Posted On July 11, 2014 by Print This Post

Anna Campbell on Writing the First Kiss

Historical author Anna Campbell pens some of the best love scenes in romance, so who better to give us pointers on the all important first kiss? 

Great to have you back, Anna!

Hello, Romance University mavens! Thank you to Jennifer Tanner for inviting me to talk to you today!

Just recently I’ve gone through the process of choosing an excerpt from my next release WHAT A DUKE DARES for my website. And as so often has happened, I’ve chosen the first kiss scene.

I don’t think this penchant for initial smooches as pivotal encounters is accidental, although I will admit that I love a great kiss, whether in a book or a movie. So today I thought I’d talk about the importance of the first kiss in a romance novel and how to make the most of this essential scene.

Every romance novel works through a series of turning points. They include first meeting (sometimes if the characters are previously acquainted, this is the first time the readers see them together), first kiss, love scene(s) – although not necessarily if you’re writing a sweeter story – black moment, happily ever after. Each of these essential elements ramps up the tension, reveals character, advances plot. Apart from the ending where if you’ve kept the reader on tenterhooks about the resolution, the sigh of satisfaction as she closes the book on our blissfully happy couple will be doubly pleasurable.

For most romance novels, a major turning point is the first kiss. In some ways, I think the first kiss is even more significant than the first love scene. A kiss is a Anna Campbell 43970006declaration of intentions in a way a love scene isn’t, if you know what I mean. In most stories, by the time they’re in bed (or wherever the love scene takes place), they pretty much know what’s happening between them. But the first kiss offers the chance for some delicious uncertainty about where this relationship is going. They still think they might have the chance to walk away unaffected. Ha!

Often in a romance, the hero and heroine are fighting their attraction – and if you’ve got a good meaty conflict keeping them apart, they have excellent reasons not to tumble into the other person’s arms at the first come-hither wink. But the point inevitably comes where attraction outweighs all caution and commonsense, and voilá, we have that marvelous moment of the first kiss.

A good first kiss changes everything. Perhaps afterwards, the hero and heroine find themselves determined to overcome whatever is keeping them apart. In my books, what that first kiss does is to terrify my poor characters – after that magical moment, they know that they’re in the grip of something that isn’t going to go away, no matter how they struggle to escape. Whatever the issues between the characters, the first kiss should produce major change.

It all sounds very significant, doesn’t it?

Actually I think it is!

The first kiss is also the moment when the characters get a taste of how powerful their physical interactions promise to be. Again, this will change everything and point toward consummation, whether in the pages of the book or, in sweeter romances, after the characters have got together at the end.

When I talk about writing love scenes, I always say to people that a love scene needs to advance plot. It should never be there just for the sake of filling up a few pages with some salacious activity. If you can cut a love scene without radically changing your story, it shouldn’t be there.

The same goes for a first kiss. It should deepen conflict and reveal character, and also change how the characters interact with one another. The first kiss isn’t an excuse to bring your plot to a screaming halt while you give us some lush physical description. Lush physical description is always welcome, but the kiss needs to reflect the characters’ emotional development and the growth of the romantic arc. Remember the first kiss is a turning point.

On the subject of physical description, don’t forget that this is also a deeply significant emotional moment in your characters’ lives. Just as when you’re writing a love scene, don’t forget the emotional dimension of what’s happening. That’s what will have a lasting effect on your hero and heroine – and on your reader.

So let us know how your hero and heroine are feeling. Nervous. Afraid. Angry. Passionate. Reluctant. Eager. Dominant. Vengeful. Conflicted. Loving. Loathing. Confused. Pretty much pick an emotion and it’s got potential to color a first kiss. And if they start out feeling one way, how do they feel afterwards? There should be a major change.

The other thing I’ll say about a first kiss scene is don’t rush it. Go deep to show us both the emotional and physical effects. Readers really look forward to this important moment. They’re fully aware of its significance in the development of the romance.

Take your time, use the scene to develop plot, character and conflict. Give us some nice physical descriptions. Oh, and enjoy it! This is a place where you can really put your characters through the wringer.

A great first kiss is not to be sneezed at!


So what about you? What’s your method on writing that first lip lock?  

