Did You Write a Mystery or a Thriller?

Stabbing

Many authors anguish over whether they’ve written a mystery, a suspense novel, or a thriller. This is especially important when entering a writing contest, because if the manuscript is submitted in the wrong category it could be disastrous.
A good rule of thumb says mysteries are about whodunit, while suspense/thrillers are about how it was done and how the protagonist is going to avoid having it done to him/her, or to someone she/he loves.
Most murder mysteries begin with a murder, often on a dark and stormy night. Then the novel proceeds with the main character (an amateur or professional sleuth) finding clues that lead to the eventual capture of the murderer.
A thriller/suspense novel is often character driven and depends upon the protagonist gripping the interest of the reader. Often it’s the sleuth’s foibles or personality and character flaws that engage the reader. The main character is then going to match wits with the killer as the chase is on. A thriller/suspense novel often has the main character trying to prevent the villain from committing an even more heinous crime. If your detective, pair of sleuths, or group of protagonists are in a high stakes environment with a great threat looming and the unthinkable about to happen, you’ve probably written a thriller.
 
But then there are sub-genres. Murder mysteries can be divided into cozies, “locked room” mysteries, food mysteries, pet mysteries, even gardening mysteries. Thrillers can be classified as military or espionage, political, medical, legal, psychological. Just when it looked like it was all figured out, the detective novel messes it all up because some of them are mysteries while others are thrillers. And what about romantic suspense and capers? Yikes!
Advertisements

About NikeChillemi

Nike Chillemi has been called a crime fictionista due to her passion for crime fiction. She writes literature that reads like pulp fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad, and her good guys smarter and better. She is the founder and chair of the Grace Awards, a member of ACFW. She has judged numerous literary awards including the Grace Awards, Carol Awards, Inspy Awards, and the Eric Hoffer Awards. View all posts by NikeChillemi

6 responses to “Did You Write a Mystery or a Thriller?

  • Donna Alice

    When I entered the Genesis last year, my ms. was classified as mystery/suspense/thriller. Am thinking from your descriptions that it is more of a thriller or suspense instead of a murder. No one gets murdered until almost the end because they figured out all the clues.

    Like

  • lynnrush

    NICE! Thanks for the category breakdown. It’s helpful. I struggle with this. I feel like I’m in the between (not suspense….but Paranormal/Speculative Adult or YA…)Thanks for the post

    Like

  • S. G. Kiner

    “The Hong Kong Connection” is a legal thriller about a gutsy female attorney who takes on high ranking International officials. It’s a taut, rollercoaster of a ride from New York to Palm Beach to Washington D.C. to Hong Kong. The plot is expertly woven, the characters persuasive, and the dialogue snappy and spot on.www.StrategicBookPublishing.com/TheHongKongConnection.html

    Like

  • Nike Chillemi

    Donna Alice – I wrote this because I’m planning to enter Genesis this year and I wanted to get this all straight in my mind. These are my thoughts on it. Hope it helps. 🙂

    Like

  • Nike Chillemi

    Lynn – I know your work and I’d say you are somewhere between paranormal and suspense. I think you said you’re entering Genesis this year. I wrote this because I need to straighten it out for myself. My blog articles usually pose more questions than they have answers.

    Like

  • Nike Chillemi

    S. G. – Thanks for the heads up on Hong Kong Connection.

    Like

%d bloggers like this: