Suspense Thriller Romance: Starts with a KILLER Premise

Suspense Thriller Romance: Starts with a KILLER Premise

Have you ever wanted to write? I hope so as everyone has a story to tell. But if you're a fan of action-packed romantic suspense, thrillers, you understand that it ALL starts with a killer premise! Reading Amazon descriptions and exciting back cover bait that outlines the basics of hero/heroine, the conflict, and the stakes, hook us.

Blurbs are the premise--the promise authors make with their reader. Who wants to buy a carton of milk only to discover tap water in their cereal? My first experience with skim milk was like that. But I should have read the premise, the defining details on the carton before gulping it down. That happened the next time I ventured into the fridge, the result being that I got the full fat I wanted.

So, step one in crafting a winning premise is to decide who your audience will be. 

We all tell stories, miniature narratives about what happened during our days and nights. What you heard at the watercooler or the market or, maybe, when neighbors took an argument outside all contribute to the stories we tell. But when relating these tales, most folks take into consideration who is listening. One slant may work to engage a spouse's attention, another is more appropriate for kids, and yet another for your mother-in-law or best buddy.

Step two is having a comprehensive grasp on the genre in which you'd like to write. Romantic suspense blends elements of romance, mystery, and suspense, focusing on the tension between two characters as they navigate both romance and external threats. High stakes, fast-paced action, and a sense of danger are hallmarks of the genre. And while we are called to be creative as authors, veering too far off the mark of your advertised premise may not be as well received as you believe. Put simply, if burgers are on the menu, don't serve fish. 

Balancing romance, suspense, and thrills is crucial to the genre, ensuring that each element complements the other without overshadowing it, like properly seasoned hamburgers. It's about striking a delicate balance that keeps readers engaged and eager to turn the page.

Studying successful, bestselling romantic suspense novels is step three. Read across the genre, to glean insights into crafting your killer premise. Identify trends, recurring themes, and unique elements that set certain novels apart. If those elements get you jazzed to read the book, chances are, they'll work for garnering your readers' attention.

Step four is to read outside the genre. Maintain focus on romantic suspense thriller themes, yes, but broaden your horizons to other genres, news sources, podcasts, etc. This is homework. You may not enjoy doing it, but sticking with this assignment will provide you with unique observations that your characters can make about the world that we are all living in. This lends credence to your work, helping you avoid the dreaded pitfalls of cliche. Reading non-fiction about cold case crime, police procedures, psychology--essential for a psychological thriller--all contribute to making your romantic suspense thriller premise hit the mark.

The fifth step is to write your premise. Just do it! Simple. You want to include the protagonists, the conflict, and the stakes of both the suspense and the romance. i.e. Single mother Loretta Fox needed a partner long before gang bangers broke into her uptown apartment and took her child.  The boss she trusted wants the dossier she has on his crimes. He wants her dead but so will her ex-husband, PI John Harding. Will he forgive her for keeping the birth of their child a secret? Will their baby survive?  This on-the-fly premise leads straight into the sixth and final step for this blog post.

Seek feedback from peers, mentors, and beta readers to refine your premise and ensure it resonates with your target audience. Your premise is not your baby, so there's no need to defend it as if it were. Doing so is anathema. That said, don't ask the opinion of one who has an animus for the genre. That can crush any creative--you! But be open to critiques and revision, constantly striving to improve and strengthen your story's foundation.

While I have yet to incorporate comments into this blog, feel free to critique my premise and send your suggestions to I'd love your thoughts! Everyone can use a little help.

Crafting a killer premise is essential for writing compelling romantic suspense novels. By understanding the genre, knowing your audience, and researching existing works, you can create a premise that hooks readers from the start and keeps them engaged until the final page!