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:: Archived Articles ::

Act Two: Scene Two
Things that Go Bump in the Night

     It was the mid-nineties when someone looked around and realized there was a need for a new section of the Romance Writer’s of America.  There was a group within the group who seemed to be doing things other people weren’t doing.  They were thinking thoughts other writer’s didn’t think.
     How did you kill the victim of your book?  Shoot, stab, push of the edge of cliff?  And when you did, what did you do with the body?  It is not every group within the RWA who knows that sixteen grown pigs who haven’t eaten is forty-right hours can devour a corpse in about eight minutes.
     There was a need.
     The Kiss of Death met that need.  It was a place where a romance writer could go, find out about the pigs and not feel as if they were out of place.
     There was the discussion once about the stainless steal rolling pin one member had purchased.  “Great weapon,” her daughter noted.  “It’s heavy, easy to use and because it was stainless steal it would be easy to wipe off the fingerprints.”
     Not long after, another member told the story of buying her new car.  The salesman, she said, had gotten a little concerned when she mentioned the trunk was big enough for three bodies.
     And finally, there was the story a member shared about the dinner she had at the restaurant.  Things were going real fine while she discussed with her date how not only how to kill the person off, but how to get rid of the body.  The conversation at the next table came to a stand still as the other patrons took the story a little too literal.
     We write mystery and suspense books and it is safe to say that the members of the Kiss of Death think outside the box.  In fact, if you took a really close look at that box, you might find that it is long, thin and buried six feet under.
     Marie Rodell in her book Mystery Fiction stated that there are four classic reasons why people read mysteries and suspense:

  • The vicarious thrill of the manhunt ... carried on intellectually in the cleverness of detective and reader.

  • The satisfaction of seeing the transgressor punished.

  • A sense of identification with the people ... and events in the story which will make the reader feel more heroic.

  • A sense of conviction about the reality of the story.

     Writing a romantic suspense novel takes this one step further, though, by adding in the element of a relationship which grows from initial attraction to committed relationship, sometimes under extreme circumstances where life and death is on the line.
     In her live workshop Dead On, New York Times Best Selling Author, Brenda Novak defines romantic suspense as the meshing of suspense with romance.  Says Brenda “The suspense feeds off the romance and the romance feeds suspense ... and that,” she continues, “is what is what is tricky about it.  The keeping of the balance and keeping them both charging ahead at full speed.”
     The balancing act for the writer can be exhilarating – and challenging at the same time.  Ruth Glick, who writes as Rebecca York says “the first thing I’d say is that when I read a mystery, I assume that what the author is trying to convince me of in the first third of the story will not turn out to be true ... Usually, I have red herrings planned.  But I also think of additional clues while I am writing the book.  If I am writing the kind of mystery with a lot of suspects, sometimes I don’t decide who the killer is until late in the story.  When you do that, it’s harder for the reader to figure out which one it is.  But you also have to be careful to go back and put in enough clues so the reader can see the logic of your choice.”
     When developing a romantic suspense is good to run two plot lines while planning.  One to follow the romance and one to follow the mystery.  By charting them out in black and white it is easy to run them side by side and see where they mesh and where they collied.  Sex can be an important element in a romance book, however, if the hero and heroine are under fire with a countdown they must meet, if bad guys are around every corner and the threat of death is in every breath and every sigh, finding time to be romantic can be more difficult.
     Intimacy can bring the hero and heroine closer together and give the feeling of being alive.  It can expand on their growing need for one another.  However, the scene must be presented in a logical sequence when the timing is right for both the relationship, the romance and the mystery.  As in comedy, timing is everything in a suspense novel.  Intimacy must fit logically into the plot.
     Says Brenda Novak: “I don’t know very many women who would be thinking about sex when they are in immediate peril.  They don’t know why they are in this situation and they have all these questions: ‘who just attacked me and why?’ ... they are not going to be thinking ‘Wow ... the hero is fine ... I want to ... ’”
     Leaving the reader with a feeling of satisfaction is key when writing a good suspense novel.  They want to see the villain come to his or her just end.  When combining this with romance, it changes the way a romance might be viewed.  Unlike a conventional romance where the hero and heroine may have had some time to explore their feelings and their relationship, falling in love in the midst of danger and mystery is not as easy.  The whole story may be laid out in a few days or weeks.  There may be less time for the characters to make life altering decisions.  At the end of the book they might not be ready for marriage.  This is okay.  The story doesn’t have to have a neat bow around it to make it a satisfying read.  There can be a hint of what is to come, of where they might go. 
     And the reader will like this.  A romantic suspense novel is a place to escape.  It is the meshing of two genres into a complicated plot – and if done right - that leaves the reader feeling as if they have spent their time wisely.


Bio: Award winning author, Jacqui Jacoby lives and writes in the mountains of Northern Arizona. A self-defense hobbyist, she has recently taken up sword fighting for research and found it came with the added bonus of relaxation. She is a working mom whose career includes writing books, teaching online and live courses, and penning short non-fiction.  She can be reached via her website at




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