What a Duke Dares

WHAT A DUKE DARES – Book 3 in Anna’s Sons of Sin series,  releases on 26th August from Grand Central Forever

A reputation at risk

What woman in her right mind would say no to marrying the dashing Duke of Sedgemoor? Miss Penelope Thorne, that’s who. She’s known Camden Rothermere since they were children – and she also knows she’d bring nothing but scandal to his name.

Cam can hardly believe Penelope turned down his proposal. But if she wants to run off to the Continent and set the rumor mill ablaze, he can’t stop her. Then her brother’s dying request sends him to bring home the one woman he thought he’d finally gotten over.

The only way they’ll both get back to London without their reputations in tatters is to pretend they’re married during the journey. That means kissing like they mean it and even sharing a bed – until it becomes hard to tell where the game ends and true desire begins…

You can read an excerpt of WHAT A DUKE DARES here:


Bio: 2014 RITA® award finalist ANNA CAMPBELL has written eight multi award-winning historical romances for Grand Central Publishing and Avon HarperCollins and her work is published in sixteen languages. Anna has won numerous awards for her Regency-set stories including RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice, the Booksellers Best, the Golden Quill (three times), the Heart of Excellence (twice), the Write Touch, the Aspen Gold (twice) and the Australian Romance Readers Association’s favorite historical romance (five times). Her books have been nominated three times for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award and three times for Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year. Anna is currently engaged in writing the “Sons of Sin” series, which started in 2012 with SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED ( Anna lives on the beautiful east coast of Australia where she writes full-time. You can find out more about Anna by visiting her website or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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23 Responses to “Anna Campbell on Writing the First Kiss”

  1. Great article! Thank you for sharing. You’re absolutely correct that the first kiss is all important to the where, when and why in the story. It must be placed carefully.

    Posted by J.Paulette Forshey | July 11, 2014, 5:43 am
    • Paulette, placing it is so important. I’m always disappointed where I read a book and the first kiss is a complete nonevent. It’s such an opportunity to ramp up tension! Thanks for saying you enjoyed the article!

      Posted by Anna Campbell | July 11, 2014, 2:58 pm
  2. Morning Anna and welcome back! I always love your posts..=)

    One of the best first kisses I’d ever read is Johanna Lindsay’s Tender Rebel….Roslynn and Anthony Malory. The tension built and by the time they actually kissed I almost swooned….lol…it was SO romantic!

    Thanks for a great post – I think I might need to find that book and re-read it!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | July 11, 2014, 9:37 am
    • Carrie, thanks for saying you enjoy the posts. I love coming here and talking writing! Oh, what a lovely example of a first kiss – and that encapsulates everything I wanted to say in this post. The tension and the emotion should be heart-stopping!

      Posted by Anna Campbell | July 11, 2014, 2:59 pm
  3. Wonderful insights! Delighted to see you here, Anna. I would only add that the stakes are even higher in a historical romance. Today, a kiss is just a kiss, so to speak, but then, kissing crossed a huge societal line. (Depending on your era, of course.) So there is certainly a big turning point in a historical first kiss than in a contemporary one. The author may need to supply a bit more of the drama in a contemporary book.

    Posted by Blythe Gifford | July 11, 2014, 9:51 am
    • Blythe, I agree with you – up to a point. I think in a contemporary, the first kiss still needs to be one of those turning point. It’s up to the author to make the reader feel the importance of this moment. But as you say, in a historical a kiss crossed a line in a much more dramatic way than it does in a contemporary. One of the things I love about writing historicals is that a lot of this stuff has so much more significance than in a contemporary. I love that just calling someone by their first name is a major sign of intimacy in a historical!

      Posted by Anna Campbell | July 11, 2014, 3:01 pm
      • Sorry I wasn’t clear. I meant exactly what you said – that the historical kiss is inherently more dramatic. The contemporary one also needs to be a turning point, but it may be a tad harder for the author to pull off because that built in significance isn’t there.

        Posted by Blythe Gifford | July 11, 2014, 3:40 pm
  4. I think everyone remembers their first kiss. I try to make it memorable for my characters too.

