Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Please Welcome Guest Susan Sleeman

Romantic Suspense - Is There Really a Formula?


You've heard it said that the Love Inspired lines have a formula. Come on admit it. If you're targeting these lines, I know you've heard it and may have even asked about it. And I'm sure the answer you received was, "What formula? I don’t know anything about a formula."

As a published Love Inspired Suspense author—I have three books published and two more contracted with Love Inspired Suspense—I can say there really isn’t a formula. Honest. No official formula. But there are common elements in the books that you'll find in any good romantic suspense book. Sure there are a few things that if you know about them can help you appeal to the readers in this line, but an exact 2+2=4 formula? Not so much.

So why am I taunting you with this question and then saying it doesn't exist? I thought it'd be helpful for those of you targeting Love Inspired Suspense, if I shared the elements that make up a romantic suspense book, and along the way, I'll toss in a few helpful hints for Love Inspired.

So without further ado, here they are. Drum roll, please.

1. The hero and heroine should meet as close to the beginning of the book as possible. On page one if you can manage it. Your reader has picked up this book for the romance and the suspense, so get them started on it as soon as possible. At the very least, they need to meet in the first chapter for Love Inspired Suspense. And don’t confuse the issue of who the main characters are by introducing too many characters at the beginning. Keep it simple. Stick to the two of them if you can until the reader knows for sure who the heroine is going to fall in love with.

2. But in a romantic suspense, the reader also wants to see danger and suspense, too, so 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.

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3. So okay, you know you need romance and suspense for a romantic suspense book. Duh!, you knew that as do most people. But did you know that the romance and suspense need equal time in your plot? You can’t have a romance with a little suspense thrown in or the opposite. If you can take one or the other out of the book and the book is basically the same, you do not have a romantic suspense book. You need action, suspense, events where the hero and heroine are in danger or fighting for their lives, but you also need down times when the couple are getting to know each other and working on their relationship and working through their conflict.

3. The hero and heroine's point of view should be as near equal as possible. Makes sense, right? As a reader, you want to know how both of them are feeling. You want to see them both struggle with why they can't be together. Additionally, for Love Inspired, the hero and heroine should be together as much as possible in the book. And when they're not together, they're thinking about each other.

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4. Conflict, conflict, conflict. Your romantic conflict between the characters needs to be so big, so overwhelming, that the characters along with the readers need to believe that the two of them can never get together. So that rules out situational conflicts (he lives in one city and she lives in another, etc.) as these are easy to solve. Also rules out conflicts that can just be resolved by having a conversation and talking through the issue. You need to ask what is it in these characters lives that keeps them from falling in love with not just each other, but anyone? BOTH characters need to have this emotional conflict and plenty of it. This doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in each other or attracted to each other. Of course they are, or you wouldn’t have a romance. But what is it that keeps them fighting that attraction through the entire book.

5. The danger or suspenseful situation must escalate as the book moves forward. The stakes need to keep getting higher and higher with a palpable pressure building until the suspense element is resolved. Oh, and don’t resolve the romantic conflict until after the suspense plot is resolved. Wait until the end to give the reader that happily ever after they have been waiting for.

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6. And lastly, let me share a few LIS plot specifics. If you've read the line—if you're targeting LIS there's no better way to see what the editors are looking for than reading the books—you'll see that most of the books take place in the United States. Many of the books take place in a small town. Many of the books have lost loves reuniting. Many of the books have a law enforcement or military hero. Why? Because that is what the LIS readers like. If you want to appeal to an LIS editor, you need to appeal to the LIS readers.

So there you have it. Tips from a Love Inspired Suspense author. So what do you think? Are these things you already knew? If not, are they helpful? And if so, which one is the most helpful to you? Or if you write for LIS, have I forgotten something or missed the boat?

Leave a comment and if you’d like to be entered in a drawing to win The Christmas Witness, my latest Love Inspired Suspense release.

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 http://www.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.

Connect with Susan at:
Her website: http://www.susansleeman.com/  
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SusanSleemanBooks
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/susansleeman

63 comments :

  1. I can't believe I'm first.

    Thanks for the tips on writing suspense for Love Inspired. Is there anything different about regular romances for Love Inspired?

    I know there isn't any suspense, but do they need to meet on the first page, etc? And is it quite a bit harder to get into the suspense?

    It seems they are seriously looking for historical authors.

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  2. I was almost first. Then I waxed verbose. Then my computer burped. Ah well, second will have to do.

