Difference Between Mystery and Suspense

Mystery vs Suspense

The key difference between mystery and suspense is that mystery puzzles the reader and confuses him while suspense intrigues him. Mystery and suspense are two devices used by writers to heighten the interest in stories. As readers, we come across books belonging to different genres. These contain stories of romance, horror, adventure, science fictions, etc. In building up the story, the writer uses various characters and specific devices to add more flavor to the story. Suspense and mystery can be viewed as two such elements. Suspense as a device can create uncertainty in the reader as to what might unfold. Mystery, on the other hand, involves those aspects that remain a question to the reader. Through this article, we will be analyzing the difference between the two concepts; namely, mystery and suspense.

What is Suspense?

As mentioned above suspense can be treated as a device that creates intrigue. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word suspense as excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen. This can be seen not only in novels but also in movies and television series. Suspense is when the individual has some facts about what might happen but is not sure of its accuracy.

For example, in a story line there is a masked man. You do not know who is behind the mask for sure, even though, the author has given hints as to who it could be. As the plot develops, the reader feels more curious.

Difference Between Mystery and Suspense

What is Mystery?

Moving on, the word mystery can be defined as something that remains unexplained. For a situation to be mysterious in a story or even in real life, people have to feel confused about how the event took place. This can even relate to the supernatural. In a case of a mystery, the individual does not have any evidence and cannot find a logical explanation for the occurrence of the event.

Let us take an example. In books such as the many mysterious stories of Sherlock Holmes, there is a definite puzzle that needs to be unraveled, such as in the case of the Hound of the Baskerville. The story has been created in such a way by the author, Arthur Conan Doyle, that the reader is unable to find a logical explanation for the mystery until the very end of the story. This is because the evidence necessary and the mandatory factual basis for the mystery to be unraveled are provided stage by stage. This allows the author to keep the reader interested. In this sense, in writing mystery can work as an excellent device.

Mystery vs Suspense

This highlights that there is a clear difference between mystery and suspense.

What is the difference between Mystery and Suspense?

• Definitions of Mystery and Suspense:

• Mystery can be defined as something that remains unexplained.

• Suspense can be defined as excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen.

• Knowing vs Not Knowing:

• Mystery is when you do not know.

• Suspense is when you have doubts about what may happen.

• Puzzlement vs Intrigue:

• Mystery leads to a puzzlement of the reader.

• Suspense intrigues the reader.

• Facts:

• In mystery, the individual has no logical explanation.

• In suspense, the individual has some facts even though he is not sure.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Masked man by GMLSX (CC BY-SA 3.0)
  2. The Hound of the Baskervilles via Wikicommons (Public Domain)