Mack are in the kitchen making apple pies when they share this moment…
Jocelyn peered up at Mack, her question changing to a message as she tried to express that emotion of caring, of acceptance, of love. They’d broken each other’s hearts—not intentionally, but it had hurt all the same. This one moment felt like a chance to heal some of that pain…to start anew.
Mack must have felt her message because he slid his arms around her back and pulled her into a hug. His touch was tender, and he smelled like cinnamon and sugar and apple pie, and everything she’d been missing the last ten years they’d been apart.
His arms wrapped tighter around her, and she melted into him, sighing as her body recognized his and settled into the familiar yet still new and exciting feel of being held in his arms again.
You can have so much fun with writing a kissing scene. Put yourself in the heads of the characters and imagine how that first kiss would go. Not all first kisses are fiery and passionate. Sometimes your characters bump noses, or the dog jumps in between them just as they lean in. The writer can make a kissing scene silly and awkward and still wildly romantic, as long as they stay true to how their characters would react and show what they are feeling.
I hope this has given you some good ideas on how to write about a kiss. Good luck and have fun!
And to see what happens with the rest of Mack and Jocelyn’s story, be sure to check out Rescuing Harmony Ranch from Hallmark Publishing. Matchmaking grannies, a meddlesome mutt, and yes, super swoony kisses guaranteed.