Friday, January 11, 2019

On Writing Romantic Suspense


Writing romantic suspense involves the skillful juggling of romantic elements and nail-biting suspense. A daunting task but so rewarding when all the essential ingredients come together in a well-crafted, character-driven novel.

Here are eight tips:

  • Ask yourself: what is intriguing about the premise? What will attract readers to the book? In Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Series, protagonist Kinsey Millhone is a twice-divorced private investigator who is permanently stuck in the 1980s. In the Gilda Greco Mystery Series, the protagonist is a teacher turned lottery winner who moves back to her hometown and then finds herself embroiled in murder investigations. 

  • Grab the reader’s attention with a hook. Bestselling author Louise Penny offers the following advice: “If you’re writing your first work of crime fiction, place the body near the beginning of your book—preferably on the first page, perhaps the first sentence. In later books this won’t be as necessary, but agents and editors like it established early, so readers know what they’re getting.” In Book 2, Too Many Women in the Room, I used a three-page prologue to introduce the crime. In Book 3, A Different Kind of Reunion, a reference to the murder is made in the first paragraph.

  • Create believable characters. It is tempting to endow protagonists with beauty, intelligence, and other positive traits and then pit them against slow, unattractive villains. Too many or too few strengths are unrealistic. To avoid contrived tension and conflict, evenly balance the characters and have them show vulnerability. The reader must care about the characters, even the secondary characters. When a character dies, it should matter.

  • Get into the heads of your killers. When you have insight into their motivations and behaviors, even if they are twisted, they will seem more real to readers. You don’t have to be in their POV; you can understand them by their actions and dialogue. If you choose to be in the killer’s POV, be very careful you don’t reveal his/her identity. 

  • Escalate the tension. After starting with a bang, build tension, offer a few resting moments, and then throw in complications. Have strategies in place to help with the murky middle, that nebulous place usually around page 80, where it becomes difficult to continue or sustain the tension. You may have to set the manuscript aside and take a breather, work on a shorter piece, or reread craft books. Return to the manuscript with fresh eyes and a firm resolve to successfully navigate the murky middle.

  • Drop enough clues to keep the reader engaged, but be careful not to overwhelm the reader. Used effectively, red herrings will maintain reader interest right until the end. Many of the plots in Agatha Christie’s novels contain red herrings. In And Then There Were None, we assume a character who goes missing is the killer. Later, when his body is washed up on shore, we realize that his absence was a red herring that misled the other characters and the readers. 

  • Come up with a tantalizing title. If you’re writing a series, consider using the same basic pattern for titles. Janet Evanovich uses numbers: One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to Get Deadly... I have used longer titles—A Season for Killing Blondes, Too Many Women in the Room, A Different Kind of Reunion—for the Gilda Greco Mystery Series. Regardless of the method used, one fact is clear: The right title (and cover) will catch the reader’s eye in an overcrowded marketplace.

  • End on the right note. Romance readers expect an HEA (Happily ever after) or HFN (Happily for now) ending. Mystery readers (in particular cozy mystery readers) want to experience closure: the sleuth always solves the case, justice is served, and all loose ends are tied. But only for a short time...Another murder to solve is just around the corner.
Any other tips to share?


A DIFFERENT KIND OF REUNION

While not usually a big deal, one overlooked email would haunt teacher Gilda Greco. Had she read it, former student Sarah McHenry might still be alive.

Suspecting foul play, Constable Leo Mulligan plays on Gilda’s guilt and persuades her to participate in a séance facilitated by one of Canada’s best-known psychics. Six former students also agree to participate. At first cooperative and willing, their camaraderie is short-lived as old grudges and rivalries emerge. The séance is a bust.
Determined to solve Sarah’s murder, Gilda launches her own investigation and uncovers shocking revelations that could put several lives—including her own—in danger. Can Gilda and the psychic solve this case before the killer strikes again?

Excerpt

One missed email. While I couldn’t be one hundred percent certain it was the only one I had ever overlooked, I knew this omission would haunt me. And matters weren’t helped when the cantankerous constable on the telephone said, “If you had read that email, Sarah McHenry might still be alive.”

Leaning back in my recliner, I closed my eyes and tried to recall Sarah’s face. But all I could see were curtains of blond hair or, more precisely, three sets of curtains of blond hair. The Barbies—Mean Barbie, Mellow Barbie, Moody Barbie—came to mind. How I had detested those nicknames and some of the more cruel ones the students tossed about like puffs of cotton candy, oblivious to the pain and potential scarring that could linger for decades and even lifetimes. I spent the first two weeks of my teaching stint calling out the children whenever they used those nicknames and giving detentions to anyone who persisted. 

Moody Barbie. That had been Sarah’s moniker. Prone to tears and bouts of the silent treatment, she often retreated into her own world. A budding artist, she would take out her sketch pad and draw whenever she finished her work or needed to separate herself from the others. Had she decided life was much too difficult and retreated even farther? That had been my first thought when Constable Mulligan read the infamous email: We need your help. But the use of the first person, plural pronoun conjured up another meaning, one even more sinister.

Who was in danger? Family members? The Barbies? Other classmates? Why reach out to me after over two decades of silence? And how did she find my workplace email address? All these questions swirled through my mind, and I longed to ask for details. But I didn’t want to anger the grief-stricken constable who was bemoaning the senseless way Sarah had died, alone and exposed to the cool autumn evening. A shocking occurrence, but even more so in Parry Sound.
Giveaway

Joanne is giving away a digital copy of A Different Kind of Reunion to one lucky person leaving a comment. Remember to include your email address.

Trailer


Buy Links
Amazon (Canada): https://is.gd/vR5Sxn
Amazon (United States): https://is.gd/lU0qw7
Barnes & Noble: https://is.gd/ckNfhx
The Wild Rose Press: https://is.gd/nQ2ZjT

Bio
In 2008, Joanne Guidoccio took advantage of early retirement and decided to launch a second career that would tap into her creative side and utilize her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romance, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

Where to find Joanne Guidoccio...



7 comments:

  1. nice excerpt
    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for dropping by. Good luck with the giveaway. :)

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  2. Good tips Joanne. While our series "The Turning Stone Chronicles" is not about crimes it is romantic suspense with a paranormal twist. We've used several of your suggestions in our books with the most liked being when we gave the bad guy POV. Cdhersh @ fuse dot net

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    Replies
    1. An excellent idea! I like reading novels where I'm privy to the thoughts of the bad guy. :)

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  3. High school can be such a difficult time. Kids seem to delight in making life difficult for classmates for whatever reason. I am curious to discover just what took 20 years to reach the point of murder.
    The tips you offered for writing suspense are good. There are suggestions many would not think of initially but learn through experience. You saved them that step which is always a big help.
    Patricia B. library pat AT com cast DOT net

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  4. Good to see you here, Patricia. While writing A Different Kind of Reunion, I tapped into the experiences and insights obtained during my 31-year teaching career. Good luck with the giveaway! :)

    ReplyDelete

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