It’s a Matter of Life or Death!



Action-adventure stories are big on drama. I write romantic suspense, which is action-adventure fiction with a romance subplot. Besides the oh-so-important romance between the hero and heroine, in my opinion a good action story has to include the following:

 An Important Goal

At least, the goal has to be important to the characters. If they don’t attain their goal, something REALLY BAD will happen.

 Time Pressure

You’ll recognize these time pressure plot devices:

  • Race against time to stop something before disaster happens.
  • Catch the killer before he strikes again.
  • Outwit the bad guys to be first to get the MacGuffin*.

 *From Wikipedia, “a MacGuffin is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues”.   Alfred Hitchcock popularized the term. George Lucas described a MacGuffin as “the object of everybody’s search.” Well known MacGuffins include the golden ring in Lord of the Rings, the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and in Star Wars, R2D2 – the robot with the secret plans.

In my novel Diamond Lust, the MacGuffin – what the desperate smugglers are after, and will kill to obtain – is, you guessed it, diamonds.

Non-stop Action

The story must be packed with page-turning, adrenaline-pumping events that get the hero and heroine into worse and worse trouble. Typical action sequences could include one or more of: an Abduction; a Chase; a Theft; an Escape; a Rescue; an Explosion; a Fight; Etc.

The More Danger, the Better

The more complications the author adds and the more in doubt a happy ending, the more exciting the story will be. When writing the pivotal Black Moment scene in Diamond Lust, I used an abduction, fight, explosion and attempted rescue to ramp up nail-biting tension.

Mountie Dudley Do-Right Saves his love Nell from Snidely Whiplash
Mountie Dudley Do-Right Saves his love Nell from Snidely Whiplash

Diamond Hunter Excerpt

Set up: Heroine Petra is bound and tossed into a fuel dispenser building at the diamond mine along with her old buddy Carter.

“These smugglers covered all the angles. They will never let us live. We are so screwed,” Petra moaned.

“Didn’t you notice the AN/FO over there?”

She followed the direction of his nod to a fifty-five-pound sack wedged between two fuel pumps, the label indicating the trade name of an ammonium nitrate blasting agent. A wave of dizziness had her chin dipping to her chest. The smugglers planned one mother of an explosion. Ignited, the dispenser building and its fuel storage tanks outside would erupt into a cataclysmic fireball.

A white ignition cord dangled from a hole poked into the side of the packaging. When the white flashes behind her eyeballs faded, she knee-walked over to the sack, and with her teeth yanked out the cord and metal blasting cap on its buried tip with the intention of gently depositing it on the floor in a far corner.

“A lot of good that’ll do. They don’t have to enter this room to start a fire. They’ll open an exterior valve to flood the ground with fuel, or drop a match into a tank, or—”

“Enough, Carter! I need to think.” Why plan a massive explosion? If eliminating her and Carter was the objective, why wait? A small fire lit at the time they were dumped in the building would have killed them quickly.

“They intend to create a major diversion,” she said slowly, “to give them time to escape in the confusion.”

Will Mountie Seth Cooper fly to the rescue of his love Petra before the diamond smugglers blow her to smithereens? Find out by reading Diamond Lust!

Diamond Hunter (formerly Diamond Lust) is available in print and e-formats. See for more info.

This post was first published at Romancing The Genres on September 10, 2013.

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