And what dilemma would that be? — you ask. I mean there could be so many. But this one is when you have the book almost two-thirds written (circa 65 K words) and you know where you want to end up, and you have a fricking cover ! (Sneak preview of draft cover)
But, lo and behold — the characters stop talking to you, and don’t tell you why.
Now I have to admit, this is not usually my dilemma.
Normally, I have characters talking to me in my head all the damn time. Characters from my current work. Characters from past books who didn’t get everything said and think they need a novella or a short story to finish up an issue or two. And characters who want their books to come next in one of my series — or worse yet, want me to write them a stand-alone. My head is a noisy, chaotic place.
And I have all those other wanna-be characters still talking to me, but my current book’s characters have gone dumb.
“Ah,” you say, “Monette has hit the proverbial wall. Writer’s block.”
Nope, not my problem. Had that problem once, way back in the book called Death Benefits — and it was more of a short stoop than a wall. All it took to climb over it was a glass of scotch and a lawyer friend who told me to pin the murders on a relative rather than a serial killer stranger. The “aha” moment was clear and the flood dams opened — and I never looked back.
So, nope, not writer’s block. I know where I need to go next in my current book to get to the end — and I know the ending. BTW, I am not a pantser per se — I also don’t do extreme outlines. I plot point. I have certain plot points I need to hit along the way and between those points, I just let my characters lead me.
“Then,” you say, “it has to be a sagging middle. You’re writing in circles.”
Nope and even if that were so, I’d write my way out of it eventually and then trash most of the circuitous crap in my first revision.
“So,” you ask, “if you aren’t blocked and your middle isn’t meandering, what the f**k is wrong? Why aren’t you finishing the blasted book?”
Because I lost track of the genre I was writing in. My characters realized it before I did and so they stopped talking — sort of a silent intervention. The characters’ version of tough love.
My Security Specialists International series is romantic adventure/suspense/thriller. I was having so much fun writing evil bad guys with all sort of plots and plans that my book began to sound more like a men’s action story than a romantic adventure. Yeah, I needed the external conflict to throw my H/H into a pressure cooker and boost their sexual attraction into trust and love, but I should be able to do that without resorting to writing a Bourne type thriller.
I think I would’ve figured the problem out eventually. But it took an early reading by two of my beta-readers (love you, KaLyn and Cherise) to hammer it into my head. Both agreed my alpha hero (Vanko) is yummy. Both thought the heroine (Elana) is his perfect match. Both of them thought, in general, the story works, BUT that the romance needed to be at least an equal player along with the suspense/thriller/action part of the plot.
And after a lot of whining and moaning and kicking at balls of kitty fur (my cat is shedding like crazy) all over the house — I agree.
So, I will be slashing and hacking and moving scenes around, tightening up my villains’ presence on the scene, and bumping up the internal conflict of the H/H to make Weather the Storm the best book it can be for my loyal fans.
By the way, this dilemma over the balance between romance and suspense/action in the RS area has been discussed and debated — often hotly — for a long time. The RWA Kiss of Death chapter used to discuss it frequently. Different publishers and lines had their own take on the issue. And romantic suspense authors have been, and still are, all over the place about the perfect balance.
My favorite romantic suspense author, Elizabeth Lowell, teeters between 50/50 (with not that much overt sexual activity, but more romantic and sexual tension than anything else) and 40% romance and 60% suspense/action. But her books are always satisfying, because she is just that damn good.
So, my question to you readers is — what is the perfect balance of romance to suspense/action in the romantic suspense sub-genre? 50/50? 60/40 (romance/suspense)? 40/60 (romance/suspense)? And who are some of your favorite romantic action/adventure/suspense authors?