Let's Write: The Romantic Mystery
Every mystery should have a bit of romance added
What ingredients are necessary for creating a successful romantic mystery? It should contain both the elements of a romantic novel with the intrigue of a mystery. This may on the surface seem like an easy undertaking however, it can be ominous.
The one underlying ingredient shared by both genres is the introduction of adversity whether in the guise of a person or a predicament. Very few romances are created stress free and by nature of being a mystery there is evidence of something amiss.
As always your first inclination should be to create an outline. This point cannot be stressed enough. To guarantee the continuity of your romantic mystery novel you must realize the necessity of having a plan. This is paramount for the smooth execution of your novel.
Start your outline with an intriguing or interesting title. The title should suggest that there is something awry but to the sheer delight of the reader there is also a hint of romance. When I say hint, this means that the couple involved have a romantic attraction but it will not be the only focus of the story. The conflict between the couples and a mysterious third party is always good for tantalizing curiosity.
Your characters should have concerns that bring them together as a couple but also entangles them into your mystery. A great many detective mysteries have co-workers who during the course of an investigation discover not only clues to apprehend the culprit but to reveal their mutual interests in each other.
When planning your romantic mystery, think of the story Casablanca. It is filled with many of the ingredients that make a great story. There is intrigue, tasteful passion and espionage thrown in for flavor. In this instance, the adversity is Germany. During that era there were many who understood and sympathized with the plight of Europeans under Nazi occupation.
Your romantic involvement could be a romantic clandestine encounter from the past that threatens to disrupt a current marriage. Or it could be a present rendezvous or chance encounter. Another story that should come to mind is Fatal Attraction. A brief encounter leads to obsession. There should be a gradual building up of tension between characters which culminates in the final moments of the novel. Keep your audience reading where they can't put the book down until finished.
The amount of time spent on the actual circumstances depends on the level of mystery you wish to invoke. If the action is stretched over a period of time, then there should be relevant background information to retain the curiosity of your audience. This point also needs to be reiterated. However, if you are writing a short story; you will not have as much time.
Your introduction should be intriguing enough to capture your reader’s attention. A technique that starts at the end of the story and then flashes back to situations leading up to the climax can add the necessary flavor of mystery.
Consider exerts from my short story Jessica of Wellington Heights
Jessica of Wellington Heights
The interview went very well and Jesse expected to hear a favorable reply very soon. She was faced with only one class that day so she decided to drop by the library before going to class. Jesse felt she was in luck as she found a parking space directly in front of the main entrance. She got out and walked briskly up the stairs and into the front door. Jock turned to look straight into Jesse's eyes. He was as surprised as she was to meet here. He walked toward her with the surety of a predator. His deep, soft voice flowed over her.
"Curse it all," she thought.
Jesse was hoping to be able to avoid him and perhaps have a pleasant, as well as, quiet day. Both aspects were shattered as she looked into those grey eyes. She wondered why she had to be the one he was stalking.
“I didn't expect to see you, today!” Again Jesse silently cursed herself. She didn't intend to make her thoughts so obviously known. He lifted one eyebrow.
“Really?” Jock replied staring straight at her. It was as if he was boring right into her soul.
“No, no I didn't.” She stammered.
Jessica’s composure slowly drifted away. I need to maintain some control here, she thought. Lifting her chin and trying to sound the brave lady she definitely was not feeling.
“No, I am aware that the Engineering Dept. houses its own separate library and I assumed you'd probably be there,” she finished feeling some of her confidence returning.
“Engineering is not my only interest,” he returned again throwing her only slightly off balance.
“I also have interest in classical music, fine art, and the theater. I've done a little acting and I enjoyed it.”
"I'll bet you have done acting," she thought, "like the little number you're going to do on me."
Now she felt it had been a bad idea to go to the library. She needed to get away from this man at all cost. He was proving to be dangerous.
“Well, it was nice talking to you, Jack, but I need to be moving on.” She purposely pronounced his name wrong. She could see the displeasure in his eyes.
“Jock, don't ever call me Jack!” He could feel the muscle in his face tighten up.
Angela called him Jack. Angela knew it always bothered him, but that didn't matter to her. How he had learned to detest Angela. By the time his composure had returned to him, Jess had managed to slip away. He had not meant to let her slip past him until he had procured a date from her. He wanted to be with her again. Jessica was a beautiful woman. She was as beautiful as Angela Bondelli. Angela was half Italian and half demon with long black silky hair that ran the distance of her back and piercing blue eyes. Her mother had abruptly left her at his father's best friend and business associate front door and disappeared with equal mystery. Jock smiled when he imagine the uproar in the Smith family when that little bundle of dynamite ignited in that household. But in time they all learned to love her as she cast her spell on each member of the family. And that web extended into the Emerson family until it entangled itself around the head of Jock Emerson.
“Damn!” The man swore aloud. “Why can't she quit invading my thoughts? Even all the way down here that temptress affects my thoughts.” He strove out the door, made his way to his black jaguar and pointed it in the direction of McCarthy Park.
In this sampling is the essence of the romantic mystery novel. You are introduced to the chief character, a young heroine and her hero love interest. You are also introduced to the villain, a woman who haunts the hero from his past. The woman is also beautiful and mysterious - but with a dangerous hold on the hero.
The next task would be to develop the plot further, keeping in mind the romantic overtones and elements of mystery.
Your goal as a romantic mystery writer is to maintain the interest of your readers. By using the “flash-back method” you can entwine both current events with the past. It explains a motive.
Will the antagonist win or will our protagonist escape the clutching grip of the past?