The Thin Line between Romance and Mysteries


WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE between a good mystery and a good romance?

Like a duel, I think it’s the choice of weapons.

In a mystery, the murderer depends on a revolver.

Maybe a rope around the neck.

Perhaps a sharp knife to the heart.

A blow to the head.

A recipe spiked with poison.

In a romance, the lover depends on a kiss.

Maybe her arms around his neck.

Perhaps a sharp word to the heart.

A blow to the ego.

Jealousy spiked with poison.

In the end, it’s all the same.

Someone suffers.

Someone hurts.

In a mystery, someone usually dies.

In a romance, it’s love that dies.

Both genres are littered with victims.

However, there is one major difference.

In a romance, love can be resurrected.

But the dead in a mystery stay dead for a long, long time.

Whether you are writing romance or a mystery, you need to remember three great quotes from the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.

Why not?

There is almost always as much suspense in love as in murder.

Hitchcock said: Always make the audience (or reader) suffer as much as possible.

There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.

And what is drama but life with the dull bits cut out.

If you can write one genre, you can certainly write the other.

In one, the blonde falls in love.

In the other, the blonde falls over a cliff.

You’re the writer.

You get to decide where the blonde falls.

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of Secrets of the Dead, a thriller packed with a little love, a lot of death, and the dull bits cut out.


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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Romance is about love. Mysteries are about death. Both leave victims in their path.

  • Don Newbury

    Grudgingly, we admit that cut to the chase, boiled down, full measure, etc. you, you’ve discovered the buried treasure readers want at the end of the day–I mean, book….

    • Caleb Pirtle


  • Darlene Jones

    The thrill of writing is having all that control.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Darlene, your books are great examples of science fiction touched by romance.

  • Jackie Taylor Zortman

    I smiled all the way through this because my latest book FOOTPRINTS IN THE FROST is considered to be a romantic mystery. No murder involved, but another serious crime and case. Anyway, I combined the two.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Jackie, I think more and more authors are realizing that a story, even a hard-boiled thriller, without a touch of love and romance is empty. As I’ve always believed, the difference between a good story and a great one is heart.

      • Jackie Taylor Zortman

        I totally agree with you that having one’s heart in your story is essential. My first book was written after the death of my oldest grandson at age 21 (fall from a mountain ledge) and those pages were covered with tears. It was written from the heart.

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