Are You Writing a Mystery, A Suspense, or a Thriller?

There’s a lot of overlap in genres, but the mystery, suspense, thriller genres can be confusing for many writers. I’d like to break each definition down and offer a few words to help guide you if you’re struggling to make the differentiation. This is very important because once your masterpiece is ready for querying, you need to know who to contact. Not all agents are in the market for all of these and you will help everyone in the process by knowing what you’re writing and how to find someone who’s looking for it.

Mystery works or Cozys are often referred to as “Who done its” Guess why? Right. The biggest bang is mostly over. Though the writer may mix in some elements of suspense and a thrill or two, a mystery is a work wherein the main plot is driven by an act that is over, already finished, and the pursuit of “who done it” drives the story to the climax, and the truth comes to light. If you’re writing a novel where a crime was committed and the MC is working diligently or even passively to know who did the crime, then you are writing a mystery. Mysteries are frequently character driven. You get to know and love them and you cheer them on until they put it all together and bring a murderer to justice.

Suspense works are written about the why? They are in the here and now. Why oh Why is the criminal doing these things? Suspense writers work to create tension and stress. The plots are largely psychological and intense. Suspense novels produce chills.

Thrillers are written about something just ahead of now. Think Jack Bauer on ’24.’ Thrillers lead the characters on a wild ride of How? How can we stop it. The it may be different, but the How? must be there pressing the character ahead. The weight of everything is on their shoulders. Only they can stop the impending doom! but HOW? Thrillers are plot driven, and though you frequently are left with no idea what that one guy’s name was, you can easily recall the details of what they went through.

Frequently, writers use elements of each to make their book a successful page turner. Sometimes the mixing of the elements can make it difficult to discern genre and how to find your agent match. I suggest breaking it down to the nitty-gritty. Is it over? Are you solving a crime already committed? or are you pursuing an ongoing matter, where the killer may be just around any corner? or is your MC plotting and planning and trying to stop a pending tragedy? Get into the bolts of your story and you’ll know how to label your work. But please, feel free to mix up the qualities and add depth and adventure across them.

Then, please send me some. I’d love to read a good mystery/suspense/thriller!!

3 comments to Are You Writing a Mystery, A Suspense, or a Thriller?

Leave a Reply





You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>