Friday, August 15, 2008

More RWA workshop notes - More Romantic Suspense

Karen Rose is another author I admire and respect—and, like Brenda Novak, Karen is on my 'don't mind coming in second to her' list -- this one was in the Lories.

She addressed some of the areas where romantic suspense has different emphases from other sub-genres. Like any other book, establishing the goals, motivations, and conflict for the hero and heroine is vital. However, she attests that in romantic suspense, the villain drives the story.

The villain: Establish the villain's motivation. Some effective ones can be revenge, power, or greed. Give him a personality. Is he antisocial? Sadistic? Dependent? Somewhere, he should have a reason for doing what he does, but she also said some people are just "bad" in general. Is there some pathology behind his behavior.

(Note: If you followed my series on Criminal Thinking, you might also pick up some character help there. Your villain will probably think differently from your hero and heroine.)

Your villain must be smart. At least as smart as your hero and heroine. He must be a formidable opponent, although he can appear to be the man next door. He must also be 3-dimensional. Find his vulnerability.

Things to avoid: The "they" of faceless groups. Find one individual and connect with him. Stupid, bumbling villains. Redeemable villains. Cardboard villains. Villains who appear from nowhere. The motivation of the villain can be the mystery.

Hero and Heroine: their relationship must be threatened by the villain, fed by the suspense. They must stay close to the action. Be sure their occupation(s) give them a right to be where they need to be.

Things to avoid: a heroine too dependent on the hero. Stupidity. A too 'macho' hero. Too much arguing.

Victims: make them human.

Secondary characters: they give dimension to the hero and heroine. Options include: best friend, family, neighbors, coworkers. Secondary characters are great for explaining technology and avoiding info dumps or too much telling. They can provide conflict.

Plot: get the details right, and know where to drip the clues. The romance and the plot have to intertwine. Each scene has to feed both the romance and the suspense. A secondary plot gives a 'bigger book' feel.

Pacing: each scene has to advance the plot. Suspense scenes are usually shorter. A romantic suspense has an urgent mood.

Continuing dilemma for me: some of these gems don't lend themselves as well to a mystery-centered story. More things to work on.


Sarah Richmond said...

I popped over from Cerridwen chat and I'm glad I did. Thanks for the info.

Sarah Richmond

Terry Odell said...

Glad you stopped by, Sarah, and that you found the information interesting.

Liza James said...

Thanks for the info, Terry! I'm working on an RS right now, so this was interesting and helpful. :-)

~Donna Kowalczyk

Terry Odell said...

Happy to share, Liza/Donna.

Ray said...

My favorite sub genre is Romantic Suspense. I am currently reading a series by Mariah Stewart about a family of FBI agents who play a small part in each of the books, but the main characters change with romance outside the family.

Tara Janzen has a series in which a new couple plays a large part in the book prior to the one in which they are the main characters so you are enticed to wait for the next story and when you finally begin to read you are already in love with the characters.

Great blogs, this and the previous one.


Helen Hardt said...

Great information. Thanks!


Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Ray -- There was another workshop on writing a trilogy, which seems to be the 'in' thing these days. Three connected books, released back to back in rapid succession. I'm reading Brenda Novak's newest one now. I figure the third one will be out before I finish the first two.

Helen: glad to be 'of service'. Hope you wander through the posts and find some other useful tidbits.