Your goal in writing a romance is to bring hero and heroine through trials and tribulations to a satisfying happily ever after. Your goal in writing a suspense is to make your reader believe something horrible is going to happen to your characters on the next page. Your goal in writing a romantic suspense is to give your reader a great suspense with characters who have a sizzling chemistry that promises fulfillment by the end of the book.
Your first chapter is critical. Not only do you have to set the tone that this is a suspense, but also you have to bring your characters together so your reader can imprint on the attraction. One word says it all. Tease.
Tease your reader with the threat hanging over your main character's head. Use tools like a ticking clock where the reader knows that unless a bomb is diffused, someone is going to die.
Tease your reader with the growing attraction between your main characters. Bring them close together and throw in something suspenseful that stops them from culminating their desire with a kiss or more.
Example from FOXFIRE:
Grace and Tyler are at the site of a waterfall after hiking up a mountain. Grace has just told Tyler something about her past. They kiss and the kiss draws them closer...and closer. Just as they are losing themselves in the passion, her dog draws their attention:
Tiffany's ears pricked and a low rumbling growl rose from her chest. She raced into the thick foliage, baring her teeth.
Tyler sprang to his feet. "Grace, stay down."
"I think someone's out there."
If you've done your job and have built the suspense AND the romantic tension, you can weave them both into a sizzling scene.
Tyler sat on the edge of the sofa, placing a bag on the floor at his feet.
Grace flicked a glance at the bag. "What did you buy?"
"An alarm system."
Oh no. He couldn't possibly have bought that thing for her house. She rocked forward, placing both feet firmly on the floor. Her hands gripped the arms of the chair. "Don't even tell me that's for my house."
"People here do not put in alarm systems. Ther are no crimes in Foxfire."
His amused glance infuriated her. She wanted to believe Foxfire was safe. That's why she moved here, but she'd brought danger to this community.
"No arguments. If you insist on staying at your place, we've got to do something to make it safe, especially with Tiffany laid up."
Grace knew he was right, but she didn't want to give him the satisfaction. "I don't need an alarm. I have a gun."
His emerald gaze met hers.
She jumped to her feet. "Damn it, Tyler. I don't need you to protect me. I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I've been doing it all my life."
His gaze never wavered. "With a gun?"
She narrowed her gaze. "I know how to handle the gun quite well, thank you."
"And you think you're capable of shooting somebody?"
She held her own. "If I have to."
"Somehow I doubt you'd be able to shoot anyone."
Her face heated. How dare he? Did he really take her for a woman who'd back down from a threat? It just showed how little he really knew her. They could never have a relationship because he was just too cocky, too macho. She didn't need him or any man to protect her. Not now, not ever. She pulled herself upright. "That's your opinion. I can do anything I set my mind to."
He grinned. "Damned if I don't believe you. So, what did Harri tell you?"
The sudden change of subject took her by surprise.
"Harri said not to forget what she told you."
"Oh, that? You mean I didn't tell you?" she asked in a false disbelieving tone.
She hitched both shoulders up and down. "Then it must have been none of your business."
Tyler's eyes narrowed into slits and a muscle twitched in his jaw. He stood and moved toward her. She cringed, backing against the chair, preparing to flee. But something about the look in his eyes...something about his demeanor froze her in place. He looked determined and angry...intent on punishing her. Before she could make her move, he grabbed her arms, pulling her toward him and clamping his mouth over hers. The kiss was hot and angry...and breathtaking.
Now it's your turn. Look at your manuscript and see where you can up the tension by weaving your two plots together in a "teasing" scene.
Tomorrow...the ticking clock, red herrings, and a twist.