by Jane Godman
I suppose, before I started writing romantic suspense, I had this vague idea that it was a romance with a mystery thrown in. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Romantic suspense stories have to give equal weight to both the romance and the suspense. And that can be hard to get right. As an author, you have to keep the threads of both stories entwined throughout.
Here are some of the key ways to do it:
Get the research right
That whole ‘writing what you know’ mantra is more important than ever in romantic suspense. The details matter. If the killer couldn’t have fired the gun that way, the whole plot falls apart. Police procedures, legal terms, murder weapons…my search history is eye-popping.
Use the setting to add tension
Setting makes every book come alive. In romantic suspense, it does double duty. Nightfall can evoke fear. Enclosed spaces tell us the characters are in danger. Immersion in water or ice evokes urgency. Changing from one location to another gives a sense of movement. Unexpected happenings in a setting can shake the reader out their expectations. Covert Kisses is set in a small town, but the events are unexpected.
Create characters who are worth turning the page for
Romantic suspense is about danger and romance happening at the same time, but none of it is meaningful if we don’t care about the characters. That means investing in villains as well as heroes and heroines.
In “Seven Secrets of Romantic Suspense” Lisa Gardner says:
- Every character (including the villain) should have a goal and something personal at stake in the conflict.
- Every character should have a few key strengths that mold and form them.
- Every character should have some vulnerability.
- Every character should have their own moral code, the things they will and will not do.
- Everyone must evolve.
Reveal the plot slowly
Start dramatic, then there should be lots of twists and turns along the way with the end always appearing to be in doubt.
Sexual tension adds to a mystery story. It complicates the plot—there’s nothing simple about love and lust. Sex makes people vulnerable and in a suspense story, the character can’t afford to be vulnerable. As danger mounts, so does desire. As the future becomes more uncertain, the need for personal connection becomes heightened.
Give glimpses of hope
We need to have doubt and fear in the story. But there needs to be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Harsh setbacks should be followed by fresh ideas and new plans for attack. The hero and heroine can feel cornered, afraid, and overwhelmed, but they should never feel hopeless.
A happy ending
Romance readers know what they want. A happy ending is not a formula, it’s an expectation. Readers have raced at to the finish line, now they need a celebration. They need a big ending, one that ties up all the loose ends. Then they need to see the hero and heroine being happy. After all the torture they’ve been through, we all need a little warm glow before we turn the final page.
I love writing romantic suspense…torturing my characters until the final page! I hope you enjoy the twists and turns of both the mystery and the love story of Covert Kisses and the other stories that are coming soon in the Sons of Stillwater series.
Jane also writes erotic romance as Amanda Stewart.
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Jane's Newest Sensually Thrilling Release: Covert Kisses
When Cameron discovers why Laurie is in town, he's furious to realize he's being framed—and stunned at his sudden feelings for the lovely agent. But as they uncover the traffickers, a savage serial killer targets Laurie. Can Cameron save the life of the woman he's come to care for…and unmask the threat haunting his family and Stillwater?
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