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10:39 am: Wright's Writing Corner: Catching the Lightning – Part Two*
* -- which is actually Romantic Tension Two, part two, making it, in fact, Part Three.





In this installment, we are continuing our discussion of the zing moments…those moments of heightened intimacy in a romance that produce a sudden jolt in the reader. First kisses. The moment she says, “I love you.” (preferably not followed by “I know.” As a child, I could not think of anything more embarrassing than finally baring one’s heart only to receive a “I know.” That’s an anti-zing moment. An ack, rather than a zing.)


 What moments produce zing? What moments could the author beef up to give more zing?


In the comments from the previous week there were some very nice examples of zing, as well as some thoughts on what might be the catalyst. For instance, putting the beloved in danger is a great way to have the hero or heroine suddenly realize the depth of their affections—a great zing moment.


In my efforts to conquer the Everest of romantic tension, I have been keeping a list of zing-producers. Here are my two versions of the list:



  1. Spot
  2. Meet
  3. Brush hands
  4. Touch
  5. Thoughts linger
  6. Resist
  7. Body responding
  8. Resist
  9. Thoughts hung up on
  10. Resist
  11. Heart responding
  12. Resist
  13. Heart entirely lost
  14. Discover love




  1. Meet and or notice the other person
  2. Realize that one has noticed the other person
  3.      Resist this fact
  4. Realizing that one is 'a bit taken'
  5.      Resist this fact
  6. Realizing that one cares what the other thinks of one.
  7.      Resist this fact
  8. Realizing that one is really quite serious about the other person
  9.      Resist this fact
  10. Realizing how vulnerable one is around the other person
  11.      Resist this fact
  12.  Realizing one does not know if the other person feels the same way
  13. Fear of being rejected
  14. Fear of losing the other person
  15. Realizing that they are in love
  16.      Resist this fact
  17. Fear of never feeling this way again
  18. Admitting their love--to themselves
  19. Admitting their love to the beloved
  20. Discovering that they are loved in return


A great deal of romance is about resistance. “He is the last man I would marry” is just as much an indicator to the reader of the romantic struggle going on in the heart of the heroine as “He’s the man I want.” In fact, more so. There is very little tension in a story about two people who already want each other. Most romance is about overcoming the reasons that they don’t want each other.


Maybe another time I will do a post on the importance to romantic tension of resisting the lure. Perhaps, I will call it: To Heck With The Borg! Resistance is Essential!


Each of these steps…and the others I have not yet thought of…are opportunities for the author to zing the reader. Can a given book make use of every single one of these steps? Probably not, though it might be possible. But many books could make use of more of these steps than they do.


Many authors, even romance authors, just breeze past the zing moments without taking advantage of them. They often do not realize that just pausing briefly to have the character think: “Hey, maybe I like him!” Or “Whoa, I don’t recall feeling this way before. Could something serious be going on here?” can be enough to bring out the zing factor, making the very same scene that much more pleasant and re-readable.


(I go back and reread some of my favorite zing scenes, at least in my favorite books. And others must, too, because some of you folks posted just such scenes last week.)


So, in closing, zing is that sudden moment of increased intensity between a couple that electrifies the reader. Romance readers read for the zing, but even regular readers enjoy an occasional zing to spice up their action adventure or their grizzly horror story.  (Well, maybe not the grizzly horror story.)


One can add more zing by deliberately highlighting such moments, recognizing them in the story and drawing them out on the page. The more such moments the author pauses to showcase, the more the story zings the reader.


So, take the list above and move down it like a locomotive juggernaut, relentlessly bonking the reader with every single stop on the list, cramming in as much zing as humanly possible, while adding fifty new stops of your own.



Seriously, take the list above and glance at it. See if anything in it inspires a scene or even a sentence that might heighten a moment that already exists in your manuscript.


And if you do think of fifty more zingable moments, please share them with me!




[User Picture]
Date:June 2nd, 2010 03:49 pm (UTC)
Whatever path, when your characters take it must seem natural for them. Misunderstandings can be good plot points.

With a curtsey to Barbara Cartland:
an 18th-century gentleman might make the assumption that all women who work in taverns are willing and ready--or so his friends say. He doesn't usually go after them, but this one seems different...
She sure is! She's a parson's daughter trying not to starve and therefore waiting tables. Hotly offended by his crude advances, she is nevertheless drawn by his witty repartee which he assumes would be lost on her. However when she answers him back, he realizes she is something unusual. When he finds out her actual nature he is shocked at himself but realizes he's not going to be the last man to try her and others may use more force. In fact, he prevents such an act.
Ah, the dilemma...how to rescue her without ruining her. But he wants to ruin her. Sort of. And she really is not entirely unwilling. But he's a bad boy/black sheep/gambler sort so people will already make certain assumptions about their relationship...unless they take pains to disguise it.

So a lot particulars of the zing is going to depend on the period an author chooses. In a setting where class differences and virginity don't matter, those kinds of zings won't work.

[User Picture]
Date:June 2nd, 2010 05:19 pm (UTC)
Oh, those are great zings!

Which is why taboo is so essential to romance...it gives something to have resistance over!

