Fine Line between Thriller and Horror Genres

I have been told my books are scary and that there is a horror quality to them because of the serial killers.  I never really thought about how thriller and horror genres sometimes blend their boundaries.  Traditionally, when I think of horror, I think of a crazed ax murderer, vampire, or zombie.  Serial killers stalking their victims are pretty scary too!

The thriller genre has always been my favorite and it was a no brainer for me when I began writing my first novel, Compulsion, in 2008.  I continued with my Emily Stone thriller Series with Dead Game.   

We hear “thriller” referring to so many books and movies these days.  You have to ask yourself if the “thriller” description has been a little lenient.

A “thriller” is described as depicting crime, mystery, or espionage in an atmosphere of excitement and suspense.  A “horror” is described as the strong feeling caused by something frightful or shocking; shuddering fear and disgust; terror and repugnance.  I can see some similarities and where the genre lines might be blurred in the process. In recent years, it seems that thrillers have been influenced by the horror genre, which has more gore/sadistic violence, brutality, terror, and body counts.

What I love about a genuine, standalone thriller is that it provides thrills and keeps the audience hanging off the “edge of their seats” as the plot builds towards a climax.  The tension usually arises when the character(s) is placed in a menacing situation, a mystery, or a trap from which escaping seems impossible. Life is threatened, usually because the principal character is unsuspectingly or unknowingly involved in a dangerous or potentially deadly situation.  That’s what I strived for Emily Stone in her two books. 

Thrillers mostly take place in ordinary suburbs/cities. Though sometimes, they may take place wholly or partly in exotic settings such as foreign cities, deserts, polar regions, or the high seas. The heroes in most thrillers are frequently ordinary citizens unaccustomed to danger. However, more common in crime thrillers, they may also be “hard men” accustomed to danger, like police officers and detectives. While such heroes have traditionally been men, women lead characters have become increasingly common.

What do you think about thrillers versus horror?  Do you think the genre boundaries are often blurred?

About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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