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!

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How to Succeed at Writing Romantic Suspense ... Maybe

How to Succeed at Writing Romantic Suspense

(....or maybe not...)

Clare London: This article is from eHow and How to Succeed in Writing Romantic Suspense... but the frivolous scarlet commentary is mine own :).

Step 1: Successful romantic suspense author Lisa Gardner's article "The Seven Secrets of Romantic Success" suggests starting in the library. Research your subject matter. You must understand the kind of background that goes into criminal suspense novels and mystery thrillers. You need to demonstrate that you understand the way firearms are fired and that you know how medical procedures and postmortem examinations are handled. You should have a solid knowledge of how the organizations and institutions that appear in your fiction operate in order to write about them convincingly. Some of this research can be academic, some of it you may want to experience first hand. You also need to understand what makes a compelling villain. You may want to research the criminal mind and how people are murdered.

-Mum, did you make my sandwiches for lunch?
-Mum, why are you making that weird noise in the back of your throat?
-Mum, why are you clutching the bread knife so tightly?

Step 2: Create compelling characters. In order for your readers to care about (and buy) your writing, you need to craft heroes and villains that are more than just interesting: they need to compel your readers to pick the book up again and again until they finish it.

As for the bad guys, writes successful author Deidre Savoy in her article "Writing Romantic Suspense," "Gone are the days where a writer could describe her villain as just plain crazy." Your antagonist has to have compelling and understandable motives, needs a connection to one or the other of your romantic leads, and has to represent a significant challenge for them to overcome.

Your protagonists, on the other hand, need more than just some sparkling chemistry. Both romantic leads need a stake in the events of the plot, and should learn something about themselves through the course of the story and their interactions with one another.

-Until we faced this terrible danger together, I never realised...
-The irritation I always felt for you was really a manifestation of something far more tender...
-It was marvellous, the way you dealt with my murderous great-uncle by returning the puppy that had been stolen from him as a child...
-And I just hope that one day in the future, working together, maybe, just maybe...
-We'll beat this awful dependency you have on monosyllables.

Step 3: Craft a tense and suspenseful tone. Focus on more than just the scary abandoned buildings or creepy old mansions. Characters reflect tone by how they react to events are they unfold: if the characters are convincingly tense and uncertain of what's around the next corner, chances are your readers will be as well. Throw some twists and turns into your story, surprises that your readers will not see coming.

-You first.
-You go first. You've got the torch.
-No way. You've got the golf club. You go first. Just in case...
-In case...?
-Oh my God! Look, there! It's coming right for us!
-Can you hear me? Where are you? My God, are you okay? Everything's so dark. I can hear a terrible, pained whimpering...
-You're standing on my foot. Turn the torch back on and give me that golf club.
-For the ravening ghostly beast...?
-Oh no, I need it for something much closer to home. Now you're standing on my other foot.

Step 4: Connect the growing sexual tension between your romantic leads with the evolving suspense storyline. As your characters discover new hints and clues that unravel the mystery behind the story, your characters should be feeling the tension between them rise accordingly. As things get more dangerous for your heroes, it should get steamier for them as well. Gardner writes that this practice "ratchets up the tension, keeping the reader flipping pages until the late hours of the night."

-You know, now we're facing such terrible danger with no way of calling for help, it gives me the chance to ...
-All these years. You and me...
-Hurry up, you've chosen a hell of a time to start declaring ... what?
-Don't rush me.
-With seconds of air left in the room? With wolves baying in the woods outside? With the scythe on a flimsy thread, straining above our heads? You think there's time for this?
-Why are you being so defensive?
-Why are you being so obtuse?
-You must know how I feel about you...
-Well, no I don't. And you know why?
-No need to get tetchy...
-Because you never damn well said.
-Pass me the mobile phone, I'll call your mother to come and get us.

Step 5: Give your readers a conclusive and satisfying ending that will leave them feeling good about what they've just read. Provide a satisfying ending for the love story: "happily ever after" is considered the standard. And put the bad guys away; whether you put them in the ground or behind bars, you need to leave your readers with the impression that the heroes defeated them.

-So when did you suspect the man in the dark suit?
-Don't worry your pretty little head about it. You're safe now.
-No, actually, I'd like to know.
-Um... that's for me to know...
-You mean, it was just a guess, wasn't it?
-Please. I'm a professional.
-You're a man 8 years older than me, 6 inches taller, and with brooding good looks. Your qualifications are for a romantic suspense trope, not police work.
-Where are you going?
-To fill in the paperwork. See justice done. Tie up the loose ends in the plot.
-But wait!
-Will you still marry me?
-Read the last chapter. I'll get back to you on that.

Thanks to eHow and How to Succeed in Writing Romantic Suspense...

but I think I need a little more more work :).

picture credits: Gone With the Wind, On the Run in NYC photo by Norman Parkinson.


JB Lynn said...

OMG, that's hysterical.

Thanks, Clare!

Maureen A. Miller said...

You are my idol, Clare! I want to print this out and keep it on my desk.

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