    Susan~

    Thanks for a great post. I love how you explain that it's not really a formula. That's the way the cookie crumbles, and it so happens that cookies of the same type tend to crumble in the same way.

    As far as I'm concerned, romance makes a story - any story. I've been that way since I was a kid. I don't care how many bad guys get shot, or how many buildings get blown up, If they kiss at the end, I'm good with it.

    That said, I don't read a lot of suspense. I think number 5 is one reason. I think I'd like it if the romance was "resolved" (at least insofar as they know they have to be together, no matter what) before the suspense element. I love to see them face one major obstacle - as a confirmed couple - before "The End." They sort of prove they've got what it takes to make it work.

    I guess it takes all kinds to make the world go round. That's why Love Inspired has three remarkably successful publishing lines.

    *I waxed verbose again. Now I'm probably not even second.*

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  3. I can't believe I'm number four! Susan, great job of explaining the elements of romantic suspense. Now if I could just go back and rewrite all of mine.....

    The Christmas Witness sounds so good. Hope I win!!!

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  4. Oh, wait. I'm actually number three! I moved up a bit! It's so my bedtime!

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  5. Hi Susan,

    Thanks for this great rundown on LI suspense! I love reading them, love to see the suspense element heighten the romance - after all, who can resist the hero who rescues the lady in distress (or vice versa?).

    I have a bit of a suspense element in the historical I'm working on, and your point number 5 about letting the suspense escalate, but then resolving it before the romance is resolved is very helpful. I've been trying to resolve both at the same time, and it just isn't working. So I'll look at it again in the morning!

    I brought hot chocolate for the late-nighters in the group - Ghiradelli, of course, with a touch of cream.

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  6. AH! I needed this post about 4 months ago!

    Just kidding, but seriously, I didn't know the hero/heroine views should be almost EQUAL. I thought maybe 60/40, or even 70/30 would be okay. But since Ramona Ricahrds said if it weighs heavier on the heroine it turns into women's fiction, I realized that's why my first ms does really well in wf or single title contest but not so great in series.
    Since I usually write about 20K over the word count and then cut, putting in the extra POV isn't too hard, but it's easier now that I know this BEFORE cutting! :D

    Also, I like to read the LI not for the formula, but for reminders. Like in Ruthy's Yuletide Hearts I read it first for fun, then went back and paid attention to what she said and when.

    First chapter has hero, place, conflict, emotion, senses (storms, love 'em). Then here comes the Jake and the dog (love them!) and then the heroine. All in a few pages. By the end of the chapter we've got heroine's POV, some tidbit backgrounds, and the conflict set up really nice.

    One chapter, and she got 'er done. That makes me want to write TIGHT.

    So, maybe no formula, but like they say in short story land 'if you can't write it in 1500 words, you can't write'. Maybe in LI/ LIS land, if you can't write it in 60-75K then you can't write! And that's a toughie for me, since I tend to write loooonnnnnnng.

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  7. Virginia, have I mentioned today how much I love you? The check's in the mail, darling! ;)

    Susan, this is spot-on advice and I love, love, love reading suspense. Gotta get me this book, surely!

    And Lenora-Elnora, sweet thang!!! Why, sugah, we are thankin' you left and right for jes' stoppin' by...Honey, ain't it nice that some folks can wear last year's styles like 'most for-e-vah?????

    :)

    Bless your heart.

    Cathy, other than removing the suspense element, no. Virginia gave a great run-down of how LI likes an opening chapter to go... They want the reader (and the boss upstairs) to see and feel the book's arc. In Yuletide Hearts you see them in the storm, it reflects their inner feelings, and they're all caught between a rock and a hard place because of the housing bubble burst.

    So the bad economy made for great conflict from the get-go.

    Still 50/50 ratio. Strong heroes whether alpha or beta... Danny Romesser (Small-Town Hearts) and Cam Calhoun (A Family to Cherish, July 12) are betas, but they are fall-in-love-with NOW guys.

    So either works.

    Emotion...action... scenes that feed the plot and don't just take up space. Humor is good. Life should always be a little funny, don't ya' think? I love guy/gal humor.

    All right, done talking.

    Coffee is ON.... flavored creamers are present and accounted for! We've got muffins from Mimis' today, and I didn't even know Mimi's existed until yesterday at the Yankee Belle. We don't have them up here, but I put in a special order for da lot o' youse!

