Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Keeping the Balance Between Romance and Suspense

Lovely readers, today I (Jaime Jo) have a guestie filling in for me since I'm trying to get a head start on my new book! :) Please welcome Jessica Patch who writes Romantic Suspense for Love Inspired. I asked her to tell us how writers keep that fine balance between not enough suspense and too much romance, or too much suspense and not enough romance. She had some great insights, so please be friendly to dear Miss Jessica :)


Hey everyone! I’m so excited to be visiting with all my gal pals at Coffee Cups & Camisoles. Love those pics of you ladies.

Today, I want to talk about writing romantic suspense and keeping the balance between the romance and the suspense. I write for Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense and they expect a 50/50. But the way I see it when I write is 100/100. I’m writing a full romance story and a full suspense story.

Each thread has to have a beginning, middle and end.

When writing for LIS, you must begin with a direct threat happening. Particularly to your heroine. The sooner the better. When writing suspense, open with suspense. Makes sense.

The romance needs to open up as soon as they meet, and in an LIS, the heroine and hero must meet in the first chapter; earlier is better but it doesn’t have to be the first line or paragraph. The first attraction is going to be physical. Let’s be honest, that’s where it all begins; even if you don’t like the person, there is typically some physical attraction and that include a reunion romance. Give them some chemistry!

For example in Protective Duty (which is a reunion romance) my heroine sees the back of the hero first. “A man dressed in jeans and a fitted black leather jacket accenting his broad shoulders—his hair as dark at the jacket—stood by a woman examining the body. She hadn’t admired a man in a long time. Shouldn’t be admiring one now, but he was hard not to notice.”

Immediately we see some physical attraction and when she realizes it’s Eric Hale, she’s still attracted and torn because of how they broke up. But as they spend time together it will develop from physical attraction, to admiring inner character traits (bravery, loyalty, compassion, etc..), to an emotional connection giving it a well-rounded love story. And of course, throw in the conflict! Why can’t your hero be with your heroine? Why can’t your heroine be with your hero? What will they have to give up to be with one another? Make it believable and devastating to ratchet up the tension.

Remember, they are falling in love (fully developed) WHILE in peril, solving a crime/mystery, running from bad guys. So the suspense must be fully crafted as well. Put the hero and heroine together in every single chapter. Sometimes, you need a scene without them together, but make sure you bring them back to one another by the end and keep them that way most of the next scene.

Create scenes where they’re in danger, but also a few scenes where they have a minute to catch their breath and have some dialogue that shows them falling in love. You can’t get into deep conversations while trying to stay alive. So, what’s your deepest, darkest secret? *dodges bullets* Doesn’t happen like that. You also can’t have too many non-suspenseful scenes or you lose that tension. I never go two full chapters without some kind of direct threat to the heroine/hero. So grab those note cards and start brainstorming all the ways you can take them out! And all the scenes that involve aftermath and becoming emotionally connected.

The suspense thread should be completely resolved and don’t forget to toss in a few fun twists. Readers already know they’re getting a HEA, they just wanna know HOW it’s going to come about. They know the good guys will win, so give them some rabbit trails to chase. Books I always love to read have fun twists that I didn’t see coming. So I like to attempt to do the same!

Any questions? I’d love to answer them or at least try to!


And to make today's post even more fun, Jess is giving away a copy of both books seen above! Fatal Reunion and Protective Duty

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I love them both 50/50 they keep each other interesting!

  2. Hey, Jess!! Welcome to Coffee Cups & Camisoles!! This was a fun peek into a suspense writers world. Writing for Love Inspired Historical has some similarities (meeting in first chapter, together as much as possible, hero and heroine POV in each chapter, etc.), but adding that suspense thread WHILE having them fall in love sounds a bit daunting to me. I loved seeing how you make it happen. Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us today.

  3. Love your books! Keep em coming!

  4. Love your books! Keep em coming!

  5. I like how you described it as writing it 100/100. And I think you do an excellent job of it. I loved learning more about the framing of LIS books. I love romantic suspense. I love the balance. But deep down love the romance a little more than the suspense

  6. Really to me depends on the plot....sometimes more romance than suspense and other times more suspense than romance. Unbalanced depending on the plot is my preference!

  7. I'm a suspense fan! I am not a fan of insta-love. The more natural or progressive the relationship, the more authentic it feels to me. When there is a lot of internal dialogue about bulging biceps or a woman's knock-out looks, I begin having high school flashbacks.

  8. I definitely gravitate to romance, but I always enjoy suspense mixed in. That's why the Love Inspired suspense books are perfect. As long as they aren't too dark, I'm game.


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