We all know there is a certain something special about romances. I mean, face it, we all need a little extra romance in our lives – and many reader get that reading books. I believe even if you’re writing suspense, it still needs that relationship – that romance factor – for the reader to be involved. (My humble, personal opinion of course.)
Your book will be about more than the relationship (romance). It’s those plots of suspense, intrigue, fantasy, danger, heartbreak, escape, addictions, etc. that develop romantic situations. We care about what is happening in the story, and we are hoping the hero and heroine, who at the beginning can’t even stand to look at each other, will develop a love interest. We all love a happy ending, right?
A strong hook – like she’s a nun and he’s a priest, or perhaps one of them is considering leaving their vows and returning to become a layman. What would the other to think, react, perhaps question his/her own path in life.
Characters need to be faced with personal risk. You might consider telling the story from the viewpoint of the character that has the most to lose. If your readers don’t care about or connect with your characters – they won’t care what happens next – they may as well put your book down. You don’t ever want that to happen.
Consider where your story is taking place. A meat locker won’t be as interesting or exciting as at a ghost town or vacationing at a hot springs. Make the setting exciting and interesting and your characters will bring it to life.
Although romantic suspense revolves around that internal conflict, the plot will grow from the actions of your characters. Don’t let your characters fall into each other’s arms in the first chapter. The longer you keep them apart and at odds, the more compelling the story will be. Give them interesting, plausible challenges, but don’t make them so unattainable – the reader won’t believe it.
Write with a fresh voice. Your core values set you apart from other authors. Make your voice be your signature.
Let’s not forget that emotion is the essence (the heart, core, spirit, and even soul) of an outstanding, even brilliant romance novel. The reader wants the hero and heroine to fall in love; that lasting love, that once-in-a-lifetime love. Falling in love is the most exciting time of a relationship, our readers want to feel, understand, relive their own first love, and believe it’s everlasting by ‘the end.’
Now we come to emotion, which is everything in a well-written romance novel. The writer must create emotions that stem deep within the characters . . . so deep the reader wonders if he/she will be able to overcome them, accept them, or get past them. Emotion ensnares our readers and they become invested in the outcome, which means they now care what happens. Do this with a balance of interior and exterior action. A fast-paced story filled with intrigue, challenges, and surprises will keep the reader flipping those pages.
Don’t fall into the over-dramatic, the red-herring ending, or plain old coincidence. Today’s reader is savvy and won’t buy it – they also won’t buy your next book.