    :)

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  8. Good questions, Cathy! I haven't written for the regular romance line, but having them meet early on is a must. There are more regular romance books released every month so I suppose the opportunity is greater there, but I do know that they are looking for all lines so if you have a romantic suspense book, do submit it.

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  9. Susan, welcome to Seekerville.

    These are hugely helpful tips. Thank you!!

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  10. I agree Andrea, every story, TV show, movie, etc for me is better with romance in it.

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  11. Lenora why on earth would you go back and rewrite your books??

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  12. Jan I hope you are able to resolve your ending today. Best wishes on your historical.

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  13. Virginia, I used to write long. Wait, I still do and have to go back and cut to get under the 60,000 word limit. In fact, I'm working on cutting 1000 words right now. My first LIS started out at 120,000 words. Yikes!

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  14. Great points, Ruth! I might add, my experience is that there's not a lot of humor in LIS. Especially when the heroine is in serious danger or the suspense is escalating.

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  15. Welcome to Seekerville, Susan. Thanks for a helpful post for those targeting Love Inspired Suspense. Much of what you say pertains to every line. My editor likes both hero and heroine's point of views in the first chapter. The only unbreakable rule to romance is a happily ever after ending.

    I brought waffles with all the fixings. Blueberries, whipped cream, strawberries, whipped cream, syrup, whipped cream... :-)

    Janet

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  16. Ruthy,

    I just bought Yuletide Hearts so I will keep your comments in mind while reading it. :)

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  17. Morning Susan and welcome to Seekerville.

    Great tips and don't we know how important it is to read, read, read the line we are targeting.

    Your books look super. Debby writes for LISsuspense and her books are always a blast.

    Thanks for the great advice.

    Have fun here today and thanks again for dropping by.

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  18. Susan, this was a helpful post. My current wip isn't romantic suspense, but I might have a story in me for that genre. I appreciate you sharing all the "musts" for a good romantic suspense and what LIS looks for. Thank you!

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  19. Loved your clear explanation of what belongs! I love romantic suspense.

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  20. Wow, what helpful hints for those targeting LIS! Very kind of you, Susan, to give such great specifics!

    I love a good romantic suspense, myself. Congrats on your three releases!

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  21. Great post, Susan. It's so fun to see you writing these LIs now.
    We did some cozy mystery work together a few years back.

    Far more opportunity for comedy there.
    And yes, whatever else is happening, I need there to be romance.

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  22. Oh, and congrats on your two that are contracted! Yay you!

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  23. SUSAN -- WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE!!!

    I have told this more than once to Debby Giusti, but there are no writers I admire more than romantic suspense or just plain suspense because to write that genre, I feel you have to be extra smart to come up with a plot that will stump your readership. I mean, let's face it -- the minute a suspense reader picks up a suspense novel, they are trying their best to figure it out from the first page, and gosh, I just don't know if I could handle the pressure!! Heck, it's pressure for me to include one measly surprise per book in my romance novels, so I cannot imagine a whole book of suspense.

    Excellent points, all, in your blog today, both for suspense authors and everyone else, so thank you for the tips!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  24. Thanks to all who commented and a special thanks to the gals of Seekerville for hosting me today. This is such a wonderful blog for writers and I'm honored to be part of it for one day!

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  25. Yay, thanks for the tips Susan! Always helpful.

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  26. Hi, Susan!

    Can you have a romantic suspense if there's no danger? I know that sounds like a strange question. My heroine is recovering from abuse. There's no one currently in her life that's abusive, but she's going through flashbacks and fears trusting people. She's going through this process of overcoming and it's very tense in places. So, if the antagonist is her own heart, soul, and mind... if the tension stems from her internal struggles battling against "normal life," would that be considered suspense?

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  27. Grabbing a cup of hot tea. Anybody else need a cup?

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  28. I wrote a romantic suspense once. At least I think that's what it was.

    There was a guy and a gal and the mob and WITSEC and hits out so...

    But the time period dragged on too long to be considered suspense [about 6mos total] or so I'm told.

    Regardless, it's in the bottom of the virtual filing cabinet drawer behind the very real arsenic for a reason - if they like one, they'll want another and I've got NO DESIRE to do that again ;).

    That said - I love reading them! And can't wait until I have time to pick up another :D. Thanks Susan!

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  29. Great tips Susan! Writing suspense takes a talented person.Balancing romance and suspense while keeping the reader guessing must take a lot of work.

