View Full Version : action/adventure vs thriller

09-14-2011, 03:49 AM
I am having a bit of trouble deciding if I should call my story and action/adventure or a thriller. Can someone tell me what an agent's definition of these two genres are and what they might expect a story labeled either be about?

Drachen Jager
09-14-2011, 04:19 AM
I'm not an agent, but I'd expect the protag in the action/adventure to be a person of action, very much involved in fighting their opponents. In a thriller I'd expect the protag to be more 'normal', someone who when presented with a man holding a knife is more likely to run away, and the excitement comes from the chase.

That would be one of my criteria anyhow.

I'm not sure if it matters much though. I bounced between action/adventure and thriller to describe my manuscript. Both got requests.

Anne Lyle
09-14-2011, 04:30 AM
To my mind, thriller implies some kind of crime/intrigue/espionage element, whereas action/adventure doesn't. A thriller is high suspense, race-against-the-clock-to-stop-the-terrorist material, like the TV show 24. Action/adventure is more general guys-do-macho-stuff, e.g. most war movies.

When I worked in a public library, male-oriented historicals like Patrick O'Brien and Bernard Cornwell went onto the action/adventure shelves, whereas John Le Carrť and Ian Fleming went onto the thriller shelves.

09-14-2011, 05:11 AM
I believe I remember an agent offering a definition of thriller that said the stakes have to be high (as in the fate of a country or something similar). Stopping terrorists, for example.

09-14-2011, 05:14 AM
Just call it a thriller. There are many types of thrillers, and I believe action/adventure novels are included.

Drachen Jager
09-14-2011, 06:36 AM
I wouldn't say the stakes have to be high for it to be a thriller (though if someone else says that's their definition I won't argue with them).

As an example, I'd say North by Northwest is a thriller. Certainly not action/adventure, but the stakes never go far beyond the personal. I think it's largely down to how proactive the protagonist is. If he's being pushed from one scene to the next I'd lean towards thriller, if he's instigating the changes it's more action/adventure.

09-14-2011, 06:40 AM
Thanks for the interesting responses. Although I must say that I am still confused. I've been posting here for a long time including my query letter, my synopsis and my opening chapter. I am pretty happy with my work at this point. However, I am obviously unsure about what genre to use to identify my novel. I'm posting my synopsis below - perhaps this will provide enough information for you to identify the right genre to describe my story. I have been calling it a thriller but based on some of the above comments and other things I've read, I'm now leaning toward calling my story an action adventure. But as thelastwordsmith says, maybe it really doesn't matter.


After two unsuccessful digs, one in Israel and one in Tunisia, archaeologist ERIN MATHEWS is facing the loss of funding for future digs and the dreadful prospect of going back to teaching. Her current excavation, in the silt-filled seaport of ancient Ephesus, is also turning out to be a bust. The arrival of her boyfriend CRAIG JOHNSON an ex-CIA agent, does little to raise her spirits. But when she learns that a boat she and her team are excavating may contain scrolls rescued from the storied great library at Alexandria, everything changes. Her quest for these historic artifacts becomes the adventure of her life.

Mossad operative REBECCA SCHULER, sanctioned to work in Turkey, is tracking the mysterious Cult of Tanit. This group, that traces its roots to the founding of Carthage, is also after the scrolls. Cult members believe their ancestors rescued invaluable artifacts when the library was burned in 48 BC. The Mossad believes the Cult wants the scrolls to fund terrorist actions in Israel.

A group of renegade Cult members begin a series of attacks to stop Erin. Further complicating her plans, an Egyptian, dispatched by his governmentís Department of Antiquities, is sent to claim the treasure for his country. Erinís colleague is seen making a deal with this man and is murdered by rogue Cult members. The murder prompts Craig to talk Erin into giving up her dig, but she is determined to make the discovery to rescue her failing reputation.

Even with the involvement of the local police, Cult members find ways to thwart Erinís efforts. They break into a storage shed, where discovered relics are stored and there is a malicious nocturnal disruption of the dig site. As upsetting as these events are they do not prevent Erin from continuing her search. The Cultís actions escalate to car chases, blackmail, a ransacking of Erinís hotel room and even armed assaults.

In a frenzied attempt to locate the treasure before anyone is hurt, Erin directs her team to dig in the debris field where artifacts from the boat are soon discovered. Certain she is days away from finding the scrolls, Erin enlists the aid of Craig and Rebecca to help with the excavation. Soon sixteen crates, clearly of Egyptian origin, are uncovered.

With permission from Turkish authorities, Erin begins the delicate task of opening the first treasure chest. The Cult leader, desperate to claim title to the scrolls, appears at the site where he is quickly placed under arrest. While Erin breaks an ancient seal and works through the heavy waterproof lining of the first box, Cult members launch one last vicious attack. The deadly assault is brought to an end by a large team of police, aided by both Craig and Rebecca.

At last, with the representative from Egypt, the handcuffed Cult leader, Turkish authorities and of course Erinís graduate students all looking on, the contents of the chests are revealed. Erinís excitement is barely controllable as she removes one ancient scroll after another. Her wildest dreams have been realized Ė a fantastic history making discovery of lost knowledge from the ancient world.