I'm writing in third person because I want to express the standpoint of both of my characters. Everything's running smoothly except for the part where I want to describe their kiss. I'm in conflict with the idea that in whose POV should I describe the emotion they have during the kiss.

These are the possible options I have and also that the problem that I face with those:

Option 1: I should stick to describing only one person's emotion.
Problem: I want to describe both of their emotions. Period.

Option 2: I should write both of their feelings.
Problem: How do I do that?

  • Simutaneously describing? I feel like I'm flitting from 'he' to 'she', 'him' to 'her'. I feel disconnected and so will the reader.
  • One passage each? First 'her' feeling and then 'his' feeling? It reads way too long than the time taken to actually kiss. Also it might seem to look like it's being repeated. Shortening it would make it way too small for each.

So can you help me in solving my conflict and problems? Can you help me suggest a better way of carrying this out?

  • Are they in love? Or is just 2 of them?
    – Lanni
    Oct 3, 2018 at 6:04

5 Answers 5


I suspect that you don't really want to describe their emotions in the clinical sense. Rather, you want the reader to know how they feel, and to feel how they feel, or at least to feel sympathy for how they feel, at the moment of the kiss.

If so, the way you do that is not through what you say in the moment of the kiss. It is how you set it up. Think about how a great romantic kiss is handled in a movie. It does not come out of the blue. It is meticulously set up as the characters go from bickering to flirting to longing so that long before the kiss comes the audience is aching for it, is shouting "shut up and kiss her you fool" at the screen as the hero bumbles through his courtship. Once all that setup work is done, there is no need to describe anybody's emotions. The audience knows exactly what the emotions are, and they feel those emotions too. This kiss is just the trigger, the moment of release, the moment of fulfillment for all the work that has gone before.

As a writer, therefore, you never describe important emotions. You create them. You only describe an emotion if it is secondary, if it is not something that you expect the reader to participate in or empathize with -- some piece of business that is necessary to drive the plot but is not of the essence of the story arc.

So many of the POV question here really come down to the same thing. A struggle to describe in the moment emotions that should have been set up by careful preparation. They are not really POV problems at all. They are setup problems. Create emotions, don't describe them.

  • Thankyou so much you made me realise my mistake. I did try to set up an emotion but then during the kiss went something along the lines of- ''The touch of his lips again, made her body tremble and when he instantly placed his hands on her waist, blood rushed through her veins and her heart pounded furiously in her chest.'' do you think I should just dump these lines?
    – Nikki
    Mar 3, 2017 at 15:55
  • 1
    Yes, you should dump those lines. We've all read writing like this before, of course. But all they do is record the physical reactions to emotion. They are clinical. They don't produce or evoke the emotion. These are physiological changes that happen in response to emotion, not the causes of emotion. What you want to do is portray the causes of emotion. That is what will give the reader the sympathetic emotional reaction that they are looking for. Art is an experience, not a explanation. The aim is produce the experience, not to document it.
    – user16226
    Mar 3, 2017 at 16:12
  • 4
    I'm not suggesting, BTW, that you should never describe the physical manifestations of emotion. We recognize emotion in others through its physical manifestations. It is part of how we read people. But reading people's emotions does not produce those same emotions in us, at least, not without the setup. Describing the outward signs of emotion makes sense when you want the reader to read but not feel the emotion. Setting up the circumstances in which the emotion is felt is the way to go when you want the reader to participate in the emotion.
    – user16226
    Mar 3, 2017 at 19:05

Avoid "head-hopping".

Pick one of the protagonists, and describe the kiss from their POV.

Later, have the other protagonist refer back to the event, and describe their feelings.


The representation of emotions from a third person point of view is usually done be describing the outward expressions of the emotion. Describe the outward signs of their emotions instead of telling the reader what is being felt.

Modern writers often expand on that rather distant, showing technique by leveraging the supernatural nature of intimacy which grants the couple extraordinary insights into each other's soul. The author is able to report each character's inner state by describing what their mate senses through the sudden intimacy.

If the passion is transformative, leading one or both to personal revelation and growth, the report from the participating, yet perceiving mate can be extremely insightful, without breaking the third person point of view.

