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Five Tips for Plotting a Romantic Suspense Novel

by Susan Sleeman

In my December 8th post where I defined romantic suspense, I promised to share my top tips on how to plan a romantic suspense novel. But first, a quick recap on what makes a novel and romantic suspense novel.

Romantic suspense is just what the title says. Romance and suspense in one novel.
• BOTH storylines have to meld together into one seamless novel.
• BOTH storylines are equally important.
• BOTH storylines are impossible to remove without the novel falling apart.

So essentially, you are writing two stories, but they must work together. This can be complicated and confusing and sometimes worthy of pulling out your hair. To prevent that I’m sharing my top five tips on how I plan.

Tip 1 – Start with the suspense plot
Why? Two people can fall in love in almost any situation, but plotting a suspense novel is intricate and requires planning. Not only do you need a logical timeline in which you slowly reveal the perpetrator’s identity, but you also have to introduce red herrings to keep the reader guessing. It’s easier if you plan this first, making sure the plot draws the hero and heroine together in physical proximity.

Tip 2 – Get your couple together as early in the book as possible and keep them together

A suspense plot usually unfolds in a matter of days and weeks not months. So for your hero and heroine to fall in love they need to meet right away and they need to be together a good bit of the time. If not, falling in love won’t seem real to the reader. So when choosing a suspense plot, choose something that will force them to be together often and something that they can’t simply chose to walk away from.

Tip 3 – Open the book with a bang
No, you don’t have to kill someone, but you do have to show that danger is present and if possible, show that that the heroine or hero is in danger. Otherwise, what’s the point? The reader, besides wanting to read a romance, also wants to know something bad could happen to the hero or heroine. They want to turn the pages and see them escape from the danger and along the way, they want to try to figure out the bad guy’s identity.

Tip 4 – The Danger and suspense needs to keep escalating
The stakes for your hero and heroine need to keep getting higher and higher with a palpable pressure building until the suspense element is resolved. Discover your characters greatest fears, then rank them and make them happen in that order until the final showdown has their greatest fear coming true.

Tip 5 – Conflict, conflict, conflict
This is a suspense novel so the characters are always in conflict with the bad guy and your tendency may be to play down the romantic conflict. But the conflict created by the plot is not enough. The romance still has to hold all the same conflicts as a traditional romance would include. Your characters need internal obstacles to falling in love or the romance will be flat and uninteresting. So as you plan, be sure to include down time in the suspense plot where you can showcase the romantic conflict.

SUSAN SLEEMAN is a best-selling author of inspirational romantic suspense and mystery novels. She grew up in a small Wisconsin town where she spent her summers reading Nancy Drew and developing a love of mystery and suspense books. Today, she channels this enthusiasm into writing romantic suspense and mystery novels and hosting the popular internet website TheSuspenseZone.com. Susan currently lives in Florida, but has had the pleasure of living in nine states. Her husband is a church music director and they have two beautiful daughters, a very special son-in-law and an adorable grandson.

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3 Responses to Five Tips for Plotting a Romantic Suspense Novel

  1. Lauren says:

    I am so thrilled I stumbled across this post, I feel as if I could literally start planning my novel at this very moment! Thank you for those tips, they revealed to me just what I needed to engage my readers and keep them interested.

    Keep up the inspiring work!

  2. Alyssa Faith says:

    I’m writing a romantic suspense for NaNoWriMo next month and this post is super helpful. :)

  3. T.K.Ware says:

    Great tips. I’m currently writing a romantic suspense. Your tips are exceptional. I saw my book unfolding as I read each tip. It brought excitement and joy to know I’m on the right path.