A to Z Challenge 2014 · How to write Romantic Comedy · Romcom Alphabet Soup

Pile on the Zazz

ZAn older generation would call this Pizzazz, right? It’s Glamour. Vitality. Magnetism. Excitement. Charisma.

Zazz in a romantic comedy keeps readers turning pages. Like the x-factor, zazz is hard to define. But you know it when you see it, oh yes.

So your story gots to have a sprinkling of zazz, see? I’ll illustrate with one final excerpt from Mercy’s Embrace. Enjoy!

Thanks so much for coming along on the A to Z journey! I’ll be back to a more normal posting schedule starting Monday.


The minutes ticked away, and McGillvary’s impatience grew. “Can we not go faster?” he longed to bark at his driver, but he kept his peace. Navigating the rain-filled streets at this hour would be a challenge, he knew. Still, he did not like to leave Elizabeth alone with her cousin. McGillvary’s foot tapped impatiently against the brass rail of the groom’s perch. “Get on with it, man,” he muttered.

Presently the coach pulled to the side of the street and stopped. Henry looked over his shoulder at McGillvary. “Someone’s pulled the check string, sir!” he called.

“About time,” said McGillvary. He swung down, but before his feet hit the ground the door opened. “Out!” he heard Elizabeth say.

“Elizabeth, be reasonable!” There was a whine in William Elliot’s voice. McGillvary bit his lip to keep from laughing.

“We are away from the house!” Elizabeth said. “Now you must walk!”

“But it’s raining! Hey!” he cried. “Don’t push!”

McGillvary strolled to the door. “Do you require assistance, madam?” he inquired, peering in.

Mr Elliot cast him a scathing look. When he caught sight of the crop in McGillvary’s hand, he scrambled onto the street.

Elizabeth put her head out. “If you had equipped this vehicle properly,” she said to McGillvary, “there would be pistols here, as a safeguard against highwaymen! As it is, I am forced to use undignified measures.”

“Ye gods,” said McGillvary, grinning. “What did you say to her, Elliot?

William Elliot finished straightening his frock coat. “My hat, please,” he said frostily.

“For your information, Mr Elliot, this necklace belonged to my mother!”

William Elliot’s calm deserted him; his hands clenched into fists. “If you choose to lose your trumpery baubles at cards, it’s nothing to me,” he shouted back. “But I resent you using him as your errand boy! As your cousin, I ought to be the one to redeem your losses!”

“Redeem my—Oh!” she cried. The hat came sailing out and hit Mr Elliot on the forehead. “Redeem that!

Another carriage clattered past. Mr Elliot took up the hat and, baring clenched teeth, put it on. “Now who’s causing a scene?” he shouted.

“Fighting like cats in the rain,” remarked McGillvary to no one in particular. He put aside the whip and began to shrug off his coat. “Very well, Elliot,” he said cheerfully, “since weapons are not at hand—and Henry does keep a pistol, by-the-bye—you and I are reduced to fisticuffs.”

Mr Elliot took a step back. “We shall speak of this later, Elizabeth!” he called. “Tomorrow night! Do not forget!”

“I beg your pardo—” she began, and stopped. She cast a furious look at McGillvary. “Very well, Mr Elliot,” she said haughtily. “Until tomorrow night!”

Mr Elliot bowed and hastened on his way. McGillvary retrieved the whip and his coat. From inside the coach Elizabeth’s pale face looked up at him. “Wrap yourself in the lap robe,” he instructed. “I’ll have you home straightway.”

“But—” she said, but McGillvary closed the door on her words. He tossed the whip to Henry. “St Peter Square,” he ordered. “And Henry, when you reach the corner, pull up. We’ll walk the rest of the way.”


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[excerpt from Mercy’s Embrace: The Lady Must Decide by Laura Hile, 2010]

2 thoughts on “Pile on the Zazz

  1. “Zazz” is terribly subjective. The best thing a writer can do is go with their instincts and let the readers who appreciate it come along.

    Thanks for the insights into the mysterious world of Romantic Comedy, Laura.


  2. Just seeing this comment now. It’s been that kind of week at school. Zazz is the part of the novel that sweeps me up and carries me along. I wish every scene I wrote was this way.


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