Romantic Suspense

» Posted on May 7, 2007 in Blog | Comments Off on Romantic Suspense

I’m teaching an online class on romantic suspense. I thought of the next two weeks I would post the introduction to it here on my blog. My fourth Love Inspired Suspense is out this month. Vanished is J.T. Logan’s story. He was a character in So Dark the Night. At the end of the week I will post on the book and give one copy away. Details then.

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.