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Heart, Heat, Hope, and Humor

No surprise here, but I have closets full of ‘keeper’ books that go back decades. Crisp contemporaries, crumbling high school favorites, bold and sweeping historicals, witty chick-lit, proper regencies, and romantic suspense. I love them all.  

            Early in my writing career, I studied my keepers to determine what—beyond plot—had me clinging to this particular assortment of books. Clearly, I gravitated to believable stories and relatable characters. Beyond that, no matter what the conflict, century, or setting, there were certain identifiable, emotional elements that kept me coming back. Now, when I’m revising a manuscript, I always make at least one editing pass that focuses on the basic elements that I call The Four Hs.

           First, for me, there is Heart—the beating pulse of every love story. I need to know that   the hero and heroine will ultimately care deeply about one another. That their emotional journey will touch my heart, and that whatever conflict might occur, they are the absolute match the other one needs to form a lifelong relationship.

            Second, bring on the Heat. Whatever level of sensuality you’re comfortable with, there must be that initial spark of flirtation that kindles attraction and ends with a firestorm strong enough to keep them warm for a lifetime.

            Third, there’s just something irresistible about Hope. I want my heroes and heroines to have a sense of optimism. Hope should live in their hearts no matter how dire their situations, how black the blackest moment. They will find a way to make it work, to figure it out… somehow.

            And fourth, when in doubt, add a dollop of humor. There is nothing I like better than a wry aside, an amusing exchange, or dialogue that sparkles on a wave of witty banter. Characters or situations that make me smile, chuckle, or laugh go a long way in keeping me entertained.

            So, there we have my four essential Hs: Heart, Heat, Hope and Humor. You could say Happily Ever After is the fifth H on the list of necessities, but that’s a foregone conclusion for a romance, now, isn’t it?

            As a reader or a writer, what must-have elements put a book on your keeper shelf?

https://www.amazon.com/Everybody-Knows-Sunnyside-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01DVKLL4E

Jacie Floyd writes contemporary romance, romantic comedy, and emotionally-rich stories about strong women and bold men. While polishing her craft as an unpublished author, she was honored to be named a six-time Golden Heart Finalist and two-time Golden Heart winner by RWA. She has self-published seven books and a novella since 2014. Her eighth book, FACE THE MUSIC (Book 4 in the Good Riders series) will be available in April.

She loves hearing from readers and writers and invites you to contact her at www.JacieFloyd.com, https://www.facebook.com/JacieFloyd/, https://www.pinterest.com/JacieFloyd/, https://twitter.com/jaciefloyd

24 responses to “Heart, Heat, Hope, and Humor”

  1. Jackie, This post is so timely for me since I just started my edits on the next Perfect story.

    I love giving my heroines and heroes a sense of humor. Even if they’re in dire situations-not that they do stand-up comedy, but I feel they need to find humor in something to break the ice for them and for the reader. Humor leads to hope and adds to their realism.

    Thanks for the checklist.

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  2. Wonderful blog, Jacie! The 4 H’s really are important for a well-rounded story. Can’t wait for FACE THE MUSIC to release. Whoo Boy!

    Jenn!

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  3. Count me among the readers and writers who love a little dash of humor with my story. Even in my dark, twisty serial-killer-driven romantic thrillers, I add a pop of humor, usually in the form of a minor character. So much darkness begs for a little light and laughter. Great post, Jacie!

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    • Jacie Floyd says:

      Hi Shelley,

      I totally agree. Even in gritty suspense novels, I look for the character who lightens the moment with a joke. I guess that’s why there are so many wise-cracking PIs and forensic-specialists with gallows humor. Laughter gets you through the darkest times.

      Jacie

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  4. Thanks for this succinct reminder—much appreciated as I work on some final edits this morning. Bu that ‘Humor’ is the toughest one for me—I never know what other people are going to find funny! But I’ll keep working on it, because, as you say, it’s essential! Cheers, EE

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    • Jacie Floyd says:

      Thanks, Elizabeth.

      You have your own strengths, and humor is a tough one for a lot of people. And maybe it’s not appropriate for every situation. I tend to be wry and sarcastic in my real life and that doesn’t always translate well on to the page. Sometimes I have to pull back on those tendencies and go with a pun or a play on words for broader appeal. And if a reader doesn’t get my humor, that’s okay, too, as long as it doesn’t detract from the story in some other way.

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  5. I love this, Jacie! These elements really do make books a delight to read. What a wonderful way to look at it. 🙂

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  6. I like the 4 H’s! What a great way to summarize the best qualities in a romance. I wholeheartedly agree. I finally boiled my “necessities” down to 2 things, and I wrote them on a sticky note over my desk: Emotion and Motion. I try to make sure every scene shows the emotion between the characters and forward motion in the conflict/plot.

    And I love that cover. Gorgeous.

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  7. Liz Talley says:

    I like humor, too. It balances out those moments that are hard. Another H! The hard in a book is of course the conflict and that should feel substantial even though there are degrees to conflict. I would add smart writing. I try like heck to do this in my own writing but I certainly admire it in other’s.

    Great post!

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    • Jacie Floyd says:

      Thanks, Liz! ‘Hard’ is definitely a good addition. Conflict gets several editing reviews for me. That can never be amped up too much! And you do a great job with humor in your books. Smart writing is more difficult to define and defers with personal preference, but it’s a great thing to strive for. Thanks for weighing in.

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  8. Jacie Floyd says:

    Hi Anne Marie!

    So right! Emotion and motion are both essential elements. Emotion is covered under Heart, but I’ll have to think of a good H word to work ‘motion’ into my premise!

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  9. Tamara Hogan says:

    What an awesome round-up of romance essentials! I love reading books by writers I personally know, because it’s so fun to see how their sense of humor translates to the page. 😉

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    • Jacie Floyd says:

      Hi Tamara,

      Thanks for commenting! I love to meet an author after reading his or her books to see if they personally have the same ‘voice’ as their books and characters. Kristan Higgins and Susan Elizabeth Phillips definitely do. Their senses of humor shining through. Who else?

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      • Tamara Hogan says:

        I think I’d do pretty well in a blindfolded game called, “Which Ruby Wrote This Book?” Certain Ruby voices are quite distinctive.

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        • Jacie Floyd says:

          Oh, yes! Very strong voices in the Sisterhood from Darynda to Liz to Hope to Vivi and on and on. The voices are very strong! Lots of humor there as well!

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      • What great examples. Both SEP and KH crack me up, both in their books and outside. Thanks for the 4H list!

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        • Jacie Floyd says:

          Hi Bev,

          Thanks for stopping by. They both can be LOL funny! Others have strong emotional pulls or sizzling love scenes or incredible optimism and persistence. There’s something out there for everyone. Just play to your strength!

          Jacie

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  10. I was just thinking about this yesterday, but in terms of my auto-buy list. Authors on my auto-buy are always superlative writers who can craft an impossible conflict and then resolve it in a manner that makes me think that I should have seen it coming…but of course I didn’t. It’s as true in a mystery (impossible conflict = locked room murder?) as in romance!

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  11. Gwynlyn says:

    Love your four ‘H’roundup. I wish I wrote humor better, but dry humor doesn’t usually translate well to the page. The others, however, are spot on.

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    • Jacie Floyd says:

      Thanks, Gwynlyn! Dry humor can be tricky. Not everyone will get it, and you don’t want it to be a distraction, but I think it’s worth the risk.

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