Horror…Gothic Mystery…Paranormal…Suspense…Thrillers –
How to distinguish between all the ‘creepy’ genres
I love the dark, spooky, edge of your seat creepy stuff. Love writing it, love reading it. But there are so many different categories and sub genres out there, it’s hard to keep track of what’s what. I am not an expert, and I do not have an official definition of each, but in my experience of reading/writing, I have come to some conclusions.
Horror – Normally involves monsters of all types, as far as the imagination can stretch. These stories are often gory, extremely frightening, and they definitely do not guarantee a Happily Ever After. They do not guarantee that the Protagonist will survive, but most of the time the monsters are defeated. Even if the MC (Main Character) has to sacrifice himself or herself in order to ‘win.’
Paranormal – Usually associated with a basic group of Supernatural creatures, i.e, Vampires, Werewolves, Shape Shifters, Demons, Zombies, Grim Reapers, etc. Most of the time, these stories have a romance element and usually, Good trumps Evil in the end. Although Good can often be the creatures themselves. (More often than not, a Supernatural creature is the MC).
Gothic Mystery – Are almost always set in a remote town, usually but not always a coastal town. They normally feature a young woman as the MC, one who is away from her family, or has no family (which is actually more common), and this MC travels to this spooky, faraway place. She always has a compelling reason to visit this strange land and always becomes involved in a mystery which puts her at risk. Oftentimes, she ends up having a connection to the town or a resident of the town. Sometimes, that is why she journeys there in the first place. Usually, she finds love, but that’s not a ‘must.’
Suspense – These stories are fast-paced and danger of some kind is normally the theme. Usually, the danger is personal, and it is to the MC and/or someone they love, rather than on the broader scope of a thriller. Oftentimes, the villain is known, it’s just a matter of catching them and/or surviving. Suspense stories can have romance, which would put them in the Romantic Suspense category, but it is not required.
Mystery – These are your basic ‘Whodunits.’ They are necessarily fast-paced but should be intriguing, compelling. Readers typically like to solve the mystery along with—or preferably before–the MC. A well-written mystery will not allow the reader to unravel the mystery/identify the bad guy with certainty, but the person who is ultimately the villain should probably have been one of the reader’s guesses. Not necessarily, but sometimes if the bad guy wasn’t on the reader’s radar, then the author is ‘cheating’ the reader by making the villain someone too unlikely. Enough clues should have been dropped along the way that, even if a reader doesn’t solve the mystery, once they learn the truth, they can say, “Ah, yeah. I should have figured that one out.” Again, romance can be a part of the story, but it’s not a must.
Thriller – These are basically like a suspense but are usually more fast-paced with higher stakes. They involve a broader scope of danger, such as to an entire community, or even an entire country. Thrillers are often International, and can take the MC, along with the reader, to all sorts of foreign, exotic places. Sometimes a relationship is a part of the story, but romance isn’t usually a focus. (Under the Thriller heading, there are various sub headings, such as, Crime thrillers, political, legal, psychological, etc.)
That is my interpretation of all these exciting and dangerous genres. I might not be 100 percent accurate, but it’s not all that important what you call them, as long as they keep you turning pages and make your heart beat just a little faster.
What is your favorite of the above genres? What is it that keeps you coming back to these kinds of stories?
Alicia Dean lives in Edmond, Oklahoma and is the mother of three grown children. Alicia loves creating spine-chilling stories that keep readers on the edge of their seats. She writes paranormal and romantic suspense for several different publishers and is excited to be a launch author for Amazon’s Kindle Worlds with two Vampire Diaries stories and one Gossip Girl story.