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 250-400 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 police chief had to be both lawman and father when someone from his past kidnaps his daughter. Usually it is easiest to come up with some kind of concept and build a story from there.

After you come up with a premise, you must delve into your main characters’ background. The past is what sharps your characters into who they are. Decide what their dreams, motivations and conflicts are. Make sure you have enough conflict because your plot comes from the conflict (the person’s fears and secrets).

When you open your romantic suspense, start in the middle of a scene with action. Begin with a dynamite opening that pulls your reader into your story. Don’t dump a lot of background information at the first because it slows your pacing.

In the middle keep the action going by upping the suspense  and taking the story in a new direction. Resolve one problem only to have a worse one develop. When you get to the end, have a dramatic climax where everything seems hopeless, but love wins out. Finish your story with all the loose ends tied up.

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. Besides FaithWriters.com, American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW at http://www.acfw.com) 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.


Margaret Daley has been writing for twenty-five years.  She sold her first book in the early 1980s and has been selling ever since. She has been married for over thirty-five years and has one son.

Visit her Web site at www.margaretdaley.com to see more articles about writing and to read about her upcoming books. Also visit Margaret’s blog at www.margaretdaley.blogspot.com to read author interviews and have an opportunity to win a book in weekly drawing.

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