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:

  1. 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.

2. 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 the book–preferably on the first page, perhaps the first sentence. In later books, this won’t be 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.

3. Create believable characters. It is tempting to endow protagonists with beauty, intelligence, and other positive traits and then pit them against 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.

4. 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.

5. 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 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.

6. Drop enough clues to keep the reader engaged but be careful not to overwhelm the reader. Used effectively, red herrings will maintain reader interest 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.

7. 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 market.

8. 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 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?

About the Gilda Greco Mystery Series

A cross between Miss Marple, Jessica Fletcher, and Cher (Moonstruck), protagonist Gilda Greco brings a unique perspective to the amateur female sleuth.

The teacher-turned-lottery winner returns to her hometown, only to find herself embroiled in a series of murder investigations. Before you start imaging thrillers with high stakes and police chases, pause and take a yoga breath. The three novels in the series—A Season for Killing Blondes, Too Many Women in the Room,  A Different Kind of Reunion—are cozy mysteries, written in the Agatha Christie tradition. All the crimes take place “off stage” with very few graphic details provided.

While the pace may be more relaxed than that of thrillers and police procedurals, there are no steaming cups of herbal teas, overstuffed chairs, or purring cats in these contemporary cozies. Prepare yourself for interfering relatives who don’t always respect boundaries, adult mean girls, deserving and undeserving men, multiple suspects, and lots of Italian food.

Where to find Joanne Guidoccio

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Pinterest

How to Clearly See…

In A Different Kind of Reunion, Private Investigator Jim Nelson doesn’t mince words when he learns about the psychic’s involvement in the murder investigation:

“Let’s face some facts here. Most psychics need to make a living. I don’t doubt this lady has some intuitive ability—as many women do—but I don’t think it’s enough to catch a murderer.”

Jim is in good company.

According to a recent survey by YouGov.com, 24% of respondents believe there are actually individuals who possess the ability to see the future. There is a gender split here as well; 28% of women think this power exists, while only 19% of men think the same.

While I’m of two minds here, I do believe it is possible for each of us to have an intuitive awakening. In fact, some of us already possess signs of clairvoyance.

Not sure? Take this quick survey:

  1. Do mental images randomly flash before your eyes?
  2. Can you easily visualize people and places?
  3. Do you frequently have vivid dreams?
  4. Can you quickly complete mazes, puzzles, and other visual-spatial tasks?
  5. Can you see auras (glowing lights) around the people in your life?

Regardless of your score, you can access your inner compass and develop the skill to “clearly see” what is going on in your life. Here are some suggestions:

  • Meditate for a few minutes each day. When you get still and clear your mind, you allow the right (creative) brain to take over and the left (logical) brain to take a back seat.
  • Take note of goose bumps, shivers down your spine, and racing hearts. Your body is letting you know when things are right or off. The key is to trust those feelings and act upon them.
  • Be on the lookout for any God/Goddess nudges that suddenly appear in your life. These could take the form of notices on bulletin boards, titles of books that resonate, or opportunities that present themselves.
  • Release negative feelings. If you are angry or depressed, you cannot make sound decisions.
  • Pay attention to how you feel after talking and meeting with the people in your life. Keep those who empower you and take distance from those who drain you. If you cannot walk away from the latter group, limit your involvement with them.
  • Dream with purpose. Before you fall asleep, focus on any unresolved issues or problems. Imagine possible solutions as you fall asleep. Then, let your brain do the rest. Keep a journal on your nightstand and record those dreams as soon as you awaken.

Any other suggestions to share?

 

 

Where to find Joanne Guidoccio…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Pinterest

 

What About the Men?

It’s the last week of the blog tour for Too Many Women in the Room. You can enter the giveaway for a $10 Amazon gift card here.

Since the book’s release, I have received many comments about the temperamental female characters that populate the novel.

Potential readers have also asked…

What about the men?

Three male characters play significant roles : Chief Detective Carlo Fantin, Chef David Korba, and Photographer Michael Taylor.

As Gilda’s love interest, Carlo Fantin appears throughout the Gilda Greco Mystery Series. A handsome widower with two children and five grandchildren, Carlo didn’t expect to fall in love again. All that changed when he headed up the murder investigation in A Season for Killing Blondes.  He and Gilda immediately connected, but ever conscious of his role, Carlo made it clear that nothing could happen until the investigation was over. At the start of Too Many Women in the Room, Gilda expresses concerns about the three-month break Carlo has instigated. But that doesn’t last too long…

 

David Korba could cook, and he could charm. One meal—that’s all it took to win Gilda Greco’s approval and a six-figure investment in Xenia, an innovative Greek restaurant near Sudbury, Ontario.  But there’s  much more to the charismatic chef who hails from Greece via the Danforth in Toronto.  Impressed and charmed by his looks and culinary skills, Gilda didn’t ask too many questions and later wondered why she kept her investment a secret from everyone in her circle.

 

A minor character in A Season for Killing Blondes, Michael Taylor managed to annoy almost every woman—with the exception of his wife—that he encountered. In Too Many Women in the Roman, he infuriated eight  women at a VIP dinner, he should never have attended. Often compared to Nick Nolte in his younger days, Michael’s fading looks and acerbic personality no longer endeared him to  women in his circle and beyond.  Unfortunately, he suffered the consequences of his inappropriate comments and lecherous behavior.

 

Buy Links

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