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Friday, May 29, 2009

Mysteries & Suspense -- What's the Difference?

Can someone explain the difference between mysteries, suspense and thrillers? I love fast-paced page turners and two of my favorite authors fall into that category--James Patterson and Harlan Coben. Their writing styles are similar in that you can't put the book down, they're contemporary in nature, always have many plot twists, with tons of suspense and surprises along the way.

However, Harlan Coben's books are placed in the "mystery" section of book stores while James Patterson's are found in the "suspense/thriller" section. Why is that?

While we're at it, does anyone know the difference between chick lit, women's fiction and contemporary romance?


Shirley McCann said...

I don't think the bookstores always categorize the books correctly.

I've found Mary Higgins Clark in the horror section before, and she's definitely suspense!

Here's my two cents worth though. A mystery is more like a whodunnit kind of solve it puzzle! This can also be suspenseful, though.

In a suspense, you may know who the killer is, but it's a race to see how he/she is finally caught!

Horror to me is more like Stephen King. Perhaps a bit gruesome?

I'm anxious to hear what others have to say.

RTHRBRTN said...

Oh Beth, you ask such hard questions. I don't know the answers. To me Mystery is the thriller with the answers right at the end. Suspense is that which makes your heart stop with waiting for the true mystery to be revealed. I agree that Mary Higgins Clark is suspense. In the library she is always labeled mystery. Perphaps mystery and suspense are the same thing. I look at the cozys as suspense.

I think chick lit is a fluffy, silly kind of writing. Women's fiction is deeper with the characters showing more feeling and growing into a mature attitude. Contemporary romance is current romance as opposed to historical romance. A bit of suspense and/or mystery can be in any of the above.

Horror is definitely horific.

Beth said...

I do ask a lot of questions -- just ask my daughter or husband. I used to be a reporter in school and also profiled physicians every month for a hospital newsletter, so I'm always full of questions.

I like the answers from both Shirley and Pat. It would be easier to say mysteries and suspense are the same but I'm not sure about that.

I think I'm a better suspense writer than a mystery writer, even though I don't exactly know the difference!

According to your definitions, my writing could be described as either contemporary romance or women's fiction. I believe it's deeper than chick lit, although I have to admit I occasionally read (and enjoy) chick lit.