Often, I’m asked about the difference between psychological suspense and suburban noir. I thought about this for a long time, longer than a normal person might. Finally I put it out of my mind. When I discovered the answer, it seemed absurdly obvious.
In Psychological Suspense fiction, the characters tend more toward the neurotic and mentally unbalanced side of the scale. They don’t always know what they want or why they do what they do. They’re lost inside their own minds, and reality is often uncertain.
The characters of Suburban Noir fiction fall into the sociopathic and narcissistic slice of the population – more self-serving, less compassionate, driven beyond reason to get what they want.
Like one of my favorite writers, Ruth Rendell, I have “compassion for wrongdoers“. It’s easy for me to see how their life experiences created or inflamed their questionable behavior.
“Since these novels explore the inner workings of the often unstable protagonist’s mind, madness often frames the stories. The protagonist may start out in the normal world of everyday, but something goes awry, and we watch as he is trapped, mentally at least, in a nightmare world that may be inescapable.”
“It is a seductive position a writer puts the reader in when they create an interesting, unlikable character — they make you complicit, in ways that are both uncomfortable and intriguing.”
I not only love to write stories with a dark psychological element, I love to read them, obviously! One that continues to stand out was from one of my favorite writers — Laura Kasischke. It was disturbing story that had a psychological horror thread and gave me chills … The Mind of Winter. Another recent favorite is You, by Caroline Kepnes.
My final thought is from the collective consciousness at Wikipedia, paraphrased by me.
Psychological thriller is a fictional thriller story which emphasizes the psychology of its characters and their unstable emotional states. There is a dissolving sense of reality, moral ambiguity, and complex and tortured relationships between obsessive and pathological characters.
This appeals to me because I think reality is very fluid and greatly influenced by our mental state. We all come up against moral ambiguity every day of our lives. When I read fiction, I love to get lost in characters’ head and their uniquely distorted view of the word.
The four novels (so far) in my psychological suspense series weave their way through the mind of an unabashed sociopath — Alexandra Mallory.