A favorite romance writer of mine recently did a similar thing by having the girl dress as a boy and the guy keep wondering why he was attracted (also Regency period)..though I think she could have added a lot more zing than she did.
Date:June 2nd, 2010 06:52 pm (UTC)

Sorry, "Blackadder" spoiled that one for me

In the Elizabethan series where they mock the old trope of girl-dressed-as-boy by introducing the character of "Bob":


I find it hilarious, rather bawdy, and totally ruins any possibility of "zing!" if I ever come across it in another context :-)
Date:June 2nd, 2010 07:07 pm (UTC)

Ones that do work for me

I don't know if they quite qualify as "zing!" moments, but...

(1) When Eowyn and Faramir are standing on the walls of the city and the wind blows their hair together :-)

"And so they stood on the walls of the City of Gondor, and a great wind rose and blew, and their hair, raven and golden, streamed out mingling in the air."

(2) Dr. Watson and Mary Morstan in "The Sign of Four", when Holmes and Watson are just starting to investigate the case where Miss Morstan is the client:

"Miss Morstan and I stood together, and her hand was in mine. A wondrous subtle thing is love, for here were we two who had never seen each other before that day, between whom no word or even look of affection had ever passed, and yet now in an hour of trouble our hands instinctively sought for each other. I have marvelled at it since, but at the time it seemed the most natural thing that I should go out to her so, and, as she has often told me, there was in her also the instinct to turn to me for comfort and protection. So we stood hand in hand, like two children, and there was peace in our hearts for all the dark things that surrounded us."

Yeah, sometimes I'm sentimental :-)

[User Picture]
Date:June 2nd, 2010 11:11 pm (UTC)
There can be all kinds of obstacles. . .
Date:June 4th, 2010 02:27 am (UTC)

A classic moment from Georgette Heyer

Hey--that's similar to what Georgette Heyer did in These Old Shades! The hardened rake encounters a girl dressed as (and living as) a boy and takes "him" on as a page. Almost immediately he realizes the true sex of the page, but for his own reasons he lets the charade continue. I think the boyish clothing and behavior of Leonie cause him to see her in a far different way than he sees most women, and he falls in love (as does she). I love this story for the classic "redeem the rake" story line with a mixture of the fairy tale aspect and some psychological realism.
Date:June 2nd, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)

Oh, Darcy!

I'm re-reading Pride and Prejudice, and it really does hit almost all the zings you mention. Every time I pick it up I'm surprised at how enjoyable it is to reread - obviously the pleasure is not in plot suspense, since the plot is well known, but in those fantastic narrative moments. This for example, when Darcy's attraction to Lizzy first emerges in the novel:

"Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley's attentions to her sister, Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend. Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticise. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she hardly had a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness. Of this she was perfectly unaware; to her he was only the man who made himself agreeable nowhere, and who had not thought her handsome enough to dance with."


And of course, in the theme of resistance, we have Darcy's utterly horrible first proposal later in the book. :-)


[User Picture]
Date:June 2nd, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC)

Re: Oh, Darcy!

You are right! That book is just terrify and that is a tremendously zingy passage.

(One of my three favorite movies is the Joe Wright version of Pride and Prejudice with Kiera Knightly...who doesn't much impress me in other roles, but who played Elizabeth exactly the way I imagined her.)
Re: Oh, Darcy! - (Anonymous) Expand
Date:June 2nd, 2010 11:11 pm (UTC)

"She Stoops to Conquer"

Your example reminded me of the play by Oliver Goldsmith from 1773; the plot is basically that two young men are going to visit a family living in the countryside in order to court the ladies living there. One of them, Marlow, is very shy to the point of being tongue-tied when talking to ladies of his own class but completely different and very charming when dealing with barmaids and serving girls.

Since they only know the family by repute (the father is a friend of Marlow's late father) and are not personally familiar with them, it's easy for the locals to play a practical joke on them when the two townies from London arrive looking for directions. They're directed to an "inn" for the night (when the so-called "inn" is actually the country house they're looking for) and when they arrive, they behave rudely - treating the master of the house as the innkeeper and so on.

When Marlow meets Miss Hardcastle, he's as stiff as a board and she's not too impressed by his shyness, but when his friend tells her about his 'problem' with ladies, she goes along with the joke and pretends to be the barmaid in order to see if he's more interested in her that way (and that's where the title comes from - she 'stoops', i.e. pretends to be lower-class, in order to 'conquer' or win him over).

After many hilarious misunderstandings, True Love wins out over all!

[User Picture]
Date:June 3rd, 2010 12:32 am (UTC)

Re: "She Stoops to Conquer"

I like that play. I like it better than A Comedy of Errors. It's interesting to note that George Washington rarely missed an opportunity to go to the theatre--or the racetrack.
[User Picture]
Date:June 3rd, 2010 12:03 pm (UTC)

Re: "She Stoops to Conquer"

I have heard of "She Stoops To Conquer" many times but did not know what it was about.

Sounds delightful.
[User Picture]
Date:June 2nd, 2010 05:40 pm (UTC)

OT: Prospero in Hell

Saw at least one huckster with your book for sale this weekend at WisCon. Thought you'd want to know.
[User Picture]
Date:June 2nd, 2010 05:45 pm (UTC)

Re: OT: Prospero in Hell

Cool! Thank you!

I saw Prospero Lost at Balticon, too. Got to sign it, even. Such fun. ;-)
[User Picture]
Date:June 2nd, 2010 08:38 pm (UTC)

Re: OT: Prospero in Hell

I -might- be traveling for another book signing next weekend. Should be the right venue for it. Will let you know.
[User Picture]
Date:June 3rd, 2010 08:33 am (UTC)

Re: OT: Prospero in Hell

Is there an outlet to purchase your book signed?
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