How much is too much suspense

I like suspense, but how much is too much spookiness or gore for a romance novel?

Growing up, I loved to sneak downstairs and watch the scary movies my parents would watch late at night. I’d be sitting all crunched up, terrified but could not pry my eyes away. I remember one movie in particular, called Straight Jacket about a crazy woman who axed people to death. I went to bed after seeing parts of that movie terrified to close my eyes. But did it stop me from doing it again? Hell no!

Amityville horror (the original) was another movie I insisted on watching that gave me nightmares for days. I had to sleep with the light on because I was sure that damn pig was going to jump out of my closet and going into the basement after watching that movie was one thing I avoided. But I loved it. I loved the sensation of being afraid, the adrenaline it gave me and it only made me want to watch more spooky, horror type movies. When I was a teen, my oldest sister took me and my baby sister to see Cujo, by Stephen King. I was scared shitless while watching it but at the same time, I felt giddy. And while walking home, we passed a car lot which was fenced in by chain link. No lights on whatsoever. It was past ten at night and as we passed the lot, a huge dog jumped out, barking up a storm and scared the living piss out of all three of us. We screamed, and ran for our lives, laughing once we caught our breath. I still laugh now thinking about that moment. I strongly believe that moment is what fueled my love for scaring others.

I’m not a big slasher flick watcher but I must admit I loved the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. Aside from the gore, there was a hell of a lot of suspense and I love suspense. All of the things in my life play a part in what I write. Sure, I’ve written some comedy without a killer lurking in the darkness, or vampires and demons waiting to drink you dry, but they are few and far between. My love is and probably always will be, suspense.

But as I sit down to write, the suspense theme imbedded into my mind, I often wonder how much is too much suspense/spook/gore for a romance. I personally can’t get enough of it when reading books, and I have to believe there are others out there like me, who love the thrill of being scared.

Here is an example of one of my unpublished works titled, Terror Incognito. Tell me what you think? Too scary to add to a romance or just right? Please keep in mind it is unedited.

A noise behind her caught her attention, and once again she spun around only to find darkness and shadows.

“Hello. Is anyone there?” Oh sure, like they’ll answer you, she berated as she turned around and continued to walk. Her blood turned to ice when she heard the eerie laughter echoing in the stillness of the night.

“Shit.” In a dash she began to run, her bare feet slapping the concrete, tiny rocks cutting into her feet. Behind her, she heard footsteps, chasing after her. She turned, lost her balance and fell, her body skidding along the concrete.

She felt the sting of stone as it cut into the flesh on her hands and knees, ripping away layers exposing it to the warm air. Her hands burnt and as she lifted her head, she was baffled by where she was.

“What the hell?” It was still dark, darker than before, but now there were trees, dozens and dozens of trees all around her. She heard birds chirping quietly, and the rustle of leaves in the wind. The air smelt of damp soil, musty leaves and something she couldn’t quite figure out. Where the hell was she and what had just happened?

“Are you lost little one?”

Kate jumped at the sharp rough voice that seemed to come out at her from every direction.

“Let me help you out.”

Out of the darkness he appeared.

Stumbling back on her heels, her hands stinging as she crab walked backwards trying to avoid what she saw before her. What the hell was he?

“You’re in my territory now, little one.” He knelt down before her, smiling a wicked smile.

He couldn’t be real, this whole thing wasn’t real. Yet as he knelt before her, she could see and she could smell him.

Something worse than foul, something so bad she could feel the bile rising in her chest, stabbing at her throat. He was hideous, beyond hideous. Was he a man, or was he a beast? She couldn’t be sure. He had fangs, long sharp fangs as yellow as the sun. His mouth was wide and dripping with saliva. She could smell it and it made her sick.

His face, good God his face was hideous. Scarred, rough, pussy and bloody and actually looked as if it was decaying. And his eyes, deep yellow eyes that pierced into her as he stared down at her. Oh God, what was happening?

“You slipped, fell and now you’re in my world. Mmm, aren’t you a tasty morsel.”

She jumped back when his hand, clawed with nails so long they curled at the ends, reached out to her.

“I’m going to enjoy sinking my teeth into you, little one.”

“Wha…what the hhhell are you?” she stammered, still inching backwards trying to escape.

