Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh MY!

Let’s look at Fear Fiction. The reader loves it because it scares them or mystifies them.

The category is, again, subdivided into smaller, distinct categories.

Thrillers: Action-based stories with lots of adrenaline, these works focus more on immediate reaction, jump scares, surprise, and blind fear. It’s situational, fast moving, and pants-wetting prose. Movie examples include Alien, Godzilla, and King Kong.

See the source image
This bear looks like he’s about to enter a thriller!

Suspense: More atmospheric than thrillers, these stories focus on psychological fear. They’re slower and tension builds like a gathering storm. Thrillers contain suspense but it’s often more dread of short duration while suspense is long duration, with hills and valleys that continually build to a climax. The suspense characters are changed profoundly; thriller characters are rarely deeply changed. More movie examples include Signs and most of M. Night Shymalan’s movies. I’d also put a lot of Stephen King’s books here.

Horror: True horror goes where the other subcategories rarely go. These trade in the obscene, sometimes with a supernatural aspect, sometimes with a psychological basis, but always with an offensive underpinning. These stories show a distorted nature of people and settings. Supernatural monsters like vampires and werewolves are an affront to nature and, you know, they eat people. Night of the Living Dead and stuff like that.

Mystery – Really its own animal, mystery is often brought up with thrillers and suspense because they can belong to these subcategories. Here, though, the main character has a mystery to solve as a cop, PI, or amateur sleuth. Tension and suspense should be a part of it, and the hero should be threatened, yet fear doesn’t have to be a part of it. In suspense, the main character doesn’t choose to be involved, they’re typically trapped. In mystery, the main character chooses to solve the mystery.

Adventure – Like mystery, this is more fun action than outright fear. Light suspense, fights that are almost comic in the fact that punches that should kill don’t even leave a bruise. Indiana Jones, all superhero movies (although, the possibly released New Mutants intends to go the horror trope route. Disney hasn’t said if they’ll release it as shot).

It seems like each of these should have the indicator stickers that hot sauce has at Tijuana Flats. Thrillers, Suspense, and Horror get the frowny face; Mystery the straight line face, and Adventure the happy face.

What appeals to you about this category?

6 thoughts on “Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh MY!”

  1. Even reading your descriptions bring fear to my heart. I don’t like fear fiction. Maybe a good mystery, but thrillers and horror–nope! If even felt wrong to click “like” on this post. But you know, I still like how you explain things. 🙂


  2. I do like adventure, but it has to be character driven. I can’t get into a book where I don’t like the protagonist. But I do like horror too. I was reading Salem’s Lot by Stephen King a long time ago and it scared me. Anyone who can write something that scares me, I have a lot of respect for.


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