    I've just recently finished The Christmas Witness and loved it! It was like watching a movie at the theater (only the book is always better). Next time I open a Susan Sleeman book I'm going to make sure to have the popcorn ready.

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  30. Hi Susan:

    I’ve read LI for years now. I subscribed for years. I find your comments to be very accurate. I wish they were followed by more LIS writers.

    Usually I am not satisfied with LIS and I only read a few authors.

    Here’s what I don’t like.

    1. when the author seems to really want to write a suspense story and, like M.C. Beaton, ease out of romance altogether and move into mystery and suspense full time.

    2. very little effort is made to show the hero and heroine falling in love. There is just not enough time for this in many stories. This is why it is very helpful to have a hero and heroine who knew each other in the past.

    4. The romance conflict is often very weak. It seems that having a hero save the heroine’s life is sufficient motivation for her to fall in love with him.

    4. The inspirational component is often only 1% to 5%. Often the only inspiration is a bible quote in italics that could be edited out without changing the story.

    5. Military and law enforcement heroes work well because they really are heroes and they are who society sends into danger. The readers may want these heroes but they may also have little other choice. I’d like to see more creativity in hero careers. The same goes for geographic location. Extreme danger in an exotic and beautiful location would enhance the story. Great danger in an earthly paradise juxtaposes a lot of energy.


    Something for writers to think about: a straight romance is more likely to have a better romance than a suspense romance. A straight suspense story is likely to have a better suspense story than a suspense romance.

    The romantic suspense reader is a very special romance fan. It is very important to know this fan, why she buys, what she expects, and how to stay focused on her expectations.

    The Perfect Romance Suspense

    I have found one romance suspense that meets all your requirements – especially the escalating conflict – and that is “The Officer’s Secret” by Debby Giusti.

    From my review:

    "The Officer’s Secret" Is Enough to Make Me a Romantic Suspense Fan!”

    I can say this with enthusiasm because ‘The Officer’s Secret” is outstanding on three different levels: it’s an intriguing mystery, a breathtaking suspense story and a compelling romance.

    What’s important to note is that this book sold a series. It had to be very good!

    Of course, now I have to read your book because I think you will write the kind of romantic suspense that I would like. At least we seem to think alike.

    Vince

    vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

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  31. Linnette, I'll take some tea and one of those muffins Ruthy brought...and the waffles were delicious!

    Back to suspense (wiping the whipped cream off my chin) -

    Julie said, "I mean, let's face it -- the minute a suspense reader picks up a suspense novel, they are trying their best to figure it out from the first page" - and she's right! That's exactly why I like reading suspense and mysteries.

    Suspense writers' minds must work in some deviously clever way that mere mortals can't fathom - keeping that balance between delivering just enough details to let the reader follow the building suspense and yet keeping a cover over the final resolution...I'm in awe.

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  32. Hi, Susan! I LOVE the cover art for The Christmas Witness!

    Thank you for these helpful tips on writing romantic suspense.

    When someone asks me about the 'formula' for writing historical romances, I always couch my response in terms of 'reader expectations.' Readers of historical romance expect certain things, just as the readers of romantic suspense. I try to steer folks away from the notion that there is a formula, because most of the people who are asking want to know the 'secret to getting published' and if I will just spill 'the fast track secret formula' then they will get published quickly.

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  33. I've tried to find a way to make this relateable to RS, but well, I can't. The books take any real suspense right out of it. And the heroes are like 10 so not much romance there either.

    They're the "I Survived" books. So right there you know the main character survived.

    But y'all love me and I hope Susan won't mind a bit of a Mama Moment.

    Maggie and her BFF interviewed Lauren Tarshis, the award winning author of the "I Survived" series. In honor of Pearl Harbor Day and her latest book [I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941] we posted the interview today.

    You can find it here:

    Pearl Harbor Day Special: Interview with Lauren Tarshis by Maggie and Jadyn

    Thanks to all of you who left such kind comments the other day! Maggie loved them!

    I now return you to your regularly scheduled RS discussion ;).

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  34. Er...

    The TITLE of the books take...

    Yeah. That's it ;).

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  35. Good question, Linnette. What you describe is not romantic suspense. In RS there needs to be action and danger in the present.It can be fueled by something that has occurred in the past, ie maybe that abusive person returns to harm your heroine again and is actively after her. Otherwise, it sounds more like woman's fiction to me.

