Life Coach Magazine

Romantic Suspense

By Writerinterrupted @writerinterrupt

Man woman running

What is a romantic suspense? That’s a good question and one I’ve been asked by more than one person. Obviously it’s a story that has a romance and a suspense. Well, duh—hence the term romantic suspense! Okay, then how much romance and how much suspense? That’s a good question, too. And a lot of people disagreed on the mix. A lot of it depends on what you want to read/write. I’ve heard romantic suspense is anywhere from a 70/30 to a 50/50 to a 30/70 split. In conclusion, don’t worry about the exact split for a romantic suspense. It is a love story with intrigue and mystery. The key is that it is about a relationship between a man and a woman who are caught up in some kind of intrigue—a mystery, a suspense, a thriller, an adventure.

An inspirational romantic suspense has three main elements: a suspense or mystery, romance and faith element. For me that means I have to juggle three aspects of a story within a 275 page manuscript. Not an easy task and one that requires a lot of planning and thought. I often feel like a juggler with multiple plates in the air. If I lose sight of them, they could all come down crashing onto the floor.

In a suspense story pacing is so important. A reader expects to be taken on a merry ride where the hero and heroine (the protagonists) are threatened, running for their lives, trying to solve something, trying to save someone. In a mystery, which I call a whodunit, the action might be more sedate but not necessarily. My stories often combine the elements of a suspense and a mystery.

For me a romantic suspense is usually fifty percent suspense and fifty percent romance (that isn’t a hard and fast rule as I pointed out above). So often the problem arises when you are working your way through the suspense part of your book and you forget to have your hero and heroine fall in love. It can be harder to show it when they are being threatened or running for their lives. But if you have a furious pace throughout your book, it will overload your readers. I have read many romantic suspense books, and there should always be moments of down time. That can be when you build the romance between your hero and heroine. Even when they are running for their lives, it is a good thing to keep them emotionally connected and aware of each other.

At the same time, don’t forget your suspense element as you are writing each scene, even the ones I call my “lull” scenes where often the romance is developed more. In those I often have my hero or heroine think or discuss something to do with the suspense to keep it in front of the reader.

In an inspirational romantic suspense you must also delve into the spiritual growth of your hero and heroine. I find it is easier in a romantic suspense because of the heightened action and often the life and death aspect of these type of stories. We turn to the Lord in times of trouble and when we need Him to help us through a situation. This can feed very naturally into your story.

But again I will stress because you have to juggle faith, romance and suspense, you must plan. In a lot of stories you will need to give false information and clues as well as real ones. Readers like to have a chance to figure out who is behind all the commotion in your story. I do realize some suspense books (not mysteries) the reader will already know who the villain is and that is fine. An example is the heroine being stalked by an ex-husband or ex-boyfriend. She knows who he is, but she is in grave danger. Those are sometimes called “woman in jeopardy” stories.

So where do you start? The first thing I usually come up with is a premise for my story. Sometimes it can be something as simple as a favorite setting like the jungle in Heart of the Amazon or an occupation in Buried Secrets. In So Dark the Night I came up with the premise what would happen to a sister who witnessed her brother’s murder and fled the scene with the killers after her. Or in Vanished, the premise was what would happen if a sheriff had to be both lawman and father when someone from his past kidnaps his daughter. Sometimes writers will develop the antagonist first and what the crime is going to be before delving into the protagonist. Usually for me it is easiest to come up with some kind of concept and build a story from there. What I want to stress is to find what works best for you. What works for one writer doesn’t necessarily work for you. We all have different writing styles and methods. However, be open to trying something new because you never know where it might lead you. Heart of the Amazon came out of me trying something a little different and I had so much fun with it.

How do you come up with the idea for a suspense? Can you give me a premise of a romantic suspense in one or two sentences? Often when pitching your book you will have to do that?

Here are some teasers I’ve used on my bookmark:
Heart of the Amazon
Polar opposites Kate and Slader must depend on each other to survive.
So Dark the Night
Will Emma and Colin solve her brother’s murder in time to save her life?
When J.T.’s worst nightmare occurs, will faith and Madison’s love be enough to sustain him?
Buried Secrets
With people after them, Zach and Maggie race to find a treasure worth killing over.

Now it’s your turn. What is yours?

Romantic Suspense
Romantic Suspense
Romantic Suspense
Romantic Suspense
Romantic Suspense
Romantic Suspense
Romantic Suspense

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