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | July 11, 2014, 10:11 am
  5. Great post! I totally agree. That first kiss needs to hook the characters to each other in some way…and then they fight it. Ha! I also find that having grown up reading romances in the 80s and 90s, I tend to have an expectation that kissing scenes need to be pages long. And that’s not necessarily true. Those scenes are tougher than they seem.

    Posted by Ainsley Wynter | July 11, 2014, 10:33 am
  6. The same goes for a first kiss. It should deepen conflict and reveal character, and also change how the characters interact with one another. The first kiss isn’t an excuse to bring your plot to a screaming halt while you give us some lush physical description.

    Great quote, Anna. I agree. 🙂

    Posted by Angelina (Barbin) Jameson | July 11, 2014, 12:16 pm
    • Thanks, Angelina! I think the main thing about that quote is that, like all scenes in your book, the first kiss should work for its place. It needs to deepen the issues in the book and push the dynamic forward.

      Posted by Anna Campbell | July 11, 2014, 3:08 pm
  7. Great post, Anna!

    I had “Love Potion #9” going through my head when I put up your post, and the idea of indiscriminate kissing made me think of books I’ve read where the the H/H kiss and nothing changes, or worse, they have sex and nothing changes.

    For me, the hardest part of writing a kissing scene is using different senses and emotions because I don’t want every kiss to feel or sound like the previous one, and it shouldn’t because by the time the H/H smooch again, they’re relationship should be more developed. One would hope.

    Thanks so much for blogging with us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | July 11, 2014, 6:51 pm
    • Jennifer, I hear you on love scenes and kisses sounding the same – one of the ways I keep it fresh is to remember the traits of each particular character. Perhaps using imagery that particularly relates to their interests, for example? I remember with Matthew in Untouched who is a botanist, his imagery was nearly all about growing things (no double entendre intended). You know, burgeoning and flowering and blossoming and all that sort of stuff. I remember an Elizabeth Essex I read where the hero was a sailor so all his imagery was to do with the sea and ships. Worked surprisingly well when you were in his head for the kiss! Like ‘real’ people, characters all have different reactions to a kiss based on their personality and their history. If you stick to that, it’s fairly straightforward to keep it personal to that individual.

      Oh, I hate books where big things happen (not just kisses and love scenes) and yet nothing really changes. I want to see the effect these big events have on the characters!

      Posted by Anna Campbell | July 11, 2014, 7:41 pm
  8. Oooh – this post makes me want to go back and read Anna’s books! I remember when I read Anna’s first three or four books, which were among the first historical romances I’d ever read. I loved those books, but I was especially impressed by the way Anna’s writing made kisses and other intimacies I’d read a thousand times before seem brand new. Exhilarating!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | July 11, 2014, 9:43 pm
    • Becke, what a lovely thing to say. I try and make everything fresh when I write it. I think keeping in mind the particular characters definitely helps. It’s not generic hero and heroine having a smooch, it’s Mary and John who are childhood sweethearts torn apart by wicked fate, for example!

      Posted by Anna Campbell | July 12, 2014, 12:54 am
  9. Hi Anna,
    As always, a great Post.
    I haven’t always read Romance novels, but I will always read yours. The way your characters develop and interact is the best I’ve read.
    At the moment, I’m reading ‘A Rakes Midnight Kiss’, and the first kiss scene in that is beautiful. I have to say I do love Mr. Evans. Cad he may be, but he’s a wonderful and caring cad.
    You alone have changed the way I look at Romance novels.

    Posted by J L Addicoat | July 13, 2014, 12:02 am
    • Wow, Jenny, that’s a major, major compliment. Thank you so much! What a lovely thing to say. I’m so glad you enjoy the books so much – I love that first kiss scene in Rake. That was actually the first scene that came to my mind, I had to write the rest of the book around it!

      Posted by Anna Campbell | July 13, 2014, 12:32 am
  10. Congratulations on your new release in August. Yes, the first kiss is so vital, because it is in real life. It’s the moment when we decide, is this person really for me? Does our physical and emotional attraction promise more? Is s/he a really good kisser?
    This is the first signal of how the love may move forward or not!

    Posted by Sherry Marshall | July 13, 2014, 12:41 am


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