"How many ways are there to describe kissing?" I asked. "I've used them all."
Fortunately that didn't turn out to be the case. As I've since discovered, kissing in books, like in life, is not all created equal. There are good kisses and bad kisses and kisses that make your toes curl.
1. Kissing scenes can be be surprising. I love it when a character or a book surprises me, and kissing scenes are a great place for surprises. First kisses are not always perfect, perfect kisses can happen with someone you don't even like, and kisses can come when you least expect them. Sometimes, instead of building up to a kiss, I like the first kiss to come early in the story, as an inciting incident. Kissing can change the dynamics in a relationship fast, so its a great way to escalate the conflict or raise the stakes in a story.
2. Intensify the emotion. While the physical sensations of kissing are important to the scene, they're usually intensified by the character's feelings about what's happening. Each character has their own frame of reference, and notices different things about a kiss. In addition, just like in real life, the reaction changes depending on who is on the other end of the kiss, how the character feels about that person at the time, as well as how the character feels about herself. Kissing one boy is not the same as kissing another, and kissing the same boy can be different depending on the moment.
3. Kissing can reveal hidden layers. Kissing is an intimate act, offering opportunities for vulnerability, embarrassment and real emotions to come to the surface. Rather than letting the kiss become the goal or focus of the scene, consider using the kiss as a means to the end, a tool to reveal hidden layers or depths in your characters.
4. Not all kisses (or kissing scenes) are created equal. Intense kisses have their place, but like every other aspect of writing, you don't want all your scenes to read the same, right? Play around with length, tone, setting and conflict in your kissing scenes (and the kisses themselves). My stories all have a romantic arc and during revisions, I'll map this arc out separately from the rest of the story to see how it builds or evolves over the course of the novel. The kissing scenes have to do their job of moving the story forward and they can't do that if they all read the same.
5. Just add chemistry. For kissing scenes that up the romance factor, you need real chemistry between the characters. For me, chemistry is forged from physical attraction, emotional vulnerability and a dash of conflict. A little humor doesn't hurt either. A kiss is just one manifestation of attraction, but if it builds on others, it will have even more punch.