Author Robyn Grady on Emotional Punch!

Harlequin’s Robyn Grady on Emotional Punch…

Pre-published writers of Romance are sometimes confused about emotional punch. What exactly is it? How do we get us some J

Following are tips and a couple of exercises that might help!

For a Romance we need:

Ø  Compelling characters driving the story

Ø  Strong goals and conflicts stated early (Bring that conflict forward! J)

Ø  Sympathetic (and flawed) characters with pasts, and who exhibit believable emotions/reactions. (Perfect, single-dimensional people aren’t interesting.)

A Romance must fulfil a reader’s expectation through –

Emotion, emotion, emotion!
Never hold back on the attraction (or sexual tension)
Find ways to deliver EMOTIONAL PUNCH!

Emotional punch, is NOT constant bickering, endless tears, lamenting one’s life at every turn. It’s not a bullying hero or a cliché needy heroine. It’s not belabouring one point over and over until the magical answer arrives after the black moment (this is what an editor might term elliptical/circular writing or plot.)

A story must start at a compelling point where characters are introduced in a sympathetic light and the conflict is hinted at/set up. The stakes must steadily rise as the problems become wider and deeper than anyone could first have thought until the reader can’t imagine how these two, so clearly meant to be together, can possibly overcome their problem. (Of course, this must be in-keeping with the tone of your line or sub-genre.)
Note: the best conflicts come from the characters’ inherent beliefs/desires/fears, etc.

Tell the reader what she needs to know, when she needs to know it, and filter background and rising stakes throughout the story. Be careful not to hold back too much either. As you reread and edit, constantly ask yourself why. Always consider giving your reader “more” and work the balance between fast-paced and “thin”.

Exercise 1

Look at your first few pages.

Are the opening pages compelling, starting at the point of change?
Have you foreshadowed/introduced the conflict?
Have you taken the opportunity to introduce the romance (and, perhaps,
build on the attraction)?
Remember: the reader wants to fall in love right along with the heroine.

Work now to either:
a)             find a more compelling place to begin with a winning opening
b)             tighten your backstory / introduce critical points
c)              add to the attraction/sexual tension

Exercise 2

Take a scene that you think is filled with emotion and double it!  Not with
 purple prose but by using the characters’ senses and developing
 universal feelings of desire, uncertainty, anger, devotion, etc.

You’ll be surprised what you keep and what you might hone back
from the original! J

Trick: With particularly important scenes, tell yourself these paragraphs will feature on the inside jacket, the first words a potential buyer might read. Make them clear, make them count, and have them throb with meaning for both the character and your audience! 

And remember, along your journey to publication, surround yourself with people who believe. J

Robyn Grady

Robyn has a new release out this month! Millionaire Playboy, Maverick Heiress’ – an editor’s Top Pick and Book of the Month - is available in Australia, New Zealand, and NA now. Head on over to ROMANCE BOOK PARADISE to win an autographed copy!  


  1. Hi Riya and Robyn:
    All good points and I would add important regardless of the genre. In my epic fantasy, romance is a sub-plot and one that has the reader cheering for both characters.
    N. R. Williams, Fantasy Author

  2. Yes, I also agree with Nancy, fantastic tips Robyn!

  3. It was very interesting to read this post. I suspect that you'll convert me into a romance reader soon :)

  4. Great post! I especially love that trick at the end about making scenes count by telling yourself they'll be featured on the inside jacket - that's a great way to make sure you give it all you've got!

  5. Great article, Riya and Robyn. Emotional punch can be used in any fiction. I enjoyed reading this over.

  6. Robyn, thank you very much for this helpful post. I've saved a copy of it to refer to. And thank you, Riya, for hosting Robyn today.

  7. I love that trick!!! I'm going to check out a few scenes right now! :)

  8. Some great ideas and exercises. Congratulations on your new release and your successful writing career.

  9. fantastic tips. I'll try those exercises.

  10. Awesome advice and exercises, Robyn. :)

  11. What great tips and exercises. Thanks, Robyn.

  12. Great tips! I like the idea of pretending the words will go on the book jacket.

  13. Hi there all my Friends!

    Thank you all for coming along to read this post!

    Thank you to Author Robyn Grady as well for providing this.

  14. Double it? Wow, that really is a challenge. I've got a scene in mind -- I'm going to go think about how to do it.


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