Writing the Kissing Scenes . . .

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I find writing kissing scenes for YA books tricky. I mean, I love romance and apparently a lot of my teen readers like it too, but some of my readers are quite young and I always want my books to be—well, clean. It’s a fine line to walk. How much romantic language is appropriate?

Then there is the other problem. How many different ways can you descriptively write, “He leaned down and kissed her. And they kissed for awhile. Then they stopped.” See, it has to be dressed up somehow, made more literary, and made more immediate.

Not long ago I explained this problem to my husband. I asked him to kiss me like it was our first date so I could think of descriptive phrasing.

He isn’t very cooperative about these sorts of requests. He gave me a humorless stare and said, “What, you want me to take you in my sinewy arms and pull you into my vice-like grip?”

I made him read a romance back in the 80s–you know, just so he would know what women expected from a man–and he’s never let me live this down. In my defense it had been several years since I had read the aforementioned romance and I’d forgotten what it was like.

He walked over to me. “This is where I kiss you’re welcoming mouth, right?”

I smacked him and reminded him that I write young adult fiction and there is none of the cheesy romance lingo in them.

He said, “You mean I’m not supposed to plunder your mouth?”

“How does anyone even do that?” I asked him. “Are you supposed to steal my fillings or something? Just kiss me like you don’t know me that well.”

He kissed me and I tried to arrange the description. “His unshaved beard stubble scraped across my skin . . .” Well, that just wasn’t going to work.

He let go of me and rolled his eyes. ”Can’t you just write about that first night I kissed you–remember Lake Braddock?” We’d gone there late one summer night after a dance and sat in the moonlight looking at the lake. “Don’t you remember that?” he asked.

“All I really remember is that the ducks were sleeping.”

“That’s what you remember about that night?”

“Well, I’d never seen ducks sleep before. They look like they don’t have heads.”

“The summer night, the moonlight . . .” he supplied.

” . . .there among the headless ducks . . .”

Yeah, I never could get that memory to work for my novel. It’s a good thing I have a descriptive imagination.


  1. Josi
    May 22, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    LOL–that is too funny! I’ve tried to get my husband to practice stuff with me too and it’s a no go–but I never made him read a romance, thank goodness!

  2. Kari Diane Pike
    May 22, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    Janette! You always make me smile. Thanks for the lift!

  3. Kinza
    May 22, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    Hi Janette!
    This is kind of random but one of my Mom’s blogging friends had this post about no need for spelling. And since you don’t believe in spelling, I thought you would like to read it:

    Only great minds can read this.

    This is weird, but interesting!

    fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too.

    Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

    i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!
    (From CML Shearings)

    Kinza 🙂

  4. Janette Rallison
    May 22, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    And I could read every word of it. Yeah, so who needs spelling anyway?

  5. Michele Holmes
    May 23, 2007 at 7:45 am

    I thought the headless duck setting was kind of fun. I think I could see it in one of your novels—or maybe in Josi’s, along with the drunk goats and the smelly chickens.
    I too have a love/hate relationship with kissing scenes. I love it when they’re done and they work well, but I really hate writing them. It IS hard!

  6. Annette Lyon
    May 23, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    Janette, you bring me joy. Just seeing your title and then a photo of ducks made me laugh. I too hate writing kissing scenes. I’ve never tried practicing them with my hubby, though. Hmm. Food for thought.

  7. Heather B. Moore
    May 24, 2007 at 10:43 am

    This is so funny, Janette. You remind me of Erma Bombeck.

  8. Techno Bob
    May 27, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    How could I forget the ducks! How silly of me.

  9. Julie Wright
    May 29, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    HAHAAA! kissing scenes are icky. No matter how well you write them–out of context they’re cheesy and lame sounding and make people wonder why anyone bothers.

    I remember one in a book I read where the girl says, “Kiss me, jared. Kiss me like you’ve never kissed me.” I laughed for a full ten minutes. Even in context, the line was so lame. What girl says that and what guy can actually carry the act of the kiss out without giggling at her (yes guys giggle)? That’s why I need to write middle grade. They don’t kiss yet. It’s so much easier. But I think my husband might feel better about the time i spend writing if I pull him into some kissing practice . . .

  10. Jen
    June 22, 2009 at 10:14 am

    I’m actually also having alot of issues writing a kissing scene for a young adult novel, and I hope to publish it. That is, I am 11. but I can do. I know I can.

  11. BlueEyesWhiteDragon17
    May 15, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    hi I need help. i can’t seem to get my kissing scenes right. this is the situation. A guy and a girl are locked in a janitor’s room and have to spend the night. the girl is feeling cold and gets a blanket, the guy then wakes up and see her climbing a step stool. she then falls and he catches her, and then they kind of look at each other and then i can get it right. like i want them to start kissing but i just don’t know how i can do it. my other kissing scene was well a dud. any suggestions

    *they had kissed at lunch already and they don’t know each other well
    *this is a adult fiction
    you can message me at my website

  12. alz
    June 29, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    that was SOOOOOOOO cute 😀

  13. Madeleine
    February 3, 2011 at 4:40 am

    I LOVE this post it had me ROFL My hubby is *exactly* the same. On Feb 14th I’m going to be entering the ‘Just Kiss Already blogfest’ and today decided to research writing the kiss scene. I’m so glad I found your blog it’s really brightened a dull rainy day :O)

  14. Get a Blog
    February 22, 2011 at 4:04 am

    lol! very funny.Really enjoyed it.Thank you.

  15. The Acceptable Schizophrenic
    September 19, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    That was priceless. Thanks for that.

  16. Kate D.
    September 19, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    One of my first kisses felt like kissing a jelly Lifesaver with a suction tube in the middle. Go with the ducks.

  17. Seventeen Going On Eighteen
    June 5, 2023 at 10:47 am

    I have the same problem, actually.

    I am an aspiring writer who has been working on cheesy romance novels since I was maybe eight, and trust me, most third graders want nothing to do with kissing. Now that I am in my late teens, I have a certain level of morality that my characters need to maintain as do I as a writer, and I have difficulty mixing kissing in for that.

    Of course, my solution is very different from yours. Since my impure imagination gives me trouble, I have signed on my writing partner, who I shall call Sixteen Going on Seventeen, to write those parts of the stories.

    I also just have difficulty because my memories of kissing are not pleasant.

    • Janette Rallison
      June 5, 2023 at 4:15 pm

      Well, I hope you eventually make some better memories to use for your kissing scenes. Must be nice to have a writing partner!

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