Suspense and thriller novels are another couple that often live in the same category. Suspense is the lesser of the two, while the thriller is more intense in its delivery.
First of all, suspense is more character driven than plot driven. While both have action and a driving plot, the thrillers dive into it while the suspense dwindles in the shallow end.
The two are very broad so it’s difficult to define them. Instead I’m going to look at how each one incorporates into other genres, and how they give the story power.
Suspense can be in every genre, as can thrillers. Suspense can be found in romance and in mysteries, while crime and horror contain the thrill. You know what it is when you feel it. Suspense leaves you on the edge, thrillers make your heart race.
As a Christian writer you should aim to make your book as exciting as possible. You don’t want people to read your novel and only get half-way, or worse, because they are simply too bored by your preaching. Yes, I said preaching. Should we preach in our novels? Yes, but not in the way you’re thinking.
I’ve talked about Christian non-fiction before, and unfortunately they bore me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read some great ones, but I never go out of my way to read them. Because there’s no experience and no emotion felt. Like I’ve said before though, they are necessary and shouldn’t be discarded. But if you’re looking to truly preach something, fiction is the way to go.
So, preaching. I know this may sound controversial, but Christian author’s shouldn’t be preachy in their novels. They need to let the story preach, and not force a sermon into the readers ears. They will likely reject your book and give it away.
That’s how author Frank Peretti began his career. When he preached to the youth, he would turn his sermons into stories, and each week he would add something to the story. Each week the kids couldn’t wait to hear more! That’s how church should be. That’s how we need to preach to the youth. I for one have experienced how boring a sermon can be. In most churches my mind wanders, but when the pastor tells a story, he has my attention, even if the story isn’t very good. Why? Because of the thrill of experience. Frank mastered the art of suspense when he would tell part of his story, than leave the other part for next week. I know that would kill me 🙂
So, when writing thrillers and suspense novels, do exactly as the genre title says. Thrill and leave your readers in suspense. Learning comes from experiencing.