1. Akarevaar

    Akarevaar Member

    Aug 31, 2015
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    Gold Coast, Australia

    Is this a thriller? Or just a mystery?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Akarevaar, Jun 5, 2016.

    I've recently been reading up about what makes a thriller a thriller. Amongst other things, a key marker is the constant escalation of the stakes, something which I'm not 100% sure my story has. I've gone through it, and tried to raise the stakes where I can, but I'm still not sure it follows the structure close enough. Here's a brief summary of the plot I have so far.

    1. The main character is a shapeshifter, and takes the form of the missing son of a rich family in hopes of claiming the inheritance when the very sickly father passes away. What at stake at this stage: just money.
    2. The main character tries to assimilate into normal life. He attends the missing son's school, meet's his friends, etc. What at stake: Prison, if he can't keep the act up.
    3. The missing boy's drug addicted sister returns from rehab. She knows something is fishy, and confronts him about it. He reveals the truth, which she is reluctant to believe, but agrees to go along with on the terms that he will help find out what actually happened to her brother. What's at stake: still prison, but it's more pressing now, because of the threat of the sister revealing the truth.
    4. A TV interview. They ask about how he went missing, etc. He realises that the whole world is watching him. If he is found out, it will be worse than prison. There will be chaos if the world finds out that shape shifter's exist. He could be killed or dissected.
    5. He eventually hacks the missing kid's computer, and finds a string of strange emails which imply that the kid was involved in some shady business. After an odd interaction with a kid at school, he begins to suspect that whatever the kid was involved with got him abducted. What's at stake: whoever the kid had a problem with, now has a problem with the main character. He has to find out who his enemies are or risk getting abducted again, or killed.

    I have an idea of how I want it to end but no exact plot points yet. I will say that there is a major reversal. Given this, would this be consider a thriller instead of a mystery?
  2. Brindy

    Brindy Senior Member

    Apr 2, 2016
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    Somerset, UK
    On the plot you have given I would see it as a mystery. A thriller to me has more tension and risk than your plot suggests to me.

    It does sound like something I would read though.
  3. agasfer

    agasfer Member

    Apr 29, 2016
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    If that is your entire plot, then as Brindy said, it lacks tension, but that doesn't mean you can't inject tension at every point. If you concentrate on injecting tension at each point (perfectly possible, as your main character is always on the verge of being discovered: emphasize this point), and of course #5 opens up possibilities for a lot of tension as your main character and his sister (and perhaps the abducted kid) are almost about to be killed or tortured. Good luck!
  4. stampman

    stampman Member

    Aug 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Hitchcock put it best. Mystery is a mental exercise, where you have no information and proceed to find out what that information is, a typical "whodunit". Suspense is an emotional exercise in which the audience is given the information that the main character may not necessarily know, and using that to build suspense. If a bomb went off now and killed me, there would be a brief state of bewilderment. But if somebody TELLS you there's a bomb, and it will go off in five minutes, and I am unaware of its existence, you begin to feel tension, as you silently urge me to locate the explosive and save myself. Every second ticks by is one second I'm closer to annihilation, and you feel that, every second.
    ManOrAstroMan likes this.
  5. ManOrAstroMan

    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

    May 8, 2012
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    Mysteries are more about solving the puzzle, while thrillers are more about survival.

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