Monday, March 25, 2013

The Difference between a suspense and a mystery


Hi everyone, Lynette Eason here. I was trying to think of a topic for today's post and thought I'd answer a question that I got the other day. What's the difference between a mystery and a suspense? Below are sixteen suggestions. I was wondering if you agree with them. Do you have any differences that you would add? Any you disagree with? Leave a comment and I'll put you in a drawing for my newest release, When A Secret Kills to release the first of May.
 

THE BACK COVER:

She's come home to put a killer behind bars.
But the killer plans to put her six feet under.

Investigative reporter Jillian Carter knows it’s time to put the past to rest. She’s tired of looking over her shoulder, letting a killer go free. She’s no longer the scared kid who changed her name and disappeared. Now, no matter what the cost, Jillian must do what she is trained to do—find the truth and expose it. And the truth is that Senator Frank Hoffman committed murder ten years ago—and Jillian watched it happen.
 
Didn’t she?
 
Get ready for the spine-tingling, nail-biting conclusion to the explosive series.
 
“A fabulous read! Eason is a master at romantic suspense. I gobbled up the novel in two days and promptly ordered the first two books in the series. Highly recommended!” – Colleen Coble, author of the Rock Harbor and the Hope Beach series.
 
“Fast-paced romantic suspense with compelling characters who pull you into the story and make you care what happens to them.” – Margaret Daley, author of Scorned Justice and the Men of the Texas Rangers series.
 
“Clear the runway and fasten your seat belts. This novel captures the reader in the first line and doesn’t stop until the end. Eason has created a suspense-packed story that captivates.” – DiAnn Mills, author of The Chase and The Survivor.
 

Sixteen Differences between Mystery and Suspense

Taken from: Skillman, Trish MacDonald. Writing the Thriller. Writers Digest Books. 2000.


A mystery concerns itself with a puzzle. Suspense presents the reader with a nightmare.

A mystery is a power fantasy; we identify with the detective. Suspense is a victim fantasy; we identify with someone at the mercy of others.

A mystery can be likened to a myth. Suspense is more like a fairy tale.

In a mystery the hero or heroine already has the skills he or she needs to solve the puzzle. In suspense, he or she must learn new skills to survive.

In a mystery, thinking is paramount. In suspense, feeling is paramount.

The most important action in a mystery takes place offstage. In suspense, the important action happens onstage.

A mystery usually takes place within a small circle of friends. The hero or heroine of a suspense novel often finds him or herself thrust into a larger world.

Readers of mysteries are looking for clues. Readers of suspense are expecting surprises.

In a mystery, information is withheld. In suspense novels, information is provided.

The ideal reader of mysteries remains one step behind the hero or heroine. Those who read suspense should be one step ahead of the hero or heroine.


Mystery readers expect a series. Those who read suspense know a book can be a one shot.

The hero or heroine in a mystery is looking for suspects. The hero or heroine in suspense looks for betrayers.

A mystery hero or heroine must confront a series of red herrings. The suspense novel hero or heroine faces a cycle of distrust.

Mystery endings must be intellectually satisfying. Suspense endings must provide emotional satisfaction.

Mysteries are usually three hundred manuscript pages. Suspense novels can be longer.


82 comments:

  1. Wow! These are really good guidelines. As a writer myself, I can definitely see them coming in handy. There are only 2 that I slightly disagree with. The one about the series can often be untrue. I know plenty of suspense authors who do series by using minor characters from the first novel and sending them into their own nightmare. Also, the one about the length of a novel. Oftentimes, I actually like the shorter novels. More people tend to read them and they tend to move faster and keep the reader more on edge. Just some thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Megan. Appreciate you stopping by!

      Delete
    2. Anxiously awaiting the arrival of your new book. You are an amazing author.

      Delete
    3. I have to agree with Megan. I'm wondering if things have changed that much since 2000. Maybe shorter is 'it' right now.
      And, there are so many great examples of suspense series out there now. I love it. I will eagerly read every book about a character I've grown to love. --Jill

      Delete
  2. I like the comparison between the intellectual and the emotional. The characters in a good suspense have drawn me in beside them experiencing the book right along with them wheras in a good mystery I am like the fly on the wall seeing the clues and trying to tie them together for a solution. Suspense stories draw me back for a re-read (if there is such a word ;) )

    pjeanemmons@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Re-read...yep, there's such a word. In my dictionary anyway! Thanks for your thoughts!

      Delete
  3. i love Nancys books and a great mystery, sure would love to win
    jcisforme@aol.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by, Shirley. Appreciate you!

