Maggie Mitchell

Category Archives: Craft

CRAFT: Increase the Intensity


One sure fire way to keep the intensity of the romance balanced with the suspense is to have the characters together as often as possible. In some cases you will find them together all the way through the book. This forces the protagonists to grow together emotionally. They need to build a relationship of trust for each other while at the same time battling the bad guys.

The suspense plot itself can create a rollercoaster ride of emotions as events occur and the characters are placed in such danger or action that it makes our hearts pound in fear and worry. Will they survive? How do they get out of this seemingly impossible situation?

You can go about this a few ways. First you can keep your reader guessing as much as your characters. When something happens, they are as surprised as the characters involved. This works well in a number of situations.

Another way is to have the reader know the facts while the characters have no idea. The reader knows that a villain is watching and waiting for the heroine to arrive home late at night. The heroine has no idea and goes happily along,
following her normal routine while the readers are on the edge of their seats worried about the heroine and what is going to happen to her. They might even shout at her to run while she still has the chance. 

This emotional involvement of the reader enhances their enjoyment, and when the main characters eventually get together there is more satisfaction due to this higher degree of caring for the welfare of the characters.

After a suspenseful event, there is an affirmation of life as the characters and the readers rejoice in another escape from danger.

So now you have some ideas to work with…

Creating romantic suspense can be a very rewarding experience. Getting the balance between the romance and the suspense is a simple process if you remember that there are no hard and fast rules. The characters have a need for each other that is enhanced by the danger of the suspense, and the thrill of being together through the experience. This is what makes for satisfying reading and is why we continue to come back for more.

Thank you for dropping by and reading my seven part series on Writing Romantic Suspense.  I’ll be sharing more craft at a later date. In the mean time stick around and share my writing journey with me. I’d love to have you 🙂

CRAFT: Make the conflict strong!

Writing romantic suspense: Part 6

Make the Conflict Strong

Robert McKee says that nothing moves forward in a story except through conflict. Not only is conflict a necessary part of the story, but both the internal and external conflict must be strong enough to last until the end of the story. Conflict adds excitement and suspense to a story. In romance fiction, there has to be valid reasons to keep the main characters from forming a lasting relationship until the end of the book. 

Internal conflict is a struggle that takes place in a character’s mind. For example, a character may have to decide between right and wrong or between two solutions to a problem. Sometimes, a character must deal with his or her own mixed feelings or emotions.  It can be as simple as a need for independence or as complex as some deep-seated fear from childhood. 

In allowing the reader to have knowledge and understanding of this emotional baggage or internal conflict, you also give the characters room to evolve and grow. As the story progresses, the internal conflicts assume less importance as the characters learn to trust each other and gain in maturity. If done well, this process of character growth enhances the romance plot and can provide the resolution the reader is waiting for.

The external conflict is the circumstances that keeps the characters apart. In suspense, this is often the obstacle of the situation. For example a crazed killer may be stalking the heroine and she is in constant danger. The hero and heroine are working undercover thus preventing them from being together at least until the case is resolved.

Some common examples of conflict in an romantic suspense…

Internal Conflict (character against self)

The heroine has a deep fear of clowns, but finds herself hiding in a circus community. She needs to overcome this fear to help solve the mystery and save her life.

External Conflict (character against character/s, or character against nature, or character against circumstance)

Just when the hero and heroine begin to feel something for each other, the villain captures the hero and threatens his life. The heroine must outwit the enemy, even though she’s never held a gun before in her life, and there is no one she can trust.


Write down an example of an internal and an external conflict?

You can use characters you have already created, or new characters

CRAFT: Show attraction

Writing Romantic Suspense Part 5

So…let’s recap…
We’ve thought about what sort of book we want to write.
We’ve started with some memorable characters.
We have a villain we love to hate.
An emotional connection has been established between the heroine and the hero.
What’s the next important ingredient needed to balance that romance with the suspense?
Of course you can’t have a romance unless you…

Show Attraction
Attraction for each other, often despite antagonism, is mandatory to any romance and the romantic suspense is no exception. This begins with a physical awareness between the heroine and the hero, that heart pounding, blush inducing chemical reaction that happens when you see someone who floats your boat. Think Brad Pitt or Gerard Butler. My pulse rises just picturing their faces in my head.

This is the reaction you need to show between your characters. Notice I said show…not tell. Where is the impact if you tell us that he thinks she’s hot, or she finds herself strangely attracted to him? You have to show why and you use the five senses to convey this. What does he/she look like? Does he or she have a distinctive scent? What perfume/aftershave can be smelt? How does their skin feel? What characteristics does his/her voice have? Do they have distinctive speech patterns? What do they taste when kissed?

You should keep the attraction thing going even when they are not together. They should be constantly thinking of each other and remember little things about their last encounter. He relives the feel of her silken skin. She sighs as she remembers the power of his kiss.

Never forget that you must continue that emotional connection I mentioned earlier, as well as increasing the physical attraction. Without the characters beginning to care for each other the attraction becomes meaningless. Her looks might strike a cord with him as he remembers a lost love. He makes her feel protected and safe in the midst of all the chaos. However it happens, it’s something that evolves as the characters spend more time together and are drawn further into the intrigue or suspense of the circumstances they find themselves in.


Write a paragraph showing how you can weave attraction into a scene while still showing the story

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