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Elements of Fiction Writing - Conflict and Suspense Paperback – December 1, 2012


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Elements of Fiction Writing - Conflict and Suspense + Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish + The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression
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Product Details

  • Series: Elements of Fiction Writing
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books (December 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159963273X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599632735
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

James Scott Bell is the author of more than fifteen novels and a Christy Award winner for Final Witness in 2000. His fiction has been reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, and the Library Review. He's the author of Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure, Write Great Fiction: Revision & Self-Editing, and The Art of War for Writers. He writes for Writer's Digest magazine. Bell currently teaches fiction writing courses at Pepperdine University and is a regular on the conference circuit. His website is www.jamesscottbell.com. He lives in West Hills, California.


More About the Author

For notifications and deals about JSB's new releases, sign up for his occasional update at www.jamesscottbell.com (the signup box is on the left side of the screen). Your mail box will never be overstuffed nor will your address be shared with anyone else.

JAMES SCOTT BELL is a bestselling and award winning suspense writer, and one of the top writing coaches in the country. He writes in both the traditional and indie publishing realms. Writing as K. Bennett, he is the author of the Mallory Caine, Zombie-at-Law series, which begins with PAY ME IN FLESH. In 2012 he became the first writer to have a self published work nominated for the prestigious International Thriller Writers Award (for the novella ONE MORE LIE). He was the fiction columnist for Writer's Digest magazine and has written four popular books for the Writers Digest line: Plot & Structure, Revision & Self-Editing, The Art of War for Writers and Conflict & Suspense. Jim taught novel writing at Pepperdine University and continues to teach at numerous writers conferences in the United States, Canada, London, Australia, and New Zealand. He attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where he studied writing with Raymond Carver. He lives and writes in L.A. He blogs weekly at Kill Zone -- www.killzoneauthors.blogspot.com

Customer Reviews

Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book to aspiring writers of all genres.
Amazon Customer
After all, if someone starts reading your story, ideally you want them to have a difficult time finding a place to stop in the story and put it down.
Tom Farr
I found reading it easy and very enjoyable as well as informative and a great learning experience.
Deb F.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Baron Von Cool on April 26, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure: (Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish) (Write Great Fiction) is one of the best how-to books on writing I've ever read. He's easy and fun to read with a good mix of motivation and creative solutions to specific or general issues. This new book, Conflict and Suspense, shares a lot of the same stuff that made Plot and Structure great--and therein lies the book's flaw. If you own both books, you will find far too much information overlap, like Bell only bothered to write half a book.

The new information is definitely helpful for writing conflict and suspense, but not as essential. Bell's step-by-step how to write a novel "LOCK" system from Plot and Structure is reprinted here in its entirety. If you're only going to buy one how-to write (any type of fiction) book, even if you want to write action or suspense, I'd still go for Plot and Structure first every time. Why? Because of its broader focus. It covers a lot more situations. It''s like a toolbox, whereas this book is more of a specialized wrench set. They do complement each other and go hand-in-hand, so if you don't mind the information overlap and just want more good insights and advice from Bell, then get this book, too. Just know you're only getting maybe half a book's worth of new stuff.

Again, the new stuff here is very good, some of it quite brilliant, and there are enough "aha!" gems to make it worth adding to your collection . . . just maybe not for full price. My 4-star rating reflects that.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Michael Wallace on January 2, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I can trace the success in my own career to James Scott Bell's advice for writers. I was working on a rewrite for my first truly successful novel when I read Plot & Structure and identified both a flaw in my antagonist and the resolution for a major plot weakness. I worked through the revisions with my fingers on fire and landed an agent shortly thereafter. My well-worn copy of Bell's book Revision & Self-Editing has proven equally useful and I recently gobbled up an ebook of the collected wisdom from his writing blog. When I saw that Bell had a new book about the art of writing, I bought it and started reading at once.

True to form, as I read Conflict & Suspense I found myself thinking of my current work in progress and kept running to the computer to jot down solutions to my problems or mark potential places to deepen conflict. And even though Bell's work focuses on plot, the character insights I gained from the book will prove equally valuable.

If I had any quibble with Conflict & Suspense--and it's a minor one--it's that having written so much about the art of writing, Bell sometimes trods familiar ground in this latest book. Some of his favorite themes--The Big Lie, the LOCK method, and Bell's pet theories about characterization--made predictable appearances. In addition, Bell's books all draw on the same examples from fiction and cinema. However, this material serves both as an important review and as a foundation for other, newer ideas and exercises.

I bought this book as an ebook, but will be buying a paper copy as well so that I can mark it up and put it on my shelf next to Bell's other books.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 7, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Like any good writer, I enjoy the guilty pleasure of stealing time to read the latest in writer's reference books. While I already have Mr. Bell's "Plot and Structure" and "Revision and Self-Editing", I was eager to read "Conflict & Suspense." This review is for the Kindle version.

I have three measuring sticks for writers reference books--1) Do I set it down easily after a few pages or paragraphs, 2) Does my highlighter get a workout, and 3) Do I find myself automatically thinking of my manuscript(s) and how to apply what I'm reading.

"Conflict & Suspense" passes the test easily. While I generally use the term "unputdownable" with regard to fiction, I found it applied to this book as well. I finished the book over about 4 days, with a marathon session where I couldn't stop reading on the fourth day. My Kindle highlighting feature was working overtime and the book kept my mind busy thinking about my WIP and how to enhance the conflict and suspense using the techniques I was reading.

Not all writers reference books are equal. I may read some and find just one thought in the whole book I can use or worse, they just don't spark my imagination with regard to my WIP. Others, like "Conflict and Suspense" are chock full and probably two thirds of the text are marked up with highlights.

While you will see some material in this text that you've seen before in his earlier books (such as the LOCK System), don't discount it. It is still chock full of tons of great advice and practical tips on infusing your book with both conflict and suspense.

The book does not employ heavy use of charts or graphs at all, but one of the charts in there, as is usual with e-readers, is very difficult to read even in zoom unless you have x-ray vision.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By LitTeacher on November 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
While Bell recycles some of this material from his excellent earlier book Plot & Structure, he repackages it effectively and clearly. His examples are solid, but some of his discussion goes on too long and beats a dead horse. I also wish he would keep the focus more strictly on novels (the book is about writing fiction, after all) and less on films, especially since a few of those films involve radical rewrites of novels.

His specific topics are well-ordered and very clear.
I prefer his earlier book, but you won't go