Saturday, June 19, 2010

Special Guest Saturday: Margaret Daley on Writing Suspense

By Margaret Daley

An inspirational romantic suspense has three main elements: a suspense or mystery, romance and faith element. For me that means I have to juggle three aspects of a story within a 275 page manuscript. Not an easy task and one that requires a lot of planning and thought. In a suspense pacing is so important. A reader expects to be taken on a merry ride where the hero and heroine are threatened, running for their lives, trying to solve something, trying to save someone. In a mystery, which I call a whodunit, the action might be more sedate but not necessarily. My stories often combine the elements of a suspense and a mystery.

A romantic suspense is usually fifty percent suspense and fifty percent romance. So often the problem arises when you are working your way through the suspense part of your book and you forget to have your hero and heroine fall in love. It can be harder to show it when they are being threatened or running for their lives. But if you have a furious pace throughout your book, it will overload your readers. I have read many romantic suspense books and there should always be moments of down time. That can be when you build the romance between your hero and heroine. Even when they are running for their lives, it is a good thing to keep them emotionally connected and aware of each other.

In an inspirational romantic suspense you must also delve into the spiritual growth of your hero and heroine. I find it is easier in a romantic suspense because of the heightened action and often the life and death aspect of these type of stories. We turn to the Lord in times of trouble and when we need Him. This can feed very naturally into your story.

But again I will stress because you have to juggle faith, romance and suspense, you must plan. In a lot of stories you will need to give false information and clues as well as real ones. Readers like to have a chance to figure out who is behind all the commotion in your story. I do realize some suspense (not mystery) books the reader will already know who the villain is and that is fine. An example is the heroine being stalked by an ex-husband or ex-boyfriend. She knows who he is, but she is in grave danger.

So where do you start? The first thing I usually come up with is a premise for my story. Sometimes it can be something as simple as a favorite setting like the jungle in Heart of the Amazon or an occupation in my Guardians, Inc. series starting in December 2010 for Love Inspired Suspense. This series is about female bodyguards. In So Dark the Night I came up with the premise what would happen to a sister who witnessed her brother’s murder and fled the scene with the killers after her. Or in Vanished, the premise was what would happen if a sheriff had to be both lawman and father when his daughter is kidnapped by someone from his past. Usually it is easiest to come up with some kind of concept and build a story from there.

A great way to learn about writing inspirational romantic suspense books is to join writing organizations that educate and support writers in networking and learning the craft. American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW at ) is a wonderful place to connect with others who love to write Christian fiction.

My next romantic suspense from Love Inspired Suspense is Christmas Bodyguard in December 2010 and Trail of Lies in April 2011. Visit my Web site at  to see more articles about writing and to read about my upcoming books. Also visit my blog at  to read author interviews and have an opportunity to win a book in weekly drawing.


Mia said...

Thanks so much for stopping by, Margaret! I especially enjoyed this post because the book I'm currently writing is inspirational suspense, and I'm grateful for all the help I can get ;)

I definitely agree planning ahead is a good thing. I didn't do that for my WIP, and oh, wow. Am I going to have a lot of rewriting to do. When I started the book, I didn't realize it would be suspense, so I didn't bother sprinkling in clues from the beginning. Ah, well. That should make the editing process... interesting.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Wow, Margaret, this was GREAT! I don't think I could handle the suspense aspect of writing. I can hardly put the faith and romance thing together! lol

I love the idea of the Guardian series! Nothing like a Protector to get the romance off to a good start. :)

Thanks for sharing today!

Casey said...

I am not very good at writing suspense, but hold great respect for those that do! What a challenge. I just read last night When the Night Falls. That short little story never stops! Great tension. :) Thanks Margaret for being here this weekend!