There are a million different ways to write a great first kiss. Here are some of my thoughts, and a few prompts!
We’ll deal with the physical first.
Writing physical intimacy is just logistics: who’s got their [specific body part] where? For kissing, you’re obviously dealing with mouths, but also usually hands, and eventually some sort of embrace.
Kisses are dynamic, meaning there’s at least some movement going on. Here are three of the many physical possibilities for kissing that are particularly suited for a first kiss:
1. Lean-lips-hands. This is a quiet kiss: First, character A leans close, or else they both do. There is often eye movement, where one or both gazes are shifting from eyes to lips and back again (sometimes this is written as silently seeking permission). Then their lips meet. For a first kiss, you may want to pause here, because this is probably a Big Deal. After that, hands move, usually to the other person’s shoulders, neck, or collar, where they rest. It’s not an attempt to move the partner, it’s a simple desire for more touch.
For a quiet kiss there’s probably not going to be a ton of movement, because usually when characters open their mouths and deepen a kiss, there is more hand/arm involvement. (Of course, that’s not a rule, feel free to write a passionate kiss where hands never move from lighting resting on shoulders.)
2. Embrace-kiss. A lot of first kisses start with hugs. But it needs to be a lasting hug, and it helps if it involves shoulder and neck contact. Then have the characters move back from the hug slowly, without breaking it. At this point, you can go for some super intense eye contact if you want, followed by both partners leaning in and starting the kiss, which can range from shy to suddenly passionate. The embrace will likely tighten back up at some point.
Or, instead of eye contact, you can have them moving from the full contact in the hug to resting their cheeks against each other, and then slowly shifting back just enough for mouths to meet. This is a kiss where there is no “seeking permission” phase, they just both move into it together. Because the shifting is slow, this kiss will probably at least start off quiet. And again, the embrace will probably renew itself.
3. Kissing everywhere but the lips. Oddly enough, this is good for both shy and really confident first kisses. The mechanics are simple and sensual: one person (A) is doing the kissing here, and they place kisses on cheeks, foreheads, eyebrows, ears, jawline, etc, and then finally the mouth. This works for a shy exploration, where A is gently testing boundaries (Is here okay? What about here?) and communicating something like I want to kiss you, but I can’t just go for it, that’s terrifying.
On the other hand, this is also a method for sweeping someone off their feet (metaphorically, we don’t need to get into foot movement here). It’s romantic to shower someone in kisses, and it’s charming to tease: I know you want me to kiss you on the mouth, but I’m going to make you wait for it.
In either case, by the time you get to the mouth bit, usually both people are a) on the same page about what’s about to happen, and b) really impatient for it, so it can work to go right into open-mouthed kissing here, even for a shy first kiss. Hands will probably come into play at this point, moving to the back of the neck, into the hair, or holding cheeks/jaw. The more passionate the kiss, the more likely the characters will move into a full embrace.
4. Actually ask permission. Or skip all that and have one person say “Yo, can I kiss you?” and the other say “Hell, yeah!” From there, the possibilities are endless!
But that’s just the physical part. The emotional aspects of a kiss are also very important. Here are a couple of first kiss ideas:
1. Confession via kiss. Sometimes it’s hard to say I love you, especially if the situation is as complicated as romances tend to be. The first-kiss-as-confession works for a variety of set-ups: a character who’s better with actions than words, characters in a situation where they don’t have time for a confession and have to say it all with a two-second lip press, characters who are having an argument and are misunderstanding attempts at love confessions, or even characters in a place where they can’t make any noise.
2. Lust to love. Let’s say your characters have discovered some mutual desire and are finally doing something about it, starting with a first kiss. But somewhere in there, things take a shift in another direction. Now they’re not just madly kissing newly-bared skin, they’re just kissing. And kissing. The sexual desire takes a backseat to needing to say something else, whether it’s This actually means more to me than sex, does it mean more to you? or Please don’t die in [upcoming dangerous situation], I can’t live without you, or some other emotional statement.
3. Best friends to lovers. This is one of the gold standards of romance for many reasons, one of which is that there is lots of room for pining. Unlike strangers just getting to know each other, best friends are always together and often in physical contact, which can get very emotionally charged.
So how do best friends get a first kiss? So many amazing possibilities here: a hurt/comfort cheek kiss that turns into more, an outgoing friend introducing a shy friend to kissing (like in my free-to-read story Life of the Party), a hug feeling un-platonic because they’re all dressed up in fancy clothes, or a kiss to keep up appearances while fake dating. (You can read two more of my best friends to lovers stories on my website: Griffin [human/shapeshifter], and Tollense [human/vampire].)
So how does one actually write this?
Again, there are endless ways to weave together the physical and emotional aspects of physical intimacy in a kiss scene. One basic possibility is having emotion lead to physical movement. This is your classic I need to touch you right now creating hand-to-body contact and kissing. But you can also do it the other direction, from physical to emotion: Wow, I did not realize physical contact with you would make me feel like this and now I am I having Realizations. Once you get into the kissing, it becomes a feed-forward-feed-back loop, where physical contact both stems from and leads to emotions.