Romantic Suspense, Writing Tips

In Romantic Suspense, Do You Go with Predictable or Twisted–or Both?

iStock_000018846669XSmallMy disclaimer is: I don’t write romantic suspense. I wouldn’t know how. It boggles my mind how writers create a cohesive plot and then give us editors nightmares. With this genre you have to think of character, romantic intrigue and the “boo” factor. Where would I even start? Probably with the villain because I love the evil ones (only on paper).

Because I read so much romantic suspense, I can usually smell the ending within the first few chapters. I just hope the reader doesn’t. This is when I remind myself that suspense lovers read lots of suspense and try to figure out the ending. I’m sure that for writers it’s a constant worry–how to generate suspense while keeping the reader questioning and on the edge of her seat. This is where the villain can help out. In a romance novel, though, you don’t want the villain to outshine the hero and heroine. This can be hard to help because readers love to get into the minds of a twisted bad guy/girl. How did he/she become bad? If you think about it, writers are amateur psychologists, piecing together a person’s internal framework then documenting it. Then the writer has to make the two central characters even more interesting. Add the suspense and you have many sleepless nights for any reader–and, I imagine, for a writer of romantic suspense (you all deserve medals!).

As an editor, I see the following scenarios in romantic suspense:

1. A more predictable plot that most readers will still love. Some of us love our “comfort suspense.” (Bones, The Closer)

2. Several red herrings that throw me off before the obvious villain emerges, pointing a gun. (Agatha Christie sometimes, but I love her!)

3. A deepening focus on the characters. The edgier they are, the less I care that the suspense is uncomplicated. (The Killing, Breaking Bad)

4. A completely twisted story where I have no clue what’s about to happen and the author takes me to scary places (The Following, Hannibal, Breaking Bad). Recently, I was telling an author how twisted she was (she really was/is). I could hear her hesitation when she asked, “Is that a good thing?” It’s  a great thing.

I tend to love #4 the most but realize that readers love all four of these scenarios. They each have a place in suspense. We’ve seen just about everything, but if you add that there are a gazillion voices relaying these juicy tales, you haven’t read the same story twice. Just when I think I can’t be surprised, a writer will find a new way to shock me, to take me where I don’t dare go (but sort of want to). The best writers out there do this–lead you with language and/or story into a new or old place. You might have an idea what will happen, but you don’t see it coming–or maybe you do, but you want to go on this ride anyway.


Romantic Life Lessons

I’m Ashamed at How Long It’s Been…

I’ve had posts running in my head but haven’t put words to screen until now. The truth is that so much is happening in publishing right now that I’m dizzy. I come home and flop on my couch (and read a little more).  By the time I carve out a free moment, all I want is escape. But can a romance editor really ever escape?

No. Because I am obsessed with the following shows. They help me with my job. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it:

The Bachelorette: Emily Maynard is as cute as a bug’s ear, a heroine I can buy into, especially as a romance reader. Yes, the whole franchise is cringe-worthy, probably offensive and not that conducive to finding true love, but it’s still so dishy for me. My money is on Arie.

Dallas: I worship at the altar of J.R. Ewing and his festive eyebrows.

Most true crime and romantic suspense-focused shows I love: Bones, Snapped, Criminal Minds, Breaking Bad, Deadly Women, Scandal, and Dateline. My husband is now obsessed with The Shield. No sooner do we finish a disc than he screams for another one. I had to up our Netflix subscription just to keep up. I’m biting my nails over how to cope when we finish the series…which will be this week. Any suggestions?

Mad Men: Can’t get enough of Joan! Wouldn’t it be cool to have a series set during this time?

The Killing: Last night’s finale. Whew. The bleak nature of this show fills my heart with joy. Plus the acting is so good.

The Real Housewives of Orange County and New York City: I loathe the petty confrontations over imagined slights and the bad acting. But I do love when women come together and have fun. The shopping is awesome as well.

Ally McBeal: I’m on the season where she and Robert Downey Jr. fall in love. I have goosebumps.

In books, I just finished The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, which reveals the pattern of a habit and suggests how to break a bad one. I have no bad habits so this is all moot. In fact, I don’t know why I even read it. 🙂 After this, I devoured Fairytale Interrupted by RoseMarie Terenzio, personal assistant to JFK, Jr. an engrossing read. In between these, I read Fifty Shades of Grey and felt fifty shades of red creeping up my neck. I do love when people get obsessed with a book. I chose the right profession.

More pet peeves to come. Wishing I had a dime for all the heroes who rake hands through their hair!