Techniques to Make Your Romance Zing

Copyright Cynthia VanRooy - All Rights Reserved



One reason why romance fiction is so popular is because it is emotionally engaging. To make your story zing, to make it emotionally engaging without leaning toward melodrama, there are a number of tricks you can use.

1. Every word carries memories for the reader, every word comes with emotional baggage, but the emotional associations are so rapid they happen below the reader’s conscious awareness. To manipulate the reader’s emotions choose words synchronized with the overall mood of the scene and direction of the plot. Below are two descriptions of the same river, but they use very different, emotionally charged words and convey very different kinds of scenes:

a. The water boiled over the rocks that stabbed through the surface.

b. The water bubbled over the rocks that peeked through the surface.

Be aware of the vocabulary you’re using. Don’t use words randomly. Choose them for their specific emotional effect.

2. I touched on this next technique in an earlier column on sensual writing, but it bears repeating. Insure zing by using at least three of the five senses in a scene, but again, consciously choose details that further the plot and emotional ambiance of your story. Think of the difference between dank and moist, sweet and cloying, slick and slimy.

3. Another feature not normally thought of as a sense, but one you can use to inject life in a scene is movement. An animal’s existence depends on either being able to hunt prey or avoid becoming prey. The sensing of movement is of paramount importance. Humans are animals and as such, we are patterned to track movement. You automatically snag a reader’s attention when you incorporate movement of some kind in a scene.

The following paragraph is from my book Fool’s Paradise. The hero wasn’t doing much but drinking a glass of wine and thinking. I needed to make the scene a little more interesting.

Zack frowned at the inoffensive white moth fluttering around the garden lantern and took another sip from the glass of wine he had poured himself after Kailani left.

The moth doesn’t have anything to do with the plot, but it’s movement jazzes up the scene a little.

4. Color adds real punch. Use it often. Look for synonyms for the standard red, yellow, and blue that echo the mood. Daffodil, curry, topaz, puma, and saffron are all yellow. Blood, cranberry, claret, cinnabar, and barn are shades of red. Army, pickle, slime, celery, malachite and honeydew are green. Be discerning. For instance, don’t use robin’s egg blue to describe the color of a car at the scene of an accident. The emotions associated with that particular choice of words is too benign (unless you’re a fan of Hitchcock’s The Birds). Choose a word that carries more weight.

5. Tie similes, metaphors, descriptions, and analogies to place to immerse your reader in the story world. The following examples are all from Fool’s Paradise, set in Hawaii. I use these only because I’m more familiar with my own work and could find them in a hurry. I wanted to convey a slightly exotic, Pacific Rim feeling.

a. She caught the faint aroma of sandalwood in his aftershave.

I could have used any fragrance like woodsy or spicy, but it wouldn’t have conveyed the exotic note I was after.

b. She’d probably erupt with a fury to rival Kilauea.

Kilauea is a famous volcano in Hawaii

c. Her scent, as exotic as night-blooming orchids, rose around him.


6. To add interest-provoking sensory detail when the viewpoint character can’t experience what you want to describe, have him or her remember or imagine the scene:

He couldn’t see the rumpled bed in the darkened room, but in his mind’s eye Kailani still lay asleep, her smooth shoulders glowing warm against the sheets, her hair spread around her like dark water.

Don’t try to handle all these different techniques during the initial writing. You’ll only slow yourself down and risk losing that wonderful flow that happens when the story details are pouring out almost faster than you can type. Take care of story first. These tricks are for the revisions, when you can play with layering them in, enriching what you’ve already written--making your romance zing!


About the author: Cynthia VanRooy is an award winning romance novelist with nine books published by both print and epublishers.  Additional details can be found at Cynthia's website.




Easy Way to Write Romance - by Rob Parnell