The art of the kiss

One of my favorite things to write about is the kiss. And not just any kiss –the first one. The culmination of all of the mutual attraction you’ve been hinting at and building up to, that first kiss between your main characters can be tantamount to lip-smacking magic if done right.

Maybe that’s because we all attach a certain sentimentality to the first kiss. Who doesn’t remember their own? And not just their first kiss in general, but their first kiss specifically with someone they’d been wanting to kiss, waiting for that moment with bated breath? I’ll never forget the night my husband asked if he could kiss me for the first time. (Yeah, he asked first, all romantic and proper-like — how sweet is that?)

In writing, as in real life, a kiss is the first physical contact between lovers. Yeah, you’ve got your hand-holding and all of that, but for true displays of desire, it boils down to the old smoocheroo. More so even than love scenes, I think kissing is a wonderfully intimate act, one that can reveal not only a character’s passion, but also their vulnerability.

For example, here’s an excerpt from my upcoming release In The Heart of Darkness, from the Brethren Series (available 10/31/14), in which my main characters, Mason Morin and Julien Davenant, vampires from rival clans, kiss for the first time:

Mason touched Julien’s face, hesitantly at first, and then when this went unprotested, he slowly uncurled his fingers to cradle his cheek. He waited for Julien to tell him to stop, to ask what the hell he was doing, because he’d never told anyone—not even his own father—about his desires. Although he’d met a handful of humans who had shared his predilections, he’d never found another Brethren like himself, none among any of the other clans.

But Julien’s heart rate quickened at Mason’s caress, his body responding with a sudden surge of adrenaline as if he liked the sensation, as if Mason’s touch had pleased him. Still, just before their lips met, Mason froze, so sure this was a dream, a fantasy born of his newly discovered lust for his brother’s friend, that at any moment, he expected to sit upright in bed, wide awake, his cock throbbing with unfulfilled need.

Wide-eyed, nearly ingenuous in his anticipation, Julien trembled, his breath fluttering against Mason’s mouth, his heart racing. Mason leaned in, his lips lighting against Julien’s, briefly at first, and then settling gently. Julien uttered a soft, pleading sound, and as Mason slid his tongue along the seam of his mouth, he opened his lips and let him pass. Mason cradled his face between his hands, pulling him near. He tasted the sweetness of the brandy on Julien’s tongue, felt the warmth of his breath tangling with his own, the eagerness and urgency in his fingers as he clutched at Mason’s arms.

When at last Mason pulled away, Julien smiled, breathless and flushed with excitement—not just the sexual sort, but emotional, as well; the eagerness that came from discovering you were not alone, that another like you—a kindred spirit—had just arrived rather unexpectedly into your world.  It was perhaps in that moment that Mason fell in love with him. Any resistance or caution he might have felt had dissolved completely at the sight of Julien’s radiant smile, those incredible eyes; Mason’s heart, it would seem, had been forever lost to him.

I included that last paragraph with this post even though it’s not part of the kiss, per se, because it sums up the point: it’s not the act of the kiss as much as all of the feelings that come along with it, tied up in that one single act. First kisses should be memorable, an emotional experience for the characters and readers. You want your readers to remember the moments when your characters kiss for the first time because those moments are special and worth savoring, cherishing — just like first kisses in real life.

Visually, I think this scene from the 2005 movie Closer, featuring Jude Law and Julia Roberts is about as hot and passionate a first kiss/first connection between characters as I’ve ever seen. (Yeah, the movie itself sucked, and the characters wind up being ass-hats, but put that aside for now…):

I’ve also recently gotten hooked on the TV show Outlander (and don’t even get me started on how pissed I am about the “midseason hiatus” the show is currently on!). I love lots of things about the show, but the chemistry between the actors portraying Claire and Jamie is one of the top. Their wedding night, when they kiss for the first time, was a wonderfully written, acted, and filmed episode. One of my favorite moments appears in the promo below (sorry – I couldn’t find it on its own) — not because it’s their first kiss, but because it’s their aborted first attempt at kissing, and all of the emotions that make a first kiss so memorable are perfectly captured: anticipation, anxiety, desire, etc. (And Jamie’s laugh when she hedges in the end — perfect!)

Just goes to show sometimes you don’t even have to actually have physical contact to have a memorable first kiss…

Just food for thought, and some moments of visual inspiration, the next time you’re writing a kiss. Especially that magic moment of the first one.


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