A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!

Julie Moffet . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Monday, February 14, 2011


First, Happy Valentine's Day to all. Since I write romantic suspense, you'd think I'd remember my blog fell on the holiday that celebrates love. Nope, not me. So this blog will cover a topic completely unrelated to the romantic aspect of "romantic suspense" and focus on the suspense part.

While trying to come up with a topic for my blog, and since this is after all a suspense/mystery writer's blog, I tried to think about how I write romantic suspense. I'm pretty much a plotter in that I need to have the basic guidelines and bones of the story outlined before I get started.

One of the first things I need to decide is do I want the reader to know who the villain is right away or wait until the end of the book for the big payoff?

Both these formats work well with mystery/suspense writing and I've used both to my advantage. Sometimes letting the reader know from the beginning who the "bad guy/gal" is can lead to complexities in a story you might not otherwise be able to develop.

In Desperate Choices, my Carina Press release (available now), the reader knows from the beginning who the "bad guy" is. What they don't know and I try to delve into are the reasons and motivations behind his actions and the choices he makes along the way. The suspense is interwoven, layer upon layer, and hopefully keeps the reader turning the pages to see when the hero and heroine realize "who did it" and make sure that good triumphs and the villain's actions are revealed, all with a satisfactory and hopefully happily ever after.

I've also written stories where red herrings are strewn along the way, as the readers weave their way through the plot, hopefully following each pathway as they try to discern from the clues revealed again "who did it" as well as why they did it and the consequences of their actions. Again, all leading to that big black moment where good trumps evil every time, and everybody (except the bad guy/gal) lives happily ever after.

So, I my question of the day is this . . . which do you prefer? Do you like to know whodunit right away with all the psychological ramifications to come? Or do you like to be led down the winding—often fraught with danger path—where the evildoers are revealed and caught at the end of the story? Which would you choose?

Again, Happy Valentine's Day to all our faithful readers here at Not Your Usual Suspects. May your day be filled with happiness, flowers, and loads and loads of chocolate. :-)


chris k said...

Normally I would have said I don't want to know - but having read deperate choices - I would have to change my mind and say - As long as I care about the characters and have something I don't know to make me want to keep reading - both will work.

I think back to the TV show Columbo - we always knew up front who did it but it was still fun to watch and figure out the reasons along the way.

Eleri Stone said...

That's a hard question because both can work well depending on the story. That being said, I do have a slight preference for knowing who the villain is. Sometimes they can be the most interesting character.

MaureenAMiller said...

Traditionally I want to be guessing, and I think it stems from my mother who had a habit of reading the last two pages of a book before she started reading the entire book. That habit drove me CRAZY. She said it made her pay attention more as she started from the beginning. It still drives me CRAZY! :)

But I like the concept of Desperate Choices. It switches the formula up.

Anonymous said...

I haven't finished Desperate Choices but I'm enjoying it.

Most times I don't want to know the villain, but I do see the value of knowing who the villain and the tension of not how he's going to be found out.

Pam Phillips

Elise Warner said...

Desperate Choices sounds like a "Can't put it down," read. As a writer,it's getting involved with the characters for me. My chosen villain in Scene Stealer charmed me and I had to chooses another.

Julie Moffett said...

I'm a bi-knower! :) Meaning sometimes I like to know and sometimes I don't!! :) Great post, Kathy!!

MaureenAMiller said...

A "Bi-knower". I like that! :)

Tam said...

On a pretty regular basis I read the ending first, so I guess that pretty much says it all. :-D

I figure it's like the different versions of Law and Order. Most versions have the bad guy unknown or maybe known, and in Criminal Intent you know who the bad guy is all along, you see what they are doing while the cops struggle to figure it out. I actually enjoy that because I like to see if they can put it all together. You get the best of both worlds to me. *shrug* I'm weird that way.

Toni Anderson said...

I'm a bi-knower too! :) And I'm Tam and often read the end. That's what happens for not giving this reader HEA when she's expecting it. It all depends on the story though. Sometimes knowing the baddy--or strongly suspecting the baddy cranks up the tension. Other times it is constantly wondering where the danger is coming from next that makes the story. Just realized I'm writing one of each for partials right now.

Kathy Ivan said...

Thanks everybody for stopping by. It looks like most of you are like me and can be happy with the story either way. Like Chris said, I think it's making the reader care about the characters, and layering in all the complexities, that keep you turning the pages.

Again thanks for dropping by. I always find it fun and interesting to see how different readers look at things from some many various perspectives, it definitely keeps me on my toes as a writer. :-)

A Bi-knower! I like that, I'll definitely be using that in the future.


Shirley Wells said...

Ha! I'm a Bi-knower too - and I never knew it. :)

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Kathy! Congrats again on such a great story as Desperate Choices!

I love to know who the bad guy's henchmen are, but maybe not the really bad guy until near the end. But the reveal better make sense with all the hints along the way or I get a little testy!

Wynter Daniels said...

I agree that both ways can work well. I think I prefer to wait until the end to find out. I try to match wits with the hero/heroine to try to figure it out.

Marcelle Dubé said...

I like either way and I NEVER read the ending first! I particularly like it when the villain isn't 100 per cent villainous.

Kathy Ivan said...

Thanks again everybody for stopping by and commenting on the blog. I appreciate all the support this group gives its writers. It's what makes it such a unique and pleasant group to be a part of.

Kathy Ivan

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