The 411 Blog

I’m Sorry, but You’re Going to Have to Earn That Kiss


Posted March 31, 2016 by

Time for a romance pet peeve: that first kiss comes too soon. You’ve warmed up to that prickly heroine and her charming hero, but they’ve not had enough uncomfortable moments, enough long glances, enough trust-garnering conversations to have earned that kiss.


An untimely kiss doesn’t mean that it comes at thirty percent into the story when it should come at sixty-five or seventy, but that it comes before the characters are ready. The physical and emotional tension must pressurize like steam beneath the earth’s crust, and must lead to an inevitable but believable kiss.

I’ve fallen in love. I know (KNOW) what all that molten lava beneath volcanoes feels like. I’ve had that in my heart, my spirit, my body. And in my stories, I want you to know that feeling too, vicariously through my characters. That’s why I make you wait while my characters are earning the right to kiss. As readers, you’re earning the right to read that kiss, otherwise you’ll be disappointed, not to mention disoriented concerning my story’s conflict. (Confession–I do have a story idea brewing that requires an early kiss. That kiss will be short, simple, and a vital lead in to the rest of the story.)

Without further delay, here are Three Romance Novel First Kiss Rules:

  1. Hero and Heroine must BE READY EMOTIONALLY so that the kiss comes from a place of the heart, not mere physical desire. I don’t enjoy romances that are heavy on physical involvement and low on emotional intimacy. That’s not true romance. True romance is a connection between a man and woman on an emotional and spiritual level that is demonstrated on a physical level. Before that first kiss, layers of revelation need to occur between the two. They should know things about each other that others don’t. Yes, they may still have secrets, and it’s good if they do so that the reader doesn’t feel the story resolves with that kiss. Which leads me to . . .
  2. The kiss between hero and heroine must INVOLVE RISK.  A first kiss changes the relationship. It reveals things that words cannot–deep things of the heart. And it can’t be taken back. A new level of relationship is initiated, and in a story, someone has something to lose when the relationship intensifies (because story is about things going wrong–conflict, tension, drama). When the first kiss happens, you are promising readers that the story is about to get messy.
  3. That kiss CAN’T COME ON THE LAST PAGE. Timing is everything. No slipping in a kiss last minute as a”they lived happily ever after” moment. Readers are disappointed when they expect a kiss in a moving moment and don’t get it. Yes, you need to build tension, but once tension is built, you can only carry that pressure so long until you frustrate the reader. Until it becomes unrealistic that hero and heroine haven’t had a physical expression to match their emotional depth. Use the first kiss as a tool to increase reader anticipation for what is going to go wrong. The kiss should not only be the result of building tension, but a building block to further tension.

These rules can apply to other physical expressions. I made my husband work for even that first hand hold. No way was I going to say, “Hold my hand. Put your arm around me. Kiss me.” No. That’s not my personality. I was more like, “Show me a bit of your soul. Now you may hold my hand. Show me a bit more of my soul. Now you may kiss me.”

What are your first kiss rules?

Sondra Kraak



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