by Margaret Birth
After the years I spent working as a freelance manuscript reader for a major romance publisher, if there were one piece of advice I could give about writing a romantic suspense novel, it would be summed up as: Let your characters follow their hearts before they follow the red herrings.
There are two particularly common mistakes I’ve seen in romantic suspense manuscripts. The first is the author’s making the assumption that the external conflict provided by a woman-in-jeopardy plot is all the conflict it’s necessary to include. The second is equating lust with love, and/or equating making love with falling in love, and relying on hot-and-heavy scenes to give emotional romantic depth to an otherwise-exciting action story. In my years of working as a freelance manuscript reader, I saw that many aspiring writers of romantic suspense would put a man and a woman side-by-side in a woman-in-jeopardy plot, throw in a little sex-on-the-run, and assume they’d written a romantic suspense novel. They hadn’t.
The first question is: What special qualities does each character have that causes the other one to fall in love with them? If some of these qualities are related to how the characters handle the difficult situation that they’re in—say, qualities of compassion and level-headedness—that’s all the better. Mystery/suspense aside, there needs to be a reason—even better, a whole set of reasons—these two people are attracted to each other. This is the case whether a story is sweet or sexy.
If you can answer these two questions, then you should be well on the way to writing a romantic suspense novel that will leave your readers alternately sighing at the love story and gasping at your heroic couple’s close calls!♥
Margaret Birth is a Christian writer who has been widely published in short fiction, short nonfiction, and poetry, and is currently drafting a novel called A FAMILY FOR FAITH.