Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jerk, Jolt and Jump?

My heroine’s heart does all that, and more. My hero’s heart does the same too.

But, while hearts can (and do) thump, pound, and thud with shock and tension (not to mention sexual pursuits), do they actually jerk, jolt or jump?

We use the expressions (or at least I do), but in fact those J’s actually come from elsewhere in the body, and not the heart.

I’ve learnt to be more circumspect about my characters’ hearts after discovering (while editing one novel) that my heroine’s heart had done the 3 J’s a few times, plus thumped , pounded, thudded, and leapt, and her heartbeat had accelerated, quickened, raced, skipped, missed a beat and done so many different things that she was in danger of an imminent heart attack.

What about ‘heartache’ and ‘heartbreak’? Does the heart really ache? Can it actually break? The answer is probably no, but poetry and literature have concentrated on the heart as the centre of emotion.

In the culture of all ages, the heart is everywhere, from the Roman poet Catullus with his heart ‘hardened’ (problem with his arteries?) to J.K.Rowling’s ‘The Warlock’s Hairy Heart’ (what??)

The heart has dominated emotional response and love - think Valentine’s Day and ‘I (heart) -  whatever’.

However, our emotions, feelings, reactions come mainly from our minds, and from elsewhere in our bodies too, not to mention from adrenalin which originates in the kidney.  Not very romantic, huh? 

So, in romance novels anyway, the heart will continue to jerk, jolt and jump.


  1. You're right, I think, Paula. So we have to find more words and similes to describe the tumult in our characters' hearts.

  2. I'm always trying to find new phrases to describe my characters emotions and reactions when referring to things of the heart.

    I know for sure I've used a couple (or more) jumps and jolts!

    But I'll swear, when I'm sad about something, it's the area around my heart that really does hurt (in my chest) and not my kidneys!!

  3. I think romance novels have to be given a little leeway when it comes to describing emotions. We have to be able to do it in a way that a reader will relate to, and if that means we need a few jolts or jumps, so be it. That's also why, however, those links on our Helpful Writing Hints page are so useful, because they let us show emotions in physical ways.

  4. Agre with you all about finding different ways of showing our characters' emotions and reactions - and hearts ARE more romantic than kidneys! ;-)