Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Richard Mabry talks about Mystery, Suspense, and Thrillers

Confession time: I've been writing novels for about a decade, and I still don't have the differences straight about this genre thing. Do I write mysteries, thrillers, or novels of suspense? I've recently found this, from Daily Writing Tips by Maeve Maddox--a site (by the way) I recommend for writers. See if it helps.

Mystery: the main character is occupied in tracking down the truth about an event, usually a murder. If the protagonist is in any danger, it is usually moderate, and becomes a problem only as the detective approaches the truth.

Thriller: the protagonist is in danger from the outset.

Suspense: the main character may become aware of danger only gradually. In a mystery, the reader is exposed to the same information as the detective, but in a suspense story, the reader is aware of things unknown to the protagonist. The reader sees the bad guy plant the bomb, and then suffers the suspense of wondering when or if it will explode.

Nice definitions, but do they apply to every story? I've looked at the eight (soon to be nine) novels I have had published, and I'm still not sure if every one of them meets one specific definition. My tag line is "medical suspense with heart," but then again, no one is going to pick up a book labelled "medical mystery...or maybe it's a thriller...or possibly suspense." I guess the final question is, "What's in a name?"

When you buy a book, do you look for a specific genre? A particular author? What's important to you when you pick up a book at the bookstore or online? Leave a comment and let us know.

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  1. What great definitions, RIchard. I think a lot of readers--and writers--have a hazy understanding of what makes these forms of fiction different--especially thrillers vs suspense.
    Wonderful to see you here on Suspensesisters!


  2. Roxanne, thanks for your comment. My thought is, "Does it really make a difference?" After all, a rose by any other name...

  3. I read a lot of historical fiction, but I love speculative fiction, which can still fall under the mystery or suspense or thriller genre. And my 17-year-old daughter is very particular about which genre is which; she can explain the difference between sci-fi, dystopian and fantasy :)