Formula for a Bestselling Romantic Thriller

UPGRADE by Stephen Hise
Every thriller should have a main character with flaws and a deep, dark secret.

In this series, so far I’ve shared with you the formula for writing a blockbuster action/adventure bestseller, and a knock-em dead romance bestseller. In this installment, we’re going to cover writing an earth-shattering, edge-of-the-seat romantic thriller!

Yeah, I knew you were going to ask what qualifies me to give this advice. Aside from the fact that I’ve extensively researched stalking (for my books, of course), and I’ve won awards for my action-adventure thriller Lust for Danger, I got help this time. Our very own Evil Mastermind, Stephen Hise – author of the psychological thriller Upgrade, has contributed to this special recipe. So grab your pen and take notes. This is going to blow you away.

Now let’s get to it. Follow my advice below, and you’ll be Hollywood-bound, my friend!

Formula for a romantic thriller bestseller:

Your protagonist has left his/her former life in an attempt to run away from their dangerous, abusive and psychotic spousal-type unit. This character should have a vulnerable name like Cinnamon or Toby. Perhaps Cinnamon/Toby has returned to the safety of his/her childhood home after many years away, or he/she has started over in a small town far away. The location isn’t really that important. What is important is that Cinnamon/Toby has taken the couple’s cute white dog. Because you know, of course, the abusive ex wants that dog back. Give the ex a scary and foreboding name like Damian or Sybil. In this case, you don’t really need to develop the protagonist’s or the antagonist’s character. The only thing that matters is the conflict, the little white dog, and the fact that the characters look really good naked.

So Cinnamon/Toby’s paranoid mannerisms raise the interest of the town’s grocery bagger who also happens to run the local dog shelter. Give this love interest a strong, silent-type name like Mason or Samantha. Not only is Mason/Samantha hiding his/her own secret, he/she also looks really good naked. Cinnamon/Toby enjoys his/her brief conversations with Mason/Sam each time he/she buys groceries, but he/she is also intimidated and keeps his/her distance.

Then one night, Mason/Sam sees Damian/Sybil physically accost Cinnamon/Toby. Mason/Sam steps in, breaking up the couple. Damian/Sybil threatens to come back, and Cinnamon/Toby goes off with Mason/Sam who offers the sanctuary of his/her home to the frazzled protagonist. They have a few glasses of wine, and then something happens to make them realize that they are two peas in a pod, birds of a feather or just plain old desperate for some cuddling. Of course, nothing can happen yet; you need to build that sexual tension.

Whilst all this emotionally- and physically-charged to-do is playing out, Damian/Sybil is lurking about town, purchasing weapons and planning his/her assault on Mason/Sam.

Damian/Sybil discovers that Mason/Sam runs the local pet shelter and decides to flush him/her out by setting it on fire. But – even though Damian/Sybil is evil, he/she lets all the animals loose first. Remember, you have to be able to say “no animals were injured in the writing of this blockbuster book.”

The next day Mason/Sam goes into town to discover his/her shelter burned to the ground. Cinnamon/Toby swears he/she will leave town because she’s brought enough trouble on Mason/Sam and he/she knows that staying will only cause more problems. Mason/Sam professes his love for him/her and begs him/her to stay. Mason/Sam offers to hide him/her in his/her secret cabin in the mountains, and Cinnamon/Toby agrees. A violent storm sets in while Mason/Sam is away from the cabin catching fish or something for them to eat. Lightning reveals Damian/Sybil has somehow followed them to the cabin. A struggle ensues and somehow Cinnamon/Toby manages to fight off Damian/Sybil. He/she is pretty certain Damian/Sybil is now dead, and returns to the safety of the cabin. Mason/Sam comes back to the cabin with some food, only to find Cinnamon/Toby cold, wet, bruised, and strategically smeared with mud. You guessed what happens next: gratuitous sex scene here. Because no matter what, those two look fabulous.

When the two lovers wake up, Damian/Sybil is there, and he/she’s holding the little white dog while laughing maniacally. He/she taunts the two with the prospect of killing the cute little furball, and directs some choice insults at Mason/Sam – because Damian/Sybil has discovered Mason/Sam’s deep, dark secret: that he/she was a successful boxer/fighter who quit the circuit after accidentally killing an opponent and swore never to fight again. No, I will not tell you how he/she found that out. Sheesh, do I have to write the whole thing for you?

So, Mason/Sam must overcome his/her PTSD-driven flashbacks to fight Damian/Sybil in order to save the little white dog and win the love of Cinnamon/Toby. The rain pours down and someone falls off the cliff. What? Yes there’s a cliff. Isn’t there always? And yes, of course it’s Damian/Sybil who plummets to his/her demise, but not before Mason/Sam is able to grab the cute doggie. Then it stops raining, the sun rises, and Mason/Sam and Cinnamon/Toby make googlie-eyes at each other before locking lips.

The End.

You’re welcome.

Author: K.S. Brooks

K.S. Brooks is an award-winning novelist and photographer, author of over 30 titles, and administrator (AKA Fearless Leader) of Indies Unlimited. Brooks is a staff photo-journalist for three newspapers and a freelance for two others. She currently teaches writing and self-publishing for the Community Colleges of Spokane, and has served on the Indie Author Day advisory board. For more about K.S. Brooks, visit her website and her Amazon author page

18 thoughts on “Formula for a Bestselling Romantic Thriller”

  1. That is definitely a movie script, Kat, and all it needs, for todays viewing public, to be a smash hit is that, instead of mason sam being a fighter/boxer, he’s a vampire!

  2. GREAT post! Funny, except that it’s so true! Reminds me of the “suggested guidelines” I got from Harlequin once; they had both main characters (height, color, age, etc) and the plot all sketched out, just add names. But of course, they were serious! This later inspired me to write my satire on romance novels, The Pits of Passion by Amber Flame. It skewers every cliche of the genre, leaves no sacred cow unturned.
    Thanks, Kat, for the good laugh this morning.

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