    Carol, you bring up a good point. Romantic suspense by its nature takes place in a matter of days or weeks. This can make it very difficult for the reader to believe the romance aspect and can be a challenge to write. Another good reason for the hero and heroine to meet as soon as possible.

    Jamie thanks for the kind comment about The Christmas Witness. I'm so glad you enjoyed reading it.

    Great points, Vince. Yes, it does seem as if we think alike about romantic suspense.

    Jan, yes we suspense writers are a devious lot. LOL I like to say if I've met you I've figured out a way to kill you and get away with it. But seriously, I am always thinking of how to create a suspense plot. My husband just rolls his eyes now when I start saying, What if . . .

    Great point, Erica. That fast track secret to getting published is really a slow endeavor of sitting in a chair behind your computer and putting words on paper hour after hour and day after day.

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  36. Thank you Susan. Those were some great tips.I looked up The Christmas Witness on Amazon. After reading the first few pages I was hooked. Now it's on my Kindle! It looks like you have put a lot of inspirational messages in the story from what little I have read.

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  37. Lots of thanks.

    Thanks Susan, for your specific advice.

    And thanks Ruthy for repeating it.

    And to Virgina for applying it all to Ruthy's Yuletide Hearts.

    As I grapple this steep learning curve, I need this reinforcement. It's like washing hair - wet, apply, rinse, repeat.

    LyndeeH

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  38. I'd have to agree w/Julie; suspense writers have to be smart.

    I have one idea for a suspense novel, but the life of me, I can't figure out who the killer should be! (Like I said, you have to be smart.)I know how the romance will play out. Maybe if I just starting writing it would could to me.

    Susan, this article helps because I have read many romantic suspense but you make me want to.

    I love the cover of your book too.

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  39. Susan, thank you for this point-by-point explanation for how to craft a successful Love Inspired suspense!

    I know there are a few basic differences between a true suspense novel and a mystery novel, but most good suspense stories usually contain an element of mystery. Any advice for developing the right proportions of "mystery" and "suspense" to keep the reader turning pages?

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  40. Susan, not a lot of humor in LIS? But I read your last and you write some pretty great lines! Maybe not slap-your-knee, but still cleverly funny.

    Miss Ruth, we'll be waiting for that (buck fifty) check to come in the mail. (She's so cheap I don't know why I bother. Oh wait, it's because it's the Christmas season and I was being charitable.)

    Seriously, I should also say Janet Dean's last book inspired me to write an LIH. It looked like so much FUN! The only problem is I think I spent more time on research than anything else. (Note to self: choose a time period I'm familiar with next time!)

    Haha Julie! I'm so with you. I couldn't write a suspense to save my life. (Wait! Like VINCE said, suspense might be easy but to write like Debby Giusti, is not.) I tried to write a few of those Woman's World mysteries. I sent in 7, and got all of them rejected, with notes from Johnetta (the editor?) about them being a little short. Ahhhhh. I took that as a sign my brain just doesn't work that way. Getting a story in under word count, add in a mystery and my brain pops.

    But a Lessman book is twisty-turny all by itself. There's a lot of suspense in the characters without waiting for something to burst into flame (beside the hero and heroine's relationship).

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  41. Welcome, Susan! Great post with lots of helpful tips.
    Although I don't write suspense, I agree with all you said. It can apply to LI and LIH as well (without the suspense element, or course). :)

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  42. Suspense and Christmas? Buying that one on the way home :) Thanks for all the great pointers, Susan. It's always best to learn from someone who's currently having success. Best of luck with Christmas Witness!

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  43. Heehee, Susan! I'm glad you've never met me. That would freak me out to hear someone knew how to kill me and get away with it...

    Connie, you made me laugh out loud! Maybe you KNOw it's a good mysetery when the author doesn't know who the murderer is!!

    It's not really romance, but one of my favorite mystery books is the Flavia de Luce series. That author makes me GREEN with his cleverness. 'The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie' is still my favorite.

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  44. i would love to read THE CHRISTMAS WITNESS....thanks for the chance :)

    karenk
    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

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  45. Welcome to Seekerville, Susan! Really interesting information. I write historical, but I also love suspense and mystery. Is it difficult to balance the romance with the suspense?

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  46. Susan, thanks for your tips on writing romantic suspense. I'd like to write mystery cozies, with a dash of romance thrown in, instead, but I think many of your tips could be applied to that genre as well. And as Mary Connealy pointed out, there's more room for comedy there, too.

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  47. Oh, wow, Donna, thanks for getting The Christmas Witness on your Kindle.

