Monday, October 1, 2007

What's the Difference Between Mystery and Suspense?

It's important to acknowledge that mystery is an essential element in every genre. If there are no secrets to uncover, why bother? If there aren't questions raised, why turn the page and read on? Whether you write romance, suspense, sci-fi, historical, or something else, your story must have an element of mystery.

At its simplest, a mystery is a puzzle. A crime has occurred (often offstage), and the protagonist must uncover the truth. Mysteries are intellectual games of whodunit. Clever plotting, fair clues, detective reasoning skills--all of these are important when a mystery novelist constructs the story.

A suspense novelist works with a threat and imminent danger that must be resolved rather than just a puzzle to be solved. Something is coming. Do you hear footsteps? Thunder? Breathing? The ticking bomb concept is very much a part of the suspense novelist's arsenal. A suspense novelist builds an emotional roller coaster and makes sure it collapses at the right time--with a bang.

The suspense protagonist is thrust into the role of Hero, often without preparation or skill. He or she would rather be safe at home, but something or someone has made it impossible for that to happen--usually putting the Hero's home and loved ones in mortal peril. The stakes are much higher in suspense; the intensity and threat upped to an almost impossible level.

And finally, a successful ending for a mystery is intellectually satisfying, while a successful ending for a suspense novel is emotionally satisfying.

12 comments:

Susan Lohrer said...

All good stuff to know, Peg. I'm looking forward to a hair-raising journey with you.

Hugs,

Susan Lohrer
www.InspirationalEditor.com

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Peg, I can already tell that this is going to be a go-to blog for suspense/mystery enthusiasts! So many quotable lines. I can see it now. The best and finest of mystery/suspense authors will stand to receive their writing awards and quote Peg Brantley in their acceptance speeches. What will they do when you're the one receiving the award?

Peggy Blann Phifer said...

Great, clean blog site, Peg. Best of all the best to you.

The Other Peg

Leslie Pfeil said...

Great job, Peg. Good posting with useful information.

Anonymous said...

Hello, my friend! It appears you are off to a wunderbar start! :o) God's blessings on this new venture. ~Kim S.

Colleen Coble said...

Glad you're talking about this, Peg. There IS a big difference between mystery and suspense. A lot of people think they are one and the same. In mystery, it's an intellectual puzzle. A suspense is all about emotion.

Great blog!

siteadmin said...

Hi Peg, Nice looking blog with info many of us need to know. This is going to be a site where visitors will come again, and again.

Deborah Piccurelli

Michelle said...

Great start! It's nice to have a picture associated with your name.

Sharon Lavy said...

I'm glad to have found your site. Very informative. I'll be back.

Anonymous said...

Yours is the first blog I have ever looked at! I'm totally impressed, great information and your picture is dynamite...I have a famous friend. Can't wait for you to be published-Anne S.

Carol said...

I've known Peg a very long time and from experience I've learned to expect fabulous things from her. I cannot wait to read her book...it should be thrilling!!!!

Brianna said...

Hey! I linked my readers to this post of yours. It cleared up a lot for me!

Thanks

www.sorebooks.com