Categories
Guest Post Uncategorized

Timing, Reveal, & Appeal: Genre Conventions in Mystery, Suspense, & Thrillers

Today’s guest post comes from Kimberly Hunt, freelance developmental editor with Revision Division.

Let’s set expectations from the start. I am NOT a writer. Through extensive reading, professional training, and my experience as a developmental editor, I’ve learned the essentials of genres. A novel can contain elements from multiple genres but three components distinguish mystery, horror, and suspense.

They are: Timing, Revealed clues,and the Appeal, of the story to the reader’s emotions.

Any novel needs structural elements with tension provided by formidable conflict and character growth, but when you’re ready to pass your manuscript to a beta-reader, knowing your genre will help you know how best to describe it. Use the following key components to quickly identify if you’ve written a mystery, horror, or suspense novel.

Mystery

  • It’s all about the chase. Drop the reader in after the crime and let the story unravel – revealing the why and who at a moderate pace.
  • The hook in the beginning should establish a question that must be answered by the end.
  • Solve the mystery in the end or there is no story. Even if the criminal gets away, you’re expected to solve the crime.
  • Along the way, your style of writing characters and plot should make demands of the reader’s brain to figure out the puzzle. To help them, leave subtle clues so that it all falls into place in the end. 
  • No cheating – waiting until the end to present a tidy wrap up is not satisfying for readers.

Horror

  • It’s all about fear.
  • Often, a horror story includes themes of bad people or actions (or both) and usually leans toward the morbid.
  • Shocking plot twists are great, but it should be believable. In fact, that’s what makes it so scary.
  • Character motivations are still important even if horror is usually more plot-driven than character-driven. In order to evoke a strong emotional response, the reader must strongly like or hate the character.
  • The sought after emotional response is intense whether it be from fear or shock. Readers should be screaming at the book as they see the evil plot unfold.
  • Many authors embrace disgust head-on without flinching, unafraid to turn your stomach with graphic depiction, but use grossness sparingly as this can be perceived as a lazy trick, much like leaning on coincidence to solve a mystery or fate to wrap up a romance.

Suspense

  • It’s all about tense uncertainty. Suspense involves a main character trying to prevent something from occurring.
  • A reader of suspense novels should feel tightly wound and worried about what may happen.
  • Some authors leverage time limits to increase tension and speed up the pace.
  • If Mystery is about what already happened, and horror is happening now, then suspense is danger about to happen.
  • Similar to Horror, the reader is aware of the danger, perhaps even more aware than the main character.
  • Use your biggest fears against your characters slowly and subtly, leaving a little to the reader’s imagination.

New authors often struggle to categorize their work, but these guidelines should help. A blend of genres is great as strict rules are nonexistent. However, it’s beneficial to know early in the publishing process what your target audience hopes you’re about to deliver. And it’s absolutely mandatory later for marketing effectively when you’re querying or self-publishing.

Kimberly Hunt is a freelance developmental editor with Revision Division, specializing in fiction for self-publishing authors. She’s happy to answer questions about writing and editing but beware as she can go on at length about her passions: reading, running, and volunteering.

Please share!
Categories
Author Interview Writing Life

Interview with Vivien Chien: Murder Most Cozy

I’ve known Vivien Chien since before she got her first contract. It’s been amazing to watch her star rise, from her #ownvoices debut Death by Dumpling to her latest, Murder Lo Mein, which comes out today! I was lucky enough to host Vivien at the library where I work for her first book launch, and since then, our patrons have been clamoring for her new releases.

Vivien brings real Cleveland flavor to her stories. I’m a native myself, and I love that I can picture her protagonist’s journeys through the city as she solves her puzzles. And if you’re reading them, make sure you have your favorite noodle shop on speed dial, because you will get hungry. Vivien is a master at describing the tasty dishes served by the Ho-Lee Noodle House.

I chatted with Vivien to see what she’s up to these days!

Tell us about the Noodle Shop series. 

The Noodle Shop mysteries take place in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio and feature Lana Lee, a late twenty-something Asian-American who is trying to gracefully steer her way through life after hitting a severe rough patch. When we first meet Lana in Death by Dumpling, she is at the beginning of her new adventure, working in her parents’ Chinese restaurant, Ho-Lee Noodle House. Of course, while getting back on her feet, murders ensue. (And wouldn’t that just figure?) The series follows her journey along with a cast of wacky characters who may or may not be considered “dysfunctional.”

What do you like best about MURDER LO MEIN, the third book in the series? What part of it was the most fun to write?

Honestly, I can’t pick just one part of Murder Lo Mein to like best. I have to say this is my favorite one out of the three and I love the story as a whole. (As cheesy as that answer sounds, it’s completely true!) The most fun I had writing were the fortune cookie bits, and the scenes between detective Adam Trudeau and Lana. I really enjoy exploring the dynamic of their budding relationship. 

How do you balance a full-time job along with writing your cozies? Do you have any productivity tips?

The balancing act can be a challenge at times, but the end result is completely worth it. I write after work throughout the week and accomplish what I can in about an hour or so. Then a lot of times on the weekends, I’ll have writing marathons that last about 8-10 hours straight. These sessions usually involve mass amounts of coffee and the occasional doughnut.

My best advice on productivity would be to stop making excuses as to why you can’t sit in that chair and write. “Those darn dishes” or “that blasted laundry” will still be there an hour from now. Then once you’re sitting, the next step would be to forget about checking your email, logging into social media, or buying that really awesome bookshelf from Amazon. Those things will also still be there later.

And lastly, I would say, don’t get hung up on perfection. We lose many a minute by worrying how a particular sentence sounds or the problem we find with an entire paragraph. Get it down first, fuss later. 

WONTON TERROR is due out in August. What are your plans following that release?


After Wonton Terror, there will definitely be two more books in the Noodle Shop series, and they will follow the same publication schedule of two books released per year. I do also plan on proposing more books in the series to ensure that Lana has a long life in the cozy mystery world.

Aside from these books, I have a few other book proposals up my sleeve. One series involves a female P.I. who will also make a guest appearance in book five of the Noodle Shop mysteries, and the other involves a story-line in the paranormal realm. It will still be a mystery, but it’ll involve a predominantly supernatural cast of characters.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Never give up! I think that is the single most important thing for any writer to know. So many of us can be easily discouraged because writing AND getting published can be a very daunting task. But all you have to do is keep believing in yourself. That is key.

Please share!