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Thread: Since we're talking definitions here...

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  1. #39
    It's all symbolic. Night_Writer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    The New World
    This thread is worth waking up. I wanted to share an idea I had about the differences between mystery and suspense. Usually these two words are put together as though they form one genre, kind of like fantasy and science-fiction. But we also know there's a big difference between actual fantasy and actual science fiction. I think there's a similarly big difference between mystery and suspense. I haven't read this whole thread so I apologize if anyone else has already come up with similar ideas.

    Mystery and suspense stories are often about crime. Not always, but typically, so I want to use that to illustrate my definitions.

    In the case of mystery, in the early chapters, we discover that a crime has occurred. The rest of the book revolves around solving that crime. We need to find out who did it, and preferably also why and how. Usually the main character is the person who is doing the solving. So we follow that character, who is often a detective, through the story as they go through clues and chase leads. Through it all, we don't; know who perpetrated the crime until the end. A mystery story is a puzzle that a character has to resolve. The Whodunnit is the quintessential mystery.

    In the case of suspense, we do know who committed the crime (or an act that may have major consequences). Usually we know how and why they did it. because that's very likely how the book starts off. The question in a suspense story is not who did it, but whether or not they get away with it. And if they get away with it, where do they go? What do they do with the money? If they don't get away with it, what's their punishment? All we know is that it will be very bad. The main character in a suspense story is the actual person who committed the crime. The story follows them around in their attempts to evade capture, which usually involves some close calls. That's what creates the tension.

    Mystery is about the detective. Suspense is about the criminal.

    A loose definition, but I think it works decently.
    Last edited by Night_Writer; 10-26-2020 at 02:14 PM.

    House of Zolo's Journal of Speculative Literature, Volume 2

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