10/14/09

A Suspense is a Suspense and a Romance is a Romance

In connection with yesterday's first page tip, use those first pages to firmly set the type of writing you intend your book to be.

I recently read a novel by an author I usually like. It was advertised as a suspense thriller, which I love. Chapter one started with a bit of a thrill in the form of a flashback but then it goes straight into romance mode. For eight chapters. I felt a bit cheated. It was chapter 9 before the antagonist and "thriller" part of the conflict was introduced. Somewhere around chapter five, I seriously re-read the backliner to make sure this was really going to be a suspense novel—eventually.

IMHO, that's just too long to wait before setting up the current conflict in a suspense novel. If I hadn't read and liked this author before, I'd have given up and quit reading long before chapter 9. If I'd wanted a romance, I would have bought a romance, but I bought a thriller, I wanted a thriller—and wading through nearly 90 pages of romance was ticking me off.

Now, I'm not saying you can't have romance in your thrillers. You certainly can. While not absolutely critical, mixing a developing romance in with your murder adds interest to the plot and gives the reader a little time to breathe. But if you're writing a thriller, you need to get to that story right away. It needs to be the main plot line—starting with chapter 1. Diverge to romance every other chapter or part of the chapter, but keep us on track with the suspense.

If you need some backstory and character development, that's fine but build the tension a little more in every chapter to keep us hooked and always remembering that this is a suspense novel. You don't want to lose your readers who thought they were getting one thing, but get so much of the other right at first that they never get to the good part.

10 comments:

Kristine Princevalle said...

First line of Heroes of the Fallen by David J. West:

"With the bitter sweet music of battle over, I found him at dusk, buried amid the mass of his ten thousand."

Kristine Princevalle said...

This goes to your previous post about great first lines...

Deanne Blackhurst said...

I am so glad someone feels this way. I've read two or three novels recently with plot lines that were very compeling and suspenful and then right in the middle the plot just stops while the hero and heroine go out to dinner, and have thier first kiss and try to figure out what they feel. In my opinion the momentum of the suspense is totally lost. Perhaps a little more subtle on the romance, and more evenly spread out. A kiss between gunshots, or a quiet moment in the action. The benefit is that the suspense keeps building as does the romantic suspense as it is stretched out longer.

Lucy said...

Does this mean you don't like romantic suspense? I thought that was a subgenre.

Jennie said...

Writers don't always get to choose which category their publisher or a book store puts a book in. Even my historical Bracelet series was categorized into different categories by Deseret Book. Some volumes were called historical and some romance. When I wrote Shudder,my new release, I saw it as general fiction or social issue, maybe even romance, but because there is also a strong suspense element it got classified as romantic suspense.

Elizabeth Morgan said...

I think that suspence and romance can be in the same book but when it is seperate it is definantly a differnt story. The styles are definantly different.

Karen Gowen said...

Could you be talking about Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games? First 9 chapters are filler information JUST IN CASE the reader didn't read The Hunger Games, along with the triangle romance-- Who likes who? Who doesn't like who? It isn't until Chapter 10 that any real action starts. Just wondering.

Brooke said...

I thought she was talking about Lockdown by Traci Hunter Abramson which happens to be one of my favorites. Except for the prologue, the beginning doesn't really have a lot of traditional suspense. It's more emotional suspense. Still, it pulled me right in and I had trouble putting it down. But like Jennie said, authors don't get to choose where their publishers categorize their books.

LDS_Publisher said...

Just to clarify, yes, I enjoy romantic suspense but I think BOTH the romance and the suspense needs to be developed along the way. Not a big dose of one, then another big dose of the other. Needs to be blended better.

And no, I will not confirm or deny which book I was talking about.

LDS_Publisher said...

Oh, and as to Jennie's comment about writers not picking their genre category. That is absolutely true. My post was a "tsk-tsk" aimed at both the author AND the publisher.