“I am your worst nightmare.” He laughed, a sound so loud, so animal like it nearly howled.

“Oh God no!” She scrambled to her feet, her heels lost in her rush to run. She had to get away, she had to get help. Running, her feet slid over rocks, cut by stray branches and burnt with every touch of ground. She cried, but not just of the pain, but out of fear. She had no idea what was happening, only that she needed to run.

“That’s right, run little one. I so love a chase.”

Where was she? This wasn’t the streets, this was a wooded area.  But how had she gotten here? She had been walking home from work, hadn’t she? Suddenly her brain seemed so jumbled. Her feet stung and with every step she felt more rocks and more branches cut into her flesh. Was it the damp ground she felt or was it blood from her wounds? She didn’t have time to stop and look, but oh how she wanted to. Listening, she couldn’t hear him behind her, so she slowed her pace.

She needed to breathe, just to catch her breath if even for a moment.


She screamed and the sound had dozens of birds scattering from their sleeping spots in the trees. Before she could turn to run, his clawed hand lashed out and grabbed her arm.

“I’ve got you now, little one.”

“No, no let me go, let me go!” She fought, her hands lashing out to his hideous face, her nails clawing.

“Feisty one, aren’t you. I like it.” He smiled deviously. “Want to know what else I like?”

“No, no please, just let me go.” She kicked out her feet and got no purchase. Her hands didn’t even come close to touching him now. How was that possible when he held her so close that she could smell his rancid breath?

“I like to peel the skin from my victims while they’re still alive. The thrill of hearing them scream makes the morsels so much tastier.”

The words he said reverberated in her mind and sunk in her belly like a hard rock. He was going to kill her. She had no doubt about that. But there was no damn way she was going to make it easy for him. She made like she was about to faint, let her body go lax, then just as he loosened his grip; she kicked out and hit him directly in the face with her foot.

“Yes!” she shouted in victory then took off running. Don’t look back, just keep going forward.

“Do you think you can get away from me that easily, little one?” he shouted out at her as she ran. “This is my territory, remember.”

What did he mean by his territory? Where was she? Damn it, what was going on? She continued to run, stumbling occasionally but righting herself before she fell. Something was rushing in her head, or was it in the air. Water, was that running water? She could smell it, fresh water, not tap water, but more like a river or lake. She turned to see if he was still behind her and felt the ground give out below her.

Screaming, she fell, her hand clawing out to grab hold of anything. Her nails broke off, ripping flesh as she slid down the embankment. Catching on a branch, she hung on, panting. She didn’t dare look down, and looking up was pure darkness. She could hear the rushing water below her. It was a river, or lake or something. And from the sounds of it, it was far below her. If she let go now, and fell, would she live to walk away?

“Well hello there,” he said as he leaned over the edge, smiling down at her. “You seem to be in a bit of a pickle.”

She was stuck, now what should she do? She dared now, turning her head she saw just how far below the rushing water was. If she let go now, and fell, she wouldn’t walk away. Or would she?

“I wouldn’t chance it. See those rocks below, very jagged. They’d cut through you like a knife through butter. Although it would make my life easier to scrape the bits and pieces of the rocks and satisfy my hunger, it’s not as much fun.” He held his long clawed hand out to her. “Allow me to help you up.”

Kate looked up at his gnarled face, his clawed hands, then back down to the jagged ground below her. Closing her eyes, she let go.

“I’ve got you now.”

She screamed, the sound piercing the night.

 Shiela Stewart


4 responses to “How much is too much suspense

  1. Wow! It held my attention. I only wished there was more so I could have read on!

  2. Thanks a bunch Brenda! I’m glad I hooked you. 🙂

    This story was written several years ago but recently I’ve been concidering revising it and submitting it to a publisher.

  3. You should submit this one! LOVED IT 🙂 Oh course I love suspense. I am a horror junkie. 😉

  4. I’m a horror junkie too. LOL

    This book needs some work but I was thinking of submitting it. The hero who finds the heroine and helps her is the twin of the animal who is hunting her. Neat twist? Hero prefers to look human where as the twin likes to be the animal. Heroine has no idea they are twins or that the hero even knows the animal stalking her.

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