|Mystery, Mayhem and a dash of
ingredients for Romantic Suspense
Wright All rights reserved
Those first few
lines, those opening sentences and paragraphs, are your
first step to grabbing the reader and pulling her into
romantic suspense, its crucial.
Ellis slowed for the traffic lights. She
didnt need this - time was of the
looked about. Everything seemed fine, calm.
She tapped her fingers against the steering
wheel. She would be
okay, no need to panic, no reason to worry.
shadow came across her face, and Kareena
arms came down, the windscreen smashed into
millions of tiny pieces. The sledgehammer
landed on the steering wheel, barely missing
Already, the reader
has connected. She wants to know why the heroine is in
this situation, and she wants to know how she will get
out of it alive.
Your opening lines
need to act as a teaser, to get the reader in, make her
want to turn the pages, and make her want to buy the
book. As with any novel (or short story) conflict is an
essential ingredient the romantic suspense novel
requires lots of twists, suspense and sometimes even
Stopping to research
in the midst of a novel is a time waster, and can be a
major distraction to the flow of the storyline. Research
can take days, maybe even weeks in some cases, so
wherever possible do it before you start. Arm yourself
with basic information, such as:
How the criminal
Go to your local
library and browse through the various books available on
the mafia, criminals and their various activities. When
starting my research in this area, I found an almost
endless supply at the library. The Internet is also an
links on this subject:
crimes and real news if nothing else, this
site is a major
inspiration. Provides links to a huge array of
An encylopedia of
true crimes articles/information on True Crimes,
Sex Crime, Organised Crimes, Serial Killers the
list is endless.
statistics site - if you want to know where all that data
comes from, this is the place for you.
Rankings may vary
from state to state, and most certainly from country to
country - check with your local police station or state
Learn a little
(or a lot) about forensic science, crime scene
investigation and techniques.
links on this subject:
amount of information on crime scene
investigation techniques and technology, forensic
science, etc. is provided. This is an excellent
site, and you wont want to leave.
offers a host of resources for crime and mystery
writers. It's geared primarily toward
screenwriters, but will definitely benefit
writers of novels and short stories. Many of the
resources are available only to members, but the
free resources are worth checking. One of the
free areas they have is a crime
desk where writers get to ask individual
questions of experience police officers.
of murder (i.e. poisons)
One of my best
friends (apart from my writing buddies!) is "The
Crime Writers Handbook (65 ways to kill your victim
- in print)" by Douglas Wynn. As the name implies,
the book outlines various methods of murder. My personal
favourite is the section on throat cutting. (I know, I
know - it is worrying!)
The handbook also
covers basic information about autopsies and police
procedures (US based), and has acted as a good source of
inspiration for short stories on more than a few
occasions. Be warned it is pricey (around $35 AU),
and can be hard to get, but will become a trusted and
worthy companion if mystery/suspense is your forte.
guns, knives) and who can carry them
second-guess weapons information.
vary from country to country; ensure you check locally
before using information. (For example: In Australia and
the UK, Private Investigators are not licensed to carry
firearms. In the US - varies from state to state.)
Your local gun
shop is a good source of information, as are gun clubs
and shooting ranges. If you are really interested in
learning about firearms, it may be a worthwhile exercise
to join the local pistol club or rifle range.
links on this subject:
information (including photos) on Smith &
information on Browning products
GLOSSARY OF FIREARMS TERMINOLOGY
as it appears firearms terminology
explained in laymans terms.
information required (i.e. codebreaking)
Again, search the
Internet. It is an almost endless source of information -
you will be amazed at what you can find. The reference
section at your local library will also be helpful.
Librarians at state libraries are a wealth of
information, and will help you track down whatever you
Methods used by
The best way to
obtain this information is firsthand, that is, by talking
to a private investigator. (Its not as hard as it
sounds just ask!) Otherwise, contact your local
heard it a millions times before, but Im going to
tell you again one of the most important tools an
author can have is an outline. Cram as much as you can
into that outline. For authors of romantic suspense,
its easy to get carried away, to go off track, but
if youve got an outline, youre more likely to
keep the focus you started with.
Make sure your
heroine is fiesty most publishers of romantic
suspense like the heroine to take an active part in
solving the crime. Let your hero/heroine work together in
bringing about a satisfactory result. Ensure your hero
doesnt overpower her she needs to stand on
her own two feet. She also needs to be strong, and smart.
Her deductive skills as an amateur sleuth will see her
through to the final page.
Drop some subtle
clues along the way, but dont tell all, and make
sure you add a few red herrings just to keep them
guessing. There are some excellent books available on
this method of mystery writing.
multiple viewpoints adds extra tension. At all times, the
reader knows exactly what is going on, but the heroine
may not. Perhaps the hero is acting without her
knowledge, trying to help her, trying to loosen the
chains that are dragging her down. But because the
heroine isnt aware of what hes up to behind
her back, she becomes suspicious of him, and that adds to
ingredient is the presence of a villain. The villain may
only lurk in the background, and only be onstage for a
few chapters near the end of the book, but hes
there, larger than life, and making his presence felt.
Its vital for
your readers to know what hes thinking, how he
intends to eliminate/kidnap/terrify/stalk the heroine.
Again, you are creating added tension. Make him real,
believable, even likeable. (Gone are the days of the
nasty villain.) Get inside his head, show us
what hes thinking, and let us know what drives him.
Motivation is crucial.
surprises. Dont give them the opportunity to
predict the outcome. Challenge yourself to do something
different, the opposite of what would be expected: use
the what if scenario. This works well in a
brainstorming session, either alone or with one or more
friends. Try this quick exercise: The villain has
cornered your heroine. Does she meekly take whatever he
dishes out? Does she run? Perhaps she pulls a gun and
shoots him? Ill let you decide which option
I would choose.
writing romantic suspense:
reader emotionally to your heroine
Show her fear,
her trepidation - let her be afraid
Create a tough
and realistic, but sensitive hero
Plot must be
strong and plausible, not weak and watery
Have plenty of
twists and turns
what if scenario and surprise the
be believable, convincing, and treacherous
thoroughly make your content credible
and unstifled imagination
author: Cheryl Wright
is an award-winning Australian author and freelance journalist. In
addition to an array of other projects, she is the owner of the
Writer2Writer.com website and the Writer to Writer monthly ezine for
writers. Her publications include novels, non-fiction books,
short stories, and articles. To keep up to date with her
publications and new releases, visit Cheryl’s website