Writing Mysteries and Thrillers


Mysteries and Thrillers are cousins to Suspense, but they differ in focus.

In a suspense, something is about to happen.

In a mystery, something has already happened.

In suspense, the protagonist strives to get out of a puzzle.



In a mystery, the protagonist often strives to get into a puzzle.

A mystery, focuses on the crime, which usually happens early in the book. The rest of the story centers around the hero’s pursuit of the villain.

Now, about thrillers: The are extremely fast-paced, whereas a suspense story can have just about any pace.

A thriller is large in scale, perhaps involving the fate of the world as we know it—and the hero often knows who the villain is.

The focus of a thriller? Stopping the villain.

And, it’s as simple as that.

“How-To” books you may be interested in:  Writing the Mystery by G. Miki Hayden; Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron; How to Write a Damn Good Thriller by James N. Frey; and Writing a Killer Thriller by Jodie Renner.

Famous Mystery and Thriller writers: Lee Child, Stephen King, John Grisham,       James Patterson, Michael Connelly.

(Next week, we’ll talk about the difference between classic fiction and fan fiction).



What A Character!

The following is a reprint of a post I made today on the website I share with four members of my critique group http://www.5scribesandtheirstories.com:

I like my characters for different reasons. In Runaways, I like Charlie because of his quirky grammar and mannerisms; I like the way Claire, Charlie’s wife, reacts like a mother hen to those around her; I love Jake for his bravery and the fact that he is an overcomer; I appreciate Hound because he is always loyal and protective of Jake.

So, that leaves the villain of the story, Ethan. For two-thirds of the way through the book, I didn’t like him. After all, he is a liar, a murderer, and abusive to his son. But, then something happened. Ethan started to come alive. He forced me to take a look, not at his outward actions, but at his very soul. He forced me to dig deep.

Ethan challenged me to tell the story of his own past in such a way that it could be woven together with the present, making him a character deserving of the reader’s empathy. He showed me that he was redeemable—that he was, in fact, someone my reading audience would end up cheering on in his struggle.

Yes, I like Ethan because he forced me to take a look at all of his ugliness and, yet, find within myself the desire and power to forgive him. If, as a writer, I could offer him unconditional love, then I could write his storyline in such a way that readers could, too.

Through the power of story, characters evolve and the life lessons they learn are sometimes ones we find that we need to learn, too. Jake, Ethan, and Charlie take us on a journey through their struggles and bring us all to a place of hope for the future.

Author’s Note: God willing, Runaways, will reach publication sometime in 2015!