For the next two weeks, Harlequin is hosting a Romantic Suspense Event.
Then join us next week at the Love Inspired Suspense forum at Harlequin.com for a variety of discussions:
Wed will be characters you’d like to see/character name suggestions.
IF YOU HAVE A HANKERING TO WRITE ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
So make it your goal to write a novel that is 100% suspense AND 100% romance–two strands of a rope inseparably intertwined throughout the story.
My editors want the danger to be evident from the start, ideally from the first line, or paragraph, definitely before the end of the first page.
For Love Inspired Suspense, both the hero and heroine need to be introduced and connected to the suspense within the first chapter. In single title romantic suspense, depending on chapter lengths, you might introduce the heroine and suspense plot in the first chapter, the hero and his connection in the second, each with clear goals, and bring them together in the third, perhaps clashing over opposing goals or opposing means of reaching the same goal.
I personally prefer to see both the hero and heroine introduced, and if possible to meet, in the first chapter. But either way, jumping right into the suspense is key. If you spend the beginning writing set-up or only writing about the romance, you will lose your reader before the suspense starts.
Although not essential, I also personally like to keep the bad guy a mystery to both my reader and my hero and heroine. That means, I tend not to include scenes in the villain’s pov (point of view) unless they are anonymous or ambiguous and invite more questions than they answer. To me, keeping the villain a mystery adds more interest and tension to the plot, since the reader will only see things unfold from the hero and heroine’s viewpoint, and therefore share their emotional reactions to what’s happening on the page. Moreover, it keeps the romantic tension center stage, instead of detouring to a few pages where the hero and heroine might not even be on the page.
What is essential, however, is that the heroine be in jeopardy throughout the novel, and that both the hero and heroine have a stake in the outcome.
Let me repeat that another way.
The suspense plot shouldn’t simply be something the hero and heroine stumble into, which thereby puts them in danger, until they find a way out. It shouldn’t be a situation with which they have no personal connection other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Not that that can’t make a compelling story. My Daphne DuMaurier Award winning manuscript was a compelling read to the readers, agents and editors who gave it high scores. However, publishers turned it down precisely because the hero and heroine had no personal stake in the outcome of the jeopardy they’d happened into…well, besides getting out alive. 😀
There was tons of romance. There was lots of suspense of the “oh, no, what’s going to happen next?” variety, and the two were tightly intertwined. But aside from survival, the outcome of the suspense plot had no personal consequences to either of them.
Do you understand the difference?
Another important thing to keep in mind as you devise your suspense plot is to play fair with your reader. You can’t pull a convenient explanation or twist out of the blue; you have to set it up first.
Details are the key to setting up suspense and having fun with the reader. As a writer you leave all kinds of toys on the floor in a scene, use them.
But keep in mind that you can’t slow down for many home and apple pie romance scenes or deep spiritual introspection or discussions in the middle of a fast-paced suspense. They’re fine in a straight romance. But need to be utilized sparingly in romantic suspense.
Lastly, don’t wrap up your suspense too early and leave the reader with only the romance to support the end of the book. Or vice versa.
Remember the image of the rope. Romantic suspense readers want both romance and suspense all the way through the novel. And… inspy readers want to also see a satisfying spiritual growth or realization in the characters.
Being forced together via the suspense plot, forges a positive change in the hero’s and heroine’s characters; growth that must take place before the romance can culminate in a happy ending.
Read that last paragraph again.
It is the bare bones blueprint of how the essential elements of a romantic suspense are inextricably connected.
Your Turn: I hope this brief overview has provided a better grasp of areas of your story that might need some attention. Feel free to ask questions. I’ll be happy to try to answer them.