Fiction Genres: Horror, and Others They Tell Me Are Different

Horror:  So, this may come as quite a shock to you, but it turns out Horror is, simply put, a scary story.  I know, I wouldn’t have thought of that either.  But AQ does go into a little more detail, “It’s chilling pendulum swings a broad arc… uses a wide range of techniques to terrify and titillate it’s audience… engenders fear in the hearts and minds of it’s audience… often portrays the subversive side of its fictional world… explores the unspeakable… uses folklore and fantasy to create manifestations of evil death and destruction”.  This last point is in contrast to…

Thriller/Suspense:  …Which is based in reality.  The stakes in this/these genre(s) are often large – life or death, ’cause it doesn’t get much larger than that, does it?  While it can often cross genres into crime fiction, the central theme of Thriller/Suspense is “developing a sense of imminent jeopardy” rather than solving the mystery or crime.  But what of Crime Fiction, then?  How are they different?  Let’s explore…

Crime Fiction: …centers its plot on the perpetration of a crime.  Here, we have two sub-genres.  (Now, don’t think just because I make note of it here that every other genre I have or will mention cannot also be broken into sub-genres.  They all can, but we’re largely focusing on the “umbrellas” in this series.  I mention sub-genres here because… well, I felt like it.) “Detective” crime fiction focuses on either professional or amateur investigators solving a crime.  In these stories, your investigator will likely be your strongest focus.  S/he may be your narrator, you’ll focus on his/her personal life and why this case (or these cases) are so important or antagonizing to him/her, and the details of solving the crime as opposed to the crime itself will be your story arc.  This is juxtaposed with True Crime fiction, which focuses more minutely on the details of the crime, operating more like the recently popular “forensic” television series that have come out such as CSI (pick your city) and Criminal Minds.  It focuses on details of the crime, evidence, and the criminal mind (Oh, so that’s where they got that clever title!)  On the other hand, there’s always…

Mystery:  Okay, now they’re just getting silly.  In my reading on AQ’s site, I just don’t see much of a difference, except perhaps that “the puzzle behind the crime is central to the plot”.  Although, that’s hardly that different from True Crime’s focus on the details of the crime.  Mystery does have “Amateurs or professional investigators perform the sleuthing”, unlike detective fiction except for being exactly the same!  Nope.  Nope.  I don’t see it.  Thriller, suspense, crime fiction, mystery – they are one genre whose purpose it is to captivate the audience in “who-done-it-ness” to keep them turning page after page until at 6:00 in the morning I realize I have to be at work in two hours, and I have not slept because I had to find out who killed Judge Healey.  (Matthew Pearl, aka my favorite reason for insomnia.)


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