I want to tackle something that might be a bit awkward one-on-one, and I'll come right to it: If you write YA and you want your main character to kiss someone, then you'd better not infuse any adult sexuality into the scene. Especially if it's your character's first kiss ever. Or even second kiss ever.
Nobody does this on purpose. The truth is, though, that if you've ever had sex, then you've got an entire personal arsenal of sexual habits and responses that are alive and well in your unconscious mind. So when you sit down to write that sizzly smooch scene between two sixteen-year-olds, it comes out infused with Stuff-Sixteen-Year-Olds-Wouldn't-Think-Or-Do.
Hear me on this one. I get that some sixteen-year-olds (and even younger) are sexually active. I get that, yes, sometimes the sexual experience of a teenager would make a married thirty-five-year-old blush. But that's not what I'm talking about.
I'm talking about INAPPROPRIATELY ADULT SEXUAL RESPONSES in teen kiss scenes. And I've read quite a bit of it--not only here, but in my editing work as well as in published novels. And it frustrates me, because it is so incredibly inauthentic. It screams I-am-a-grow-up-writer-trying-to-sound-like-a-smoochified-teen.
But it's easily fixed. How? By becoming aware of the fact that you, as a grown-up sexual being, have experienced things that your fifteen- or sixteen- or seventeen-year-old protagonist hasn't. (Unless you've written her that way. And again, that's not what I'm talking about here.) By reminding yourself that TEENS ARE NOT EMOTIONALLY MATURE, so they therefore cannot be sexually mature, either (experience and maturity are not the same thing). And by stepping back and asking yourself, "Would my character say/think/do this? Or is this something that I would say/think/do?"
I've broken it down into some typical behaviors in order to make this a bit easier:
Yes, groaning is generally an involuntary response to arousal. But folks. A young girl (or guy) who is having a first kiss IS NOT GOING TO GROAN INTO THE OTHER PERSON'S MOUTH. None of this "I groaned without realizing it." Groaning may be involuntary, but it's also a conditioned response. Even if a teen is feeling aroused (and a first kiss for the never-before-kissed? THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR AROUSAL), she is likely not going to be confident/experienced enough to groan.
Now, if your never-before-kissed heroine is passionately kissed by a boy who has sexual experience, then it would be believable if he might groan as he deepens the kiss. Or something. But if this happens, you've got to put yourself in the shoes of the never-before-kissed heroine. As in, Oh my gosh, he just groaned. What does this mean? Am I doing something wrong? Because, folks, SHE JUST DOESN'T KNOW. Seriously.
Yes, some people do this. Some people like this. But again, we're talking about teens here. And unless your main character is ALREADY SEXUALLY EXPERIENCED, or is growing in this experience as part of your story, then bites do not belong in first- (or second- or third-) kiss scenes. Again, it screams This is a kiss written by a sexually mature person. A girl kissing her first boyfriend isn't going to fantasize about biting him, and she isn't going to gnaw seductively on his bottom lip. SHE DOESN'T KNOW THESE THINGS. And she isn't trying to arouse him -- she is LOST IN THE KISS and HOPING THAT HER KISSING IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR HIM.
Honestly, I don't want to know much about what tongues are doing in a kiss scene. There are ways to write about French kissing that aren't graphic enough to make me feel like I'm gagging on my own saliva (or on someone else's). But that's a personal preference thing. One thing about French kissing, though, is that it's not exactly a skill you're born with. So if Jane and Johnny are having their first kiss, probably the tongues need to keep to themselves.
Here's the thing (cue dramatic, Authoress-is-about-to-get-personal music): My first kiss was a French one. As in, MY FIRST KISS EVER. I was 15. I knew nothing about kisses, and I was MADLY IN LOVE WITH THIS BOY. (He was 17, experienced with girls, and a druggie. Do I sound like a contemporary YA heroine, or what?) And when he did that THING with his tongue, my first thought was Omigawd he's French kissing me! and my second thought was Omigawd I don't know how to do this!
Yes, I remember it like it was (almost) yesterday. I did not "deepen the kiss" or "explore his mouth with my tongue" or "groan". I freaked out on the inside. And afterward, all I could think was, "I hope he kisses me again so that I have a chance to do it right."
Not too spicy, right? Because HOW COULD I KNOW ABOUT SPICY WHEN I WAS FIFTEEN AND NEVER-BEEN-KISSED?
So, yeah. If you want your heroine's first French kiss to be believable, let her experience it on her own level. Not on yours.
A girl who may have a few kisses under her belt, but who has never had sex, is not going to press her thighs into her guy while he kisses her, or wrap her legs around him if he lays her down somewhere. Again, these are learned behaviors. Even if you're writing your characters toward an inevitable sex scene, you've got to be realistic about how your protagonist is responding in situations she's never found herself in before. And the younger she is, the more this is true.
You've got to step back. You've got to say, "Okay. If this were twenty-thirty-forty-fifty-something me, I would wrap my legs around him and groan while he kissed me. But my protagonist is sixteen and this is their second kiss. So what will SHE do?"
Mind you, I'm talking about KISS SCENES. Sex scenes are a whole 'nuther topic, and one that I'm not going to broach, simply because I personally don't write them. They don't belong in the stories I write, and that's just the way I roll. Kisses are something else altogether, though--I LOVE writing kiss scenes. In fact, if I get a scene just the way I want it, it's not unusual for me to sit there and reread it half a dozen times, just to relive the moment over and over. (Is there such a thing as a kiss dork?)
So there's my I'm-saying-this-as-tenderly-as-I-can advice for you today. Give your teen kiss scenes all the romance and sparkle and sizzle and breathlessness and angst and urgency that you can--but keep your grown-up sexual self out of them. Then, and only then, your teen kisses will be truly authentic and believable.
And by the way, I love you. Always wanting better things for you; always hoping to give you food for thought that will improve your writing.
Now go rewrite that kiss. :)