We all want to believe that intimacy merges our third-person relationships with others into something approaching the first-person relationship we enjoy with ourselves. Maybe that is true in the real world. That is a question which each brave lover must answer for themselves. But in the world of our writings, that merging can be an absolute truth, and as authors we can use it to bend the point of view boundaries, at least for a scene or two.

  • 1
    leveraging the supernatural nature of intimacy which grants the couple extraordinary insights into each other's soul--Love it. Could easily be utilized for the purpose of staying in a single head. But if the author uses multiple POVs, it is--IMHO--much more fun to show how unreliable of the narrators all the characters are. Then the way is to switch POVs.
    – Lew
    Mar 3, 2017 at 14:39
  • report each character's inner state by describing what their mate senses through the sudden intimacy. Thanks.... You made me realise some important points I'd forgotten.
    – Nikki
    Mar 3, 2017 at 16:50

Apparently, your third person point of view is not omniscient, or you would not face this problem, and if you tried to describe your character's feeling simultaneously, having the previous narration written in third limited/objective, you would have to either switch to omniscient, or head-hop, which would certainly sound unnatural.

The first thing that comes to my mind is to write two adjacent scenes, where one ends with one character initiating the kiss (describing all the feelings) and the next starts with the second participant responding to it (all the emotions from a new point of view). I am sure there are other ways to handle this situation, but this is what I would do.

It might come through as a repetition but only if their feelings are identical, which is likely not the case, else you would not want to show the kiss from two different points of view.

  • You got me:p The feelings are identical and that's why sound repetition. Thankyou you too made me realise my mistake and gave me a new perspective.
    – Nikki
    Mar 3, 2017 at 16:02

Some good answers. Let me add one more thought:

Is it necessary to describe the feelings of both characters? Even aside from Mark Baker's comment that it may not be necessary to describe the feelings of either, even if you want or need to describe the feelings, would one person's point of view be sufficient to get the message across?

If their feelings are radically different, then yes, it's necessary. It reminds me of an article I read years ago where a man related how his wife once told him that while they were dating, she once made a comment to him that began, "You know, we've been dating for six months now and ..." And then suddenly she panicked, thinking that he would take this as her pressuring him to make a commitment. When she got home she called her mother to discuss the conversation; she talked about it to all her girlfriends. And so, she wondered years later, did he remember the conversation and what was he thinking? He said he did remember it quite well. And what he was thinking at the time was, "Have we really been dating for six months? Because I'm pretty sure I haven't changed the oil since we started dating."

My point being: If their thoughts are similar, if they've both been waiting anxiously for this moment, etc, then describing the feelings of one of them should be plenty. Only if they're seriously different do you need to describe both.

Also, this is a case where you could likely solve the problem by simply having them each say what they're feeling rather than going inside their heads. "Oh George, I've been waiting so long for this moment," she said. "All this time I thought you weren't interested," he replied. Etc.

  • I've been giving that suggestion a thought but help me on this part, please. The thing is that the girl doesn't want to show the guy that she's completely overwhelmed with pleasure by the kiss. So after they part she's pretending to be indifferent to what happened between them which baffles the guy. They are in a complicated relation and something strange is happening which is the main theme of the story. So I just wanted the readers to know that she's starting to have feelings for him but then something stops her from revealing it to him.
    – Nikki
    Mar 7, 2017 at 10:05
  • .....Whereas the guy who just likes her and is not afraid to reveal but won't confess to her because he's taking it slowly as he doesn't want to scare her especially when he's aware of the reason for her strange-indifferent behaviour. I'm thinking of not writing the guy's part but then I wan't the reader to know that he has feelings for her. After the kiss he's not ignoring that fact, unlike the girl but the girl just walks off.
    – Nikki
    Mar 7, 2017 at 10:07
  • Ok, so the two are having different thoughts. So your choices include, (a) as Mark Baker suggested, deal with their differing thoughts in scenes before the kiss, so when you get there, the reader already knows what each is thinking. (b) Have dialog to explain it. He says, "Oh darling, I love you madly", and she replies, "Umm, I'm just not sure about this." Maybe more poetic than that. (c) Do the POV switch. Relate it from her point of view, then backtrack and do it from his point of view. If their thoughts are radically different, this would highlight that and should make sense to the reader.
    – Jay
    Mar 7, 2017 at 17:02

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