[Note from Frolic: We are so excited to welcome author Jayne Ann Krentz to the site today. She has some “hot” tips for writing romantic suspense! Take it away, Janye!]
So you want to write romantic suspense? I’ve been doing this for a while and I am as passionate about writing my stories now as I was back at the start. I love this genre. I have learned a few things along the way, though, and I’ve got some tips.
First, ask yourself if this is what you are called to write. In other words, is romantic suspense your core story? I’m convinced every author has one. Your core story has nothing to do with the fictional landscape you choose – contemporary, paranormal, historical, futuristic, etc.
Instead, your core story is powered by the emotional conflicts, themes, world views and personal values that compel you to write. Most writers will explore their core story throughout their careers. The farther you stray from your core story, the more likely you are to lose your power.
PRO TIP: One of the easiest ways to disguise your core story is by hiding it in plain sight: For example, fire up a series with continuing characters who have ongoing problems and unresolved issues. Mystery and suspense writers have been using this tactic since Sherlock Holmes. Another option is to create a “world” that can anchor the books. Think: small town community novels, urban noir, cozies, Regency London, 1930s Hollywood or a futuristic setting.
This may seem like a contradiction, but trust me, it isn’t. You don’t have to know your core story in order to write it. You can do that intuitively and that’s exactly what most writers do at the start of their careers. Works just fine until you hit a brick wall. I can promise that if you survive in the writing business long enough you will hit a wall. The market can turn on a dime.
PRO TIP: Although you can write intuitively it’s extremely helpful to know your core story when you slam into that brick barrier. Why? Because you will realize that you are not bound by the conventions of whatever fictional landscape you were writing at the time. You can take your story anywhere because human emotions, conflicts and themes are universal.
Not sure romantic suspense is your core story? The question will come into sharper focus if you think about what romantic suspense is not: It is not a mystery or suspense novel with a love interest on the side. Romantic suspense is its own thing – sui generis. (Hah. I’ve been waiting my whole writing career to use that phrase).
There are several defining characteristics of the romantic suspense novel:
In romantic suspense every twist in the suspense should create a twist in the relationship and every twist in the relationship should generate a twist in the suspense.
In romantic suspense, solving the problems in the relationship is as important as solving the mystery. The successful conclusion to both elements – the romance and the suspense — should come at about the same time at the end of the book.
In romantic suspense, both protagonists must have a critically important job to do in the story. Each must contribute equally to the successful resolution of the suspense element. Each must work to make the relationship succeed. Each must save the other and together they take down the bad guys. And if you don’t think this takes some serious plotting – think again.
PRO TIP: The relationship is a lot more compelling if each of the romantically-linked characters has a unique set of personal issues and a unique skillset. The protagonists need to work out a mutually respectful partnership in order to survive. That mutual respect is the foundation of the love story.
There you have it, everything I know about writing romantic suspense. Still think it’s your core story? Go for it!
About the Author:
With over 40 million novels sold, Jayne Ann Krentz is one of the most commercially successful authors writing today. While she is a household name for her romantic thrillers, many of her more than 50 New York Times bestselling novels were historical romance and futuristic romance, written under the names Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle, respectively. Krentz lives in Seattle Washington.
All The Colors of Night by Jayne Ann Krentz, out January 5!
Two psychics plunge into a dark world of deadly secrets in this second installment of the Fogg Lake trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz.
North Chastain possesses a paranormal talent that gives him the ability to track down the most dangerous psychic criminals. When his father suddenly falls into a coma-like state, North is convinced it was caused by a deadly artifact that traces back to the days of a secret government program known only as the Bluestone Project. North knows his only hope of saving his father is to find the artifact. He is good when it comes to tracking down killers, but to locate the relic he’s going to need help from a psychic who knows the shadowy world of obsessive collectors, deceptive dealers and ruthless raiders.…
With her reputation in ruins after a false accusation, antiques expert Sierra Raines is looking for a fresh start. She turns to the murky backwaters of the paranormal artifacts trade, finding and transporting valuable objects with a psychic provenance. When North Chastain approaches her for help, Sierra takes him on as a client, though not without reservations. North represents the mysterious Foundation, the secretive organization established to police the underworld populated by psychic criminals and those, like Sierra, who make a living in the shadows of that world.
North and Sierra soon find themselves at the scene of the Incident, which occurred decades ago in Fogg Lake. The town and its residents were forever changed by the disaster in the nearby Bluestone Project labs. The pair unearths shocking truths about what happened that fateful night, but they are playing with fire—someone in town knows what they’ve discovered and will do anything to make sure the secrets stay buried.