with guest Lisa Carter.
In my latest romantic suspense novel, Vines of Entanglement, Laura Mabry is a widowed mother of a young son and the owner of a needlepoint shop in Raleigh, North Carolina called Tapestries. And just like God weaves the strands of our lives into a masterpiece for His glory, as romantic suspense authors we, too, must learn to weave the differing elements of our plot and characters into a unified whole. Sometimes from the back of a needlepoint project, all the threads appear to be a tangled mess leading nowhere. But from the perspective at the front of the tapestry, a Masterful Design takes shape. Here are the ten essential elements I incorporate in weaving together stories of romantic suspense.
1. The essence of any story is conflict and the tension produced by unmet desires.
Conflict and tension must be ratcheted higher in romantic suspense involving life and death stakes.
2. Questions for the plotting process—What do my main characters want? What goes wrong? What’s at stake? What can I do to make it worse?
3. The point of view (POV) is usually confined to hero and heroine. And sometimes, the 3rd POV of the antagonist. Either hero or heroine will have the largest block of story time—ultimately, his or her journey of discovery and transformation.
4. In a Christian worldview there are 3 story tension threads woven into the plot.
•Romantic tension thread—The protagonist must overcome certain obstacles threatening the relationship or love will die.
•Spiritual tension thread—The protagonist must come to grips with God’s invitation for relationship or something vital within the character will die.
•Suspense tension thread—The protagonist must find the killer/escape the killer or someone will die.
By novel’s end, the protagonist must experience an irrevocable transformation and resolution in all three areas to satisfy reader expectations.
5. The first chapter in Act 1 paints a portrait of the normal world of the main characters.
Make the main characters likable, but flawed and searching. If readers don’t like the hero and heroine, they will stop reading. Within the first few chapters in Act 1, turn the main characters’ world upside down with a pivotal crisis/point of no return. This becomes the problem that must be solved—which throws characters and readers into Act 2.
6. Each scene must escalate the tension or provide deepening insight into the character.
Therefore, every scene/chapter ending should be unexpected; leave readers wanting more; compel them to turn the page and read one more chapter. Always leave a chapter with a question the main characters must answer, a choice to make, or in the middle of action.
7. The heart of suspense for the reader is the delectable anticipation/dread of the coming terror. Heighten the sense of the characters’ impending doom by inserting a countdown or deadline before tragedy strikes. Make readers care and worry about the characters.
8. Act 2 involves the protagonist taking steps to resolve all 3 threads of tension—to no avail and with intensifying pressure as things go from bad to worse. Every event must trigger a cause and effect in all 3 strands of tension—suspense, romantic, and spiritual story lines.
Finally near the end of Act 2, the protagonist will make an attempt to resolve one or all of the issues, but this will end with disastrous results. This the black moment when all seems lost.
9. The depiction of violence in Christian fiction rule of thumb—imply more than you show. Disturb but don’t entice the reader. Less is more. The act imagined is far more terrifying than if depicted.
10. Act 3 moves toward resolution quickly. Here in the last few chapters, the 3 threads of tension are intricately woven together and the threads tied off in a final resolution. The ending must be both inevitable (killer dies/brought to justice, romantic future consolidated) and yet contain an unexpected twist. Leave readers with a sense of hope and overriding grace—which translates into leaving them anticipating your next novel, too.
What a privilege we have as authors to be in a creative partnership with the ultimate Creator in weaving stories of truth and hope. Happy reading and story weaving everyone. Thanks for hosting me today, Seekers.
What are some of your favorite romantic suspense novels or series?
GIVEAWAY! Today Lisa will be giving away 2 copies of Vines of Entanglement. Please leave a comment letting us know you'd like to entered! Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.
Lisa Carter is the author of four romantic suspense novels, Carolina Reckoning; Beneath A Navajo Moon; Under a Turquoise Sky; and Vines of Entanglement. Also writing contemporary romance, she is the author of Aloha Rose in the Quilts of Love series and Coast Guard Courtship, releasing April 1, in a new Coast Guard series with Love Inspired. Lisa and her husband have two daughters and make their home in North Carolina. She has strong opinions about barbecue, ACC basketball, and the Cola Wars. When she isn't writing, Lisa enjoys traveling to romantic locales, quilting, and researching her next exotic adventure.
Connect with Lisa at:
Vines of Entanglement
A tangled web of lies characterizes the life Laura Mabry has built for herself and her son after the tragic death of her husband. But Laura’s carefully constructed world slides off its axis when she stumbles upon the body of a young college student on the recreational trails of Raleigh’s Greenway. What’s worse, Detective Jon Locklear is Laura’s worst nightmare...and her dream come true. Jon has spent years trying to forget Laura. Past experience has taught him that he can’t trust her, but old habits—like old loves—die hard. When the killer turns his attention to Laura, Jon may be the only one who can save her.