Genre Month: What Makes Romance Suspenseful?

By Fay Lamb

There are elements that go into every great romantic suspense:

An Introduction of a Likeable Hero and Heroine

A romantic suspense is first and foremost a romance. So, the same rule applies when in comes to the introduction of a hero and heroine. While most rules can be broken by those who are intimate with them, generally the reader must meet the hero and heroine by the end of the first chapter or no later than the second. If possible, the couple should also meet within that time frame. These main characters must be likeable. Otherwise, forget the villain. Your readers will want to kill them for you.

Bolster the hero and heroine with personalities that will make the reader want the couple together. In Frozen Notes, the hero and heroine are in vastly different places, but they are both facing traumatic events: one a murder-suicide that leaves the character shocked and filled with grief. The other is an accidental overdose that makes the character want to live. The hero and heroine know each other. In fact, the hero’s long-ago actions caused both horrific events. Because both are facing an uphill battle that started with the demise of their relationship, the reader’s want these two together.

A Conflict Fueled Plot Driven by a Troublesome Villain (or Two)

Conflict is the fuel that drives a story forward. Without fuel, the story won’t even sputter and die. In a romantic suspense, this fuel is often what drives the couple’s separation, keeping them apart.

The conflict in the main plot of a suspense novel must be the villain (person or thing) that will bring danger to the hero and heroine. The villain’s actions may be toward only one member of the dynamic duo, but at some point in the plot, the villain must be a threat to both the hero and heroine. The conflict he or she brings to the story must build as the story moves forward.

In Frozen Notes, there is more than one villain, but all want what the heroine has hid from everyone. Yet, the heroine has only one of the items sought—the item that can hurt someone she loves. The hero has been entrusted with information that can bring all the villains down. The chapters build with the reader being made privy to new information—new twists in the story—with each scene building on the conflict.

 

 Pacing: the Right Speed in the Right Scene

I’m often asked the difference between a thriller and suspense. The difference is the pacing. Generally, a thriller moves quickly. The author uses short, clipped sentences or other techniques to develop a sense of urgency to the scenes, which amp up to a fast pace with a lot of action. The action might build to a point where the reader is clinging to the seat waiting to see what’s going to happen next. The key to this type of writing is to keep the characters in motion, fighting against conflict.

A writer of suspense, though, must develop the skill that allows them to recognize when to slow the pace of the story in order to draw out the tension of a scene.

In Frozen Notes both techniques are used. In a scene where a shot rings out and a bullet hits the outside of the heroine’s home in close proximity to her head, you can be assured that time of the essence. The action moves quickly. Later, though, when a villain is holding the hero captive and he sees a way to get the gun out of the villain’s hands, the action is slowed. Each movement scrutinized, drawing out the scene for the reader. That’s the Alfred Hitchcock style of suspense, and when done correctly it works on the page just as it does on the screen. A student of romantic suspense will study these scenes to make sure that the pacing used is just right.

Oh, and no writer ever wants to hurry the romantic kiss. The key is to turn the slow pace of the suspenseful moment into one the reader wants to see occur rather than one the reader wants the character to avoid.

And last, we have our …

Happy-Ever After Ending

Spoiler alert: in Frozen Notes the hero and heroine have a happy-ever-after ending. I don’t mind telling you that because while the sweet kiss, lover’s embrace, or a poignant moment is nice, it usually comes at the end of the story. The heart of a romantic suspense—the part that an author wants the reader to remember—is the journey that got them to that moment.

So, find that lovable hero and heroine, put them into conflict with a villain or two, and amp up or draw out the suspense to take the reader on an adventure they will never forget. Give the hero and heroine a happy ending, and let the villain get what he or she deserves.

Click to tweet: A Month of Genre. Romantic Suspense post by Fay Lamb. “A writer of suspense, though, must develop the skill that allows them to recognize when to slow the pace of the story in order to draw out the tension of a scene.” #Suspense #amwriting


Frozen Notes

Lyric Carter’s dreams of fame and fortune in a rock band ended the day Balaam Carter left to pursue their dreams without her. When Balaam’s brother promised to love and protect Lyric and to love her son, Cade—his brother, Balaam’s child—as his own, she believed him. But Braedon turned her dreams into a nightmare by killing Balaam’s best friend, turning the gun on himself, and placing Lyric in the middle of a criminal investigation that could leave her and Cade dead. Balaam Carter’s every dream has come true, but he’s living in a nightmare of addiction and regret. The famous rock star would give everything he has to return to the girl he once held in his arms—back when his only crime was running moonshine for his father.

Now, he’s seeking redemption for all the destruction his dreams have brought to the people he loves. No one said the road to recovery would be easy, but Balaam is also desperate to protect Lyric and the little boy he left behind from a state full of drug lords who believe Lyric has the evidence that will tumble their lucrative cartels. Balaam’s continued sobriety, his natural ability for finding his way out of trouble, and his prayers to God above for the strength to never let them down again are all that he has to protect Lyric and his son. And still, he doesn’t know if he’s up for the task.

Coming in April: Delilah