Thursday, June 8, 2017

Six Tips for Writing Romantic Suspense by Connie Mann

My favorite stories have always been romantic suspense. I love danger and spine-tingling suspense almost as much as I love getting swept away by a good love story. So what could be more fun than stories that put the two together? 

To make it work, you have to blend both of those elements. The authors who do it well make it seem effortless, but as we all know, once you sit down to write your own story, things get a wee bit more complicated. If you’re thinking about writing romantic suspense, here are some things to consider before you start.

1-Romance/Suspense Ratio

Depending on your personal preference and/or publisher guidelines, the ratio of suspense vs. romance can vary quite a bit. My new release, HIDDEN THREAT, has been called a ‘character-driven suspense’ because I spent a bit more time developing the characters on the front end, but then I ramped up the danger and upped the pace as the story raced toward the finish line. Other books start with a bang (sometimes literally) and don’t let up the pace until the last page. The romance is there, of course, but it takes up less space. Spend a bit of time thinking through where your story fits along the spectrum. 

2-Choose Your Setting

Make sure your setting is interesting. Think about the specific locations, features and even weather patterns unique to that setting. Use them –and make sure you take a sentence or two to describe them. When I have to page back in a story, trying to figure out where, exactly, I am in the world, I get frustrated and feel like the author missed an opportunity. Use your setting. Weave it into the fabric of your story so that it wouldn’t work if you moved it elsewhere.

3-Know Your Villain

Ever character in your story views him/herself as the hero of their own story, including the villain. They have reasons they do what they do and they need to be good ones. We may not like them, but they need to be believable, fully fleshed-out characters. No cardboard cutouts. The villain also needs to be strong enough that readers worry whether our hero/heroine can defeat them in the end. The stronger the conflict and higher the stakes, the better the story.

4-Add Red Herrings

You don’t want a plot that runs in a straight line, with an ending that’s obvious by chapter three. Readers tell me they love it when I keep them guessing about the villain’s identity until the very end. The only way to do that effectively is through red herrings. Who else could have done it? Who else had motive? Means? Opportunity? Use false trails and misdirection to keep readers worrying and guessing until the story’s big reveal.

5-Remember the Romance

Sometimes, the romance can get buried under all the running and bullet-dodging. As you think through the plot, make sure you allow the characters a bit of down time, some breathing room between action scenes. That’s a good time to turn the focus onto the couple’s relationship and deepen the romance. But choose wisely. A long, drawn-out discussion and lingering kiss while bullets are flying will seriously annoy your readers.

6-Tie up the Loose Ends

After the big climactic scenes where the villain is defeated and the guy gets the girl, you need to make sure you’ve tied up those other threads and picked up the breadcrumbs you sprinkled throughout the story, too. If you’ve created secondary characters readers care about, they want to know how things turned out for them, too. Make sure you give them that closure.

If this still sounds daunting, remember that like everything else in writing, it takes time and practice to make it work well. I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but I learn something new with every story I write. Read extensively in the genre and take time to analyze the books to see how the author built the story. Happy writing. I’ll look forward to reading your new romantic suspense.

What are your favorite kinds of stories? What appeals to you about them?

Connie Mann is a licensed boat captain and the author of romantic suspense novels Tangled Lies, Angel Falls and Trapped. Her latest novel, Hidden Threat, (book 2 of the Safe Harbor series) is now available from Waterfall Press. When she’s not dreaming up plotlines, you’ll find “Captain Connie” on Central Florida’s waterways, introducing boats full of schoolchildren to their first alligator. She’s also passionate about helping women and children in developing countries break the poverty cycle. She and her hubby love traveling and spending time on the water with their grown children and extended family. (Hubby says they are good at fishing, but lousy at catching.) Visit Connie online at


She’ll uncover who’s poisoning her hometown—at any cost.
An environmental crisis is the last thing clean-water crusader Eve Jackson expected in her hometown. She’s used to taking on powerful DC politicians in her fight, but when a baby in Safe Harbor, Florida, shows mysterious signs of possible poisoning, the danger hits painfully close to home, stirring memories of her own mother’s death.
Eve’s search leads her to the Sutton Ranch, now run by her high school crush, Cole. Focused on keeping the family ranch afloat as a series of deformed calves are born to his herd, Cole has no time for Eve’s crusade. But as her unwelcome questioning ostracizes her from locals, Cole’s irritation turns to intrigue—not only about the source of the poisoned water but also the tenacious, loyal, and passionate woman determined to help.
As Eve digs deeper into Cole’s operation, she sees her suspicions in Sutton Ranch may be misplaced. Yet she can’t shake the feeling that his ranch, and perhaps his past, hold the answers she seeks. When the sabotage escalates, the two must work together to uncover the culprit—if they can survive the investigation.


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