Given that I’ve spent the last hour writing some steamy kisses… sure!
– Avoid repetition when you can:
Let’s look at this kiss from Ma Halamshiral Part 3:
His teeth tugged at her lower lip, his tongue sweeping into her mouth. She didn’t have to tease him or coax him. That hunger was there already, waiting to devour her, leaving her breathless as he pulled away, allowing her a single gasp before slating his mouth over hers again. They weren’t even pretending to dance now, though she could still feel the sway and the swell of their bodies pressing together. His hands searched her, making her shudder. She wanted more, wanted desperately not to have this awkward dress keeping her from feeling the warmth of him against her.
Now let me rewrite it the wrong way and see if you can spot the difference:
His teeth tugged at her lower lip, his tongue sweeping past her lips. She didn’t have to tease him or coax him. That hunger was there already, waiting to devour her, leaving her breathless as he pulled away, allowing her a single gasp before slating his lips over hers again….
It really throws me out of a scene when someone uses the same words over and over again. While this is something I think writers should be aware of all the time, it happens a lot in kissing scenes (as well as smut). While I think it’s better to switch the focus of the action to avoid repetition (moving from the mouth to the body and back to the mouth, as elaborated in the next tip), a good “cheat” is to cycle through synonyms – if you said “He pressed his lips to hers” but then want to say “She bit down on his lip” then consider changing it to “He pressed his mouth to hers. She bit down on his lip”. Make sense?
– Use more than your mouth:
You can clearly see this in the example above, but let’s look at another from Ar Lath Ma:
She didn’t allow him to finish, swallowing his words with the press of her lips, pushing him back against the edge of the desk. She felt his body stiffen as she gripped the sides of his belt, pulling herself against him. She was not patient with her kiss. It was demanding, forceful, sliding her tongue against his lip to draw it between her teeth, treasuring the small surprised moan it coaxed from him. His arms were soon around her, gliding down her back, all hesitation fading from his touch.
There are a number of examples I could have used, but this one serves as a good illustration of what I mean. Kissing is a full-body experience. Very rarely do people kiss without moving their hands, their arms, their hips – and when they do, it’s often an indication of some level of discomfort or a lack of intimacy (important to mention, if that’s what you’re trying to get across in the scene). It doesn’t have to be lewd (they don’t have to start humping) but the whole body should be engaged in some way. The more passionate it is, the more active the body is.
– Consider the tone of your scene:
So far, I’ve been using examples that have been very passionate, hungry kisses. As fun as those are, they aren’t right for every scene. Here’s an example from Undeserved Comfort:
She kissed him when words were no longer needed, when they were no longer enough. The press of her lips was neither lustful nor flirtatious. Her flesh was nothing but tenderness, tasting of honey and cream and bliss. His hands slipped under her robe but not out of hunger, just to fulfill the desire to hold her closer, to let himself sink into this moment and chase the guilt away with her warmth.
To take a very tender moment and have her suddenly pounce on him wouldn’t be right for the scene. Though it’s difficult to put a hard-and-fast rule to writing this type of kiss, I tend to focus more on how it makes the characters feel rather than the physical aspect of it. If it’s a steamy/gropey/I-want-in-your-pants kiss, I tend to focus more on the body – heated skin, pulling each other closer, hands wandering to other places. If it’s a tender kiss, then it’s more about embracing, wanting to be close, and either feeling whole because of their lover or an intense longing to feel more connected.
Another example of tone illustrated in a kissing scene, this time from Dying Alone:
He lay his arms against hers, holding her there for a moment in their silence, the restless sounds of a recovering battlefield feeling far more distant than they had before. The mist thickened, the first droplets of rain falling. Slowly, he eased her grip, allowing him to turn and face her. The word was on his lips once more – my heart – trying to ask what was wrong when she reached up, catching the nape of his neck and pulling him forward to the press of her kiss.
He did not know what this was in response to but he gave into her insistence. She tasted of battle, of blood and sweat and ashes, the heavy scent of the Fade made physical in her flesh. Her mouth was pained but delicate, tracing sadness on his lips that warmed only slightly as he returned the gesture, his hand moving to her cheek. He pushed her far enough to look into her face, his brow lowering.
Here, the setting and atmosphere do a lot of the work for me in illustrating the emotional side to the kiss. Because he does not know what is motivating it, the kiss is more focused on his concern and his observations of her behavior.
Some Commonly Used Words for Kissing Scenes:
kiss, press, pull, tug, slate, bite, moan, sigh, shudder, tremble, hum, gasp, pant, take a sharp breath, plunge, sink, whimper, writhe, arch, angle, trace, curl, curve, brush, caress, suck, graze, massage, taste, nip, nuzzle, stroke, peck, slip, tease, bliss, savor, soothe, tempt, urge, longing, burn, heated, warmth, crave, thirst, ache, thrill, slender, supple, deep, hungry, searing… and probably a lot more that I’m just not thinking of right now.
One common tip I tend to ignore:
I’ve seen a lot of writing advice that is phobic of using the word “kiss”. While you certainly shouldn’t overuse it, I think it’s silly to say that you should absolutely avoid the word like the plague. Saying “He surrendered to her kiss” or “His kiss was everything she needed in that moment” won’t suddenly turn your writing into schlock. As long as your focus is on more than just the mere act of smooshing faces, you’re good to go.
For more tips on writing kissing scenes (including a great list of articles on the subject) check out this post.
Hope that helps!