posted on May 20, 2020 by Tonya Burrows

Writing Suspense in a Time of Uncertainty

In romantic suspense, I love the suspense. I love dark, twisty, edge-of-your seat stories with high body counts and truly vile villains. My motto is the darker the suspense, the more satisfying the happily ever after.

But, like everyone else, the last few months have been full of uncertainty for me. I lost my day job in January before all the Covid-19 craziness and haven’t been able to find a new one. I’ve been squeaking by on unemployment and my miniscule royalty checks while also attending school online and watching the worldwide death toll rise. With so much darkness and uncertainty in the world today, I’ve started gravitating toward lighter media—sitcoms (which I’d never watched much of before), romantic comedy (which I’d never read before), and chick flicks (which I used to gag over).

Writing what I love has become HARD. I’ve found myself questioning everything I put on the page. Is it too dark? Did I kill too many people? Is my bad guy too bad?

In my recent release, HONOR AVENGED, the bad guys are some of the wickedest I’ve ever written. The scum of humanity, stealing lives for money and power. And (spoiler) some of the bad guys survive to strike again in the next book. Which I’m struggling to write because, damn, they are the worst of my baddies and part of me wants everyone to just hold hands and sing Kumbaya under a rainbow.

What’s a writer to do?

No. Really. I’m asking.

I don’t have the answers and my muse is confused. On one shoulder is the devil muse whispering that we love what we love and we should write all the darkness. On the other is the angel muse singing sweetly of funny and light and no explosions or body counts. It’s a tug of war that has left my staring at a blinking cursor on a blank screen.

Have you found yourself gravitating toward the light or are you steeped in darkness?

Tonya Burrows

Tonya Burrows

Tonya wrote her first romance in 8th grade and hasn't put down her pen since. She received a B.A. in creative writing from SUNY Oswego and is working on a MFA in popular fiction at Seton Hill University. Tonya shares her life with two dogs and a ginormous cat. She's from a small town in Western New York, but she suffers from a bad case of wanderlust and usually ends up moving someplace new every few years. Luckily, her animals are all excellent travel buddies. When she's not writing, Tonya can be found at a bookstore or the dog park. She also enjoys painting, watching movies, and her daily barre workouts.

2 thoughts on “Writing Suspense in a Time of Uncertainty”

  1. Avatar flchen1 says:

    I think you may need to alternate between the two (possibly not for the same book 😉 ) I know my reading preferences have veered even more towards the light right now, so I imagine that your writing might seesaw these days as well. Write what brings you peace and joy, Tonya!

  2. Avatar Tina J says:

    Personally, I love the brand of Romantic Suspense that you write and was both horrified and fascinated by the Aid First set-up you portrayed in Honor Avenged. It’s hard to believe that things like that truly do exist in today’s world, so far from what we live and know.
    Ultimately, a reader knows you are writing FICTION and needs to separate the STORY from current events. So long as that story is not a locked bullseye on current global issues, I think it would be easier to read the book.
    I’d hate to see you change your writing style and put out fluff pieces just to appease the few that need “a break from the darkness”. HONOR AVENGED proved to me that there’s worse out there than being forced to wear a mask and gloves at work. 😉

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