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Thriller vs. Mystery Genres

Hi Readers!

If you’re visiting my website, reading my blog posts, or buying my book The Long Shadow on the Stage, then it’s probably safe to assume you’re a fan of thriller books. At this point, dozens of people have bought and read my book, which is an awesome feeling. One thing I have noticed from feedback I have received from ARC readers, book reviewers and bloggers, and other readers is that some readers have referred to my book as a murder mystery or mystery book. I thought it was interesting because I did quite a bit of research while editing my book, and again once the book was finished, to decide which genre to categorize my book in.

Many readers may be confused about the differences between the mystery and thriller genres. After all, they are closely related and share many of the same elements. As The Thrill Begins Blog says, “Both [mysteries and thrillers] are fiction stories involving criminal activity, catching the bad guy(s), and at least one murder.” However, one of the differences explained by suspense-mystery and thriller writer, LJ Sellers, is “the villain drives the story, versus mystery, in which the protagonist drives the story” (The Thrill Begins Blog). In The Long Shadow on the Stage, there are multiple POV (points-of-view), with alternating chapters between the protagonist, the murderer/villain, and several other main characters. The chapters from the POV of the murderer allow the reader insight into the mind of the murderer and are the driving force behind the story.

According to DIYMFA, “Mystery is about the puzzle. Thriller is the push and pull between the protagonist and the villain.” In The Long Shadow on the Stage, most readers told me they figured out who the murderer is fairly quickly. The story is more about figuring out why and discovering the motivation the murderer has, while also focusing on Officer Wilson’s mission to put him/her behind bars. A few examples of mystery TV shows are Dexter, Sherlock, Riverdale, and Broadchurch.

However, in a thriller book, “Both the reader and the hero…already know who’s responsible for the crime, and both are waiting to see how that criminal will be brought to justice” (DIYMFA). As the story develops and more secrets are revealed, the reader and Officer Wilson are both hoping justice will prevail.

When delving into the thriller genre, there are also several sub-genres. The Long Shadow on the Stage is a psychological thriller. As explained by Literary Terms, psychological thrillers are “thrillers that focus on characters that have extreme psychological disorders, such as psychopaths and people with split personalities. These disorders accordingly cause serious personal issues, that eventually lead to conflicts with strangers and other characters.” I won’t comment on this further regarding The Long Shadow on the Stage because I don’t want to give away any secrets! Examples of thrillers in pop culture include the TV shows Bates Motel, American Horror Story, The Sinner, and Mr. Mercedes.

Please comment below if you have more differences between the mystery and thriller genres that you would like to add.


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