    Myra you ask a great question about mystery and suspense. In straight suspense the characters know right up front or find out early in the story who is responsible for the crime and the suspense is in seeing how much damage this person can inflict before he or she is caught. And it can also involve a ticking clock to heighten the tension. A mystery is where the main characters must figure out who is responsible for a terrible event and the readers are trying to figure out who is responsible right along with them. So a mystery then could simply involve the main characters trying to unravel the crime without any danger to themselves at all. This true mystery definition wouldn't fly in romantic suspense for LIS. There has to be an element of danger. The heroine or hero needs to be threatened and the reader needs to feel their fear. So in balancing the two, the writer needs to make sure the reader has enough clues to try to figure out the villain and at the same time see enough threatening acts to believe the main character could lose their life.

    Mia, thanks so much for saying you'll purchase the book on the way home. You are so sweet.

    Not to worry, Virginia, I may figure out how to do it, but I'd never follow through on it. LOL

    Cara, balancing the romance and suspense can be a challenge. One can easily take over the over the other one. Especially when you're trying to get all of it in 60,000 words or less. What I do to make sure I have both is highlight the manuscript in different colors. If I see one color dominating the other one, I know I've strayed too far one way and need to add or move things around.

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  48. Okay Susan, I read your definition of suspense and mystery. Here's my question.
    If someone's been murdered, but the h/h don't know who did it but are trying to figure out before they're the next to be killed, is that mystery or suspense?
    Or does it really matter? In LIS does the reader need to know who the bad guy is early on, period?

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  49. Connie, depending on how you write the book, it could be either one. If you put scenes in the book where the killer is actually attempting to kill the h/h (ie shooting at them, trying to blow them up, trying to poison them, run them off the road, etc.) it is a mystery with suspenseful elements which is good for LIS. If you do not put in any scenes where the killer is actually coming for them and the threat is simply implied, it is a mystery and would not be accepted by LIS. In LIS the reader does not need to know who the bad guy is. The suspenseful element LIS is looking for is the danger aspect.

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  50. Thanks for the great points and for straightening out the whole "formula" thing.
    I have a question . . . I can understand the idea that your hero should be military, fire or police because of what Vince said. They truly are heroes. However, I'm wondering if that reader preference carries over into other LI lines? If I wrote a ms without the suspense aspect would readers still prefer a man in uniform?

    Thanks for the post. I have not read a Susan Sleeman book yet, but I will go check them out. I like meeting and hearing from new people I haven't read yet!!

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  51. I'm running late today. Any hot cocoa around?

    Susan, thank you for the tips. I've heard about the formula, only to be told it didn't exist. I've also been told 60/40 on the pov. I'm glad you clarified that. I love reading LIS. They're short and have a lot of pow in those short pages. I've even plotted out a series set in a small Kansas town. I don't know if they'll ever get written though. We'll see.

    I can't wait to read your Christmas story.

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  52. Carol, what a great interview! I just love that your girls did that!Go ahead, have that proud mama moment, you deserve it. I would burst if they were mine!

    It's odd she doesn't use the girl main characters because 'boys can be resistant to reading about a girl'. At least she's honest about it. Or maybe the editor tells her what she can have? Makes me sad, and proud my boys read about boys and girls!

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  53. I'm actually not targeting the LI lines, but I do like a good romance. ;-) And what I really appreciate about those who write category romance is they find ways to make the formulic romance UNIQUE. Like Ruthy does with her stories. Takes them deeper while giving a really sweet read.

    Thanks for the post, Susan!

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  54. I read this post this morning but dind't have a chance to re-read and understand until tonight.

    Suspense is my preferred category when I answer requests for judging as I enjoy it the most outside of historicals. I know there's no formula, but that there are several good elements that make a good story. Watching the stakes increase is the part I like the most.

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  55. Thank you so much for the tips on writing suspense. I have wanted to include romance now in my thrillers and I appreciate the information.

    Jan K.

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  56. Thanks so much for this post. I want to be a book editor, so this was very interesting. It helps knowing what to look for, and what the readers are looking for. Thanks for a chance to win the book!
    tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net

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  57. Excellent tips! Thanks so much!

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  58. Excellent tips. I love reading romantic suspense for one of the very reasons you mentioned--the romance and the suspense get almost equal play time.

    I appreciated your tip on the conflict as well. I can't stand it when the problem that's keeping them apart could either be easily solved or could be resolved through a conversation.

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