Monday, May 21, 2007

What makes great romantic suspense?

If you haven't seen me here before, it's because I've been busy. I have a lot of deadlines looming. And I’ve been traveling every month. In a couple of weeks, I’m going to BEA (the big booksellers convention), where I’ll be signing books at the Harlequin booth. In July I'm going to Thrillerfest. And last month I was at RT in Houston. I was on a couple of panels. One was on romantic suspense. One was a thriller panel. Tracy Montoya did a fantastic job of moderating the romantic suspense panel. The topic was “Don’t Plot Me to Death.”

I had to laugh when I found out that was my assignment. My specialty IS plot. So the panel forced me to think about how I make plot work with the other elements in a book.

I used to cringe when people would ask,” is your book plot driven or character driven?” If you write romances the plot is SUPPOSED to be character driven. Yes, my Intrigues are plot driven. Bad things happen. The villain comes at the h/h with a knife or a gun. Electric wires fray. Bridges collapse. Children are kidnapped. But the most important thing about each event is how the characters react. Really, you can’t separate plot and character. They must function together to make your book work. It’s like pie a la mode. The ice cream melts into the pie, and you can’t separate them once they are fused.

You can write an exciting scene where the hero is hanging off a cliff clinging to a fraying rope. But what gives the scene heart pounding suspense is the heroine’s fear for the hero as she tries frantically to save him. And making the romance jack up the emotions is the icing on the cake, to use another food metaphor. These people are falling in love against a background of suspense and danger, and they know they may die tomorrow.

If you’re reading this, you must be a fan of romantic suspense.
What do you love about this kind of book?

Rebecca York


  1. The heroes! Protectors. Smart men. Men with a sense of duty and honor. Men who stand up to danger and do the hard thing because it needs to be done. (sigh) That's probably the #1 thing I love about romantic suspense.

    Of course, you have to pair the hero up with a woman who's his match or better. Otherwise, the relationship probably wouldn't work for me.

    Oh, and the vicarious satisfaction of seeing the bad guys get their comeuppance--justice in one way or another by the end of the story is very satisfying to me as a reader.

    Okay, so there's a lot I like about romantic suspense--a great mystery with a twisty plot really keeps me reading, too!

    Julie Miller

  2. Intrigues are supposed to be "hero driven." But you're right, the heroine is just as important. She's got to be the hero's equal.

  3. Julie, I love those heroes, too. ;) But I also agree with the whole cuomeuppance and justice for the bad guys because I don't want just a HEA for the hero and heroine, I want ALL the pieces in place.

  4. WHAT? Intrigues are supposed to be hero driven? Why am I just now finding this out? Could explain a lot, though.

  5. Amanda, I'm not sure it was ALWAYS true. But that's what I've been told now. As opposed to the new Silhouette RS line (old Intimate Moments) that's NOT hero driven.

  6. Rebecca--Thanks for the info. This is a very good thing to know. And me with a sisters series coming up!