      Delete
  4. Really like the comparisons...I had actually been pondering the same question myself when trying to tag some of my ebooks! Thanks! This will help alot!
    Would love to win a copy of your book -in it sounds wonderful!
    ngspitznagle@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for stopping by. Glad the info helped!

      Delete
  5. Very interesting! Thank you for the information! Love your books! :) carissasmithocc@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by. You're entered in the drawing. :)

      Delete
  6. I like those comparisons and I agree with them all. The only thing I would add (unless it's there and I missed it) is that it seems like most suspense is on some kind of a timeline - an urgency to the story. A mystery usually seems to start where the tragedy has already happened, now it's just a matter of finding out "whodunnit". Great post, thanks, Lynette!!
    Please add me to the drawing!! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HI Sheri, GREAT observation. You're absolutely right. Usually, there is some kind of timeline. An urgency to catch a killer before he strikes again, or rescue the kidnapped child, or escape before the bad guy comes back. Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  7. I agree with most of those mentioned - including Sheri's extra one! Hadn't really thought about it before, so thanks for posting Lynette!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Wendy, thanks for stopping by! Glad it made you think. LOL :)

      Delete
  8. Mystery...suspense. Who cares? I love all your books!!! Can't wait to read this newest one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ROFL!! Thanks Suzanne! Glad you're ready for the new one. :)

      Delete
  9. I can't wait to get this book. The 1st two books were explosive and non-stop drama. I couldn't put them down. The characters are real with real-life problems. It is only 34 days away from the release of this book. I will start rereading the other 2 at least a week before the release to refresh the mind. My email address is deb37beny@comcast.net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Debora!! So glad you're enjoying the series. I'm so glad you keep up with the days til release time!

      Delete
  10. So what is a book where the victim is looking for the guilty and equal time is spent with the hero trying to also find the guilty? Such as the heroine gets attacked and joins with the law enforcement officer to solve the crime? Either way love them both and love your books! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tory, love your idea! So glad you enjoy the books. Take care.

      Delete
  11. I really like these comparisons. I definitely agree with the majority of them. I love to read and write both genres, and I find that I am more concerned with the intricate details and the subtlest of clues when I write a mystery, but with suspense I am satisfied with focusing on the bigger picture as long as I am running one step ahead with the character.

    I love your current series, and I look forward to the conclusion, "When a Secret Kills"! God bless -Ashley (WriteAshleyLH@gmail.com)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love your insights, Ashley, thanks for stopping by. :)

      Delete
  12. I have always wondered what the difference was! Thanks for clarifying it for me!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wow I never realized the differen between a mystery and a suspense! It makes complete sense to me now after reading the difference! :) Cannot wait for this new book to come out.... Have a great day and thinks for the chance to win! :)
    Lisa
    deiselbuffs@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  14. I love the comparisons for this. I find that almost all of them are true, the other ones are ones I have not yet experienced.I am extremely excited about the conclusion "When A Secret Kills" I cannot wait to sit down and read it (which will probably be in one setting, like I read most of your books)!!!! I hope you have a wonderful week! God Bless!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jamie, thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed the post. God bless,

      Delete
  15. These are excellent comparisons and seem to be right on target. I think a good suspense novel keeps me awake at night but a mystery novel I can put down :)

    I would love to win this book!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good to know, Anne! Hope you're doing well. :)

      Delete
  16. Can hardly wait for this new book!!! :-)
    Keep them coming!
    mlmeyers120@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  17. Enjoyed the comparisons.

    Another way to state what you've delineated:
    A mystery makes me think, but I stay calm as I read. A suspense makes my heart pound!

    Pick me, please!! Love your books! (Just in case you didn't know that!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Linda, you make me laugh. Thanks for stopping by. :)

      Delete
  18. That was very interesting. I had always pretty much lumped the two together. I am looking forward to reading When a Secret Kills.

    Beth - ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Beth, and I look forward to hearing what you think about it. :)

      Delete
  19. . . . mystery = thinking . . . suspense = feeling . . . works for me!!!! Please count me in the book give-away.....and please never stop writing!!!! april515@centurylink.net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL...Well great! And I'm not planning on stopping any time soon. Thanks so much for the encouragement. :)

      Delete
  20. Wow... I'd never thought of that...
    To me mystery and suspense go together, but now it helps to have clearer view :)

    rmcrivera@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for stopping by. And I always thought they went hand in hand, too, until I started writing!

      Delete
  21. Great comparisons....I love your books and my daughter has started her own collection of them. Thanks for sharing your talent with us! =)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Interesting. I'll have to keep those in mind. I love both. Really enjoyed your first two class reunion books. Looking forward to the next one.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I have always wondered what the difference was. Thanks!

    Can hardly wait to read your new book! Thanks for the giveaway.

    superstarsarah94(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sarah! Glad you're looking forward to the book. I am too!!

      Delete
  24. Love all your books. sduet1@viscom.net

    ReplyDelete
  25. I am definitely a mystery fan then with the reasons you gave! :)

    I'm so glad you answered this question because I understand the difference better!

    sylvesternator@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Laura, glad I could help you understand it better. :) God Bless!

      Delete
  26. I LOVE YOUR BOOKS!!! I cannot wait for Jillian's story. I start reading any of your books and from the very first page to the last I cannot put it down. The comparison above seems to be right on. I will not get rid of any of your books because I want to go back and re-read them...just in case I missed something the first go around. PLEASE enter me into your contest. Thanks, Cindi email cindi.coleman14@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Cindi! Appreciate that!

      Delete
  27. I guess for me there is more emotion involved in a 'suspense' novel. The emotional anticipation of who may be murdered next and how are they going to do it. (the emotion I can attach to that is "being scared"!) Whereas, in a mystery, the crime has been committed in the beginning and the novel is about solving the crime. Anyway, I love your books, Lynette, and eagerly await for the next one to come out!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YES! Lots of emotion -- and hopefully fingernail biting! LOL Thanks so much for stopping by. Appreciate it. :)

      Delete
  28. Thanks, I never really thought about mystery and suspense being different.

    jump5er[at]hotmail[dot]com

    ReplyDelete
  29. These are great. Now I know how label what I'm writing. :)
    And of course, I would absolutely LOVE to win!
    pbmax101@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HI Jen, well glad you now have a label! You are entered. Thanks so much!

      Delete
  30. Great post, Lynette! I learned a lot about the difference between a mystery and suspense. I'm looking forward to your latest book. Your stories always keep me on the edge of my seat!

    Blessings,

    Andrea Cox
    andrearenee2004@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  31. That is so cool to read the differences! I love reading both, but now I get why they are different!

    Amber
    argrohs@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  32. Enjoyed the synopsis of mystery/suspense. Love reading your books & sharing w/friends & relatives!

    ReplyDelete
  33. I have never really thought about any differences between a mystery and a suspense book. I love reading them both! I have enjoyed the first two books in this series, and look forward to the third.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I've been trying to figure out the differences and after reading the tips I'm still not sure which one I like best. I love them both!!!
    Thanks for the tips!
    Blessings,
    hollymag(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Liking both is just fine! Glad you do. Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  35. I find these differences quite interesting. I always thought that a good mystery book is suspenseful, just like Lynette's books. I am looking forward to reading this last book in theseries. Thanks for the opportunity to win this book.

    Ileana
    Ileanatsai@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much. Appreciate your input.

      Delete
  36. I only read 15, unless my counting is really bad lol I really liked the 4th, 5th, 8th, 10th, and 14th - Not so sure about the last one though.
    Love your books, can't wait for the next one!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing! So glad you enjoy the books.

      Delete
  37. I would agree with #5. #6, And #8. Maybe like what happened in a mystery and why. And who did it in a Suspense, and constantly looking for the unexpected to happen. But it seems In a suspense there is usually a mystery also in who might be the one you are after, and sometimes not being the one you think it is. I would love to win Nancy's book. Thanks for the chance.
    Maxie mac262(at)me(dot0com

    ReplyDelete
  38. Hi. These guidelines are really interesting and helpful. They really outline the difference between the two where i had often thought they were the same. I want to start writing more often and I have a story in my head so these should help. I really love your books. The characters are so real and i like it how you make the bad guy someone the main characters actually know and are close to. I can't wait to read this book and find out what Jillian actually saw.
    My email address is tanyaterpstra23@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  39. So excited to read this one! I'm desperate. :) I especially liked the thinking versus feeling comparison -- I'd never thought about it before, but it's true!
    Awesome giveaway, thanks. :)
    charityu.austenite[at]gmail[dot]com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Charity! Appreciate it!

      Delete
  40. AND THE WINNER IS: Drum rollllllllll....Sheri Salatin!!! Random.org picked your number... When I get my author copies (probably around mid-April), I will send you your copy. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hurray!!!!!!! :) Can you hear me squealing all the way from Virginia? Which I guess isn't all that far to SC :)

      Delete