Bestselling romantic suspense author Sandra Brown shares her tried-and-true tips on how to write romantic suspense.
The four elements of romance that I incorporate into every book:
1. The hero and heroine must share time and space.
2. They are co-dependent, needing each other in order to survive a common threat or to overcome a shared enemy. Neither is happy about requiring the other. They’re reluctant allies.
3. Nevertheless, they desire each other. Badly.
4. They’re forbidden to each other. Something built into the plot makes it impossible for them to submit to their desire. If he’s a fireman, she needs to be an arsonist.
I plant a question in the reader’s mind early on. If not in the first sentence, then certainly by the end of the prologue and first chapter. I continue to plant questions and if I do it correctly, the reader isn’t even aware of the questions. But I withhold the answers for as long as possible. The first question asked is the last question answered. That “aha” is the reason for the story. It’s what makes the point of telling it.
Related: Sandra Brown’s All-Time Favorite Novels Might Surprise You
When I plot, I build in several plot twists which make the initial problem worse, turn the tide, or otherwise make the reader more uncomfortable about the protagonists’ chances of success. However, my characters are often smarter than I. They do or say things that I didn’t plan for them. Some of the best plot twists in my books, I didn’t see coming! They shocked the heck out of me. I love when that happens!
Something else I do with each book: I self-impose a challenge, try something that I’ve never tried before, which helps to keep the writing fresh and me from getting lazy. Complacency is anathema to a writer.
I would advise aspiring writers of every genre to read, read, read. Read the genre they enjoy, read the genres they’ve never read before. I would advise they read the authors they love and determine why they love them. Also, to finish books they’re disliking and determine why. One can learn as much from that. Study! Read books on how to write fiction.
There is No Shortcut
I also advise that they write, write, write. After pursuing this career for more than thirty years, I’ve yet to discover a shortcut. There’s no fairy dust on any successful writer I know. However, there is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. One must spend hours, days, months, years in solitary confinement putting words on paper. Workshops, critique groups, classes–all of which are beneficial–do not get the job done. In order to be a writer, one must write. A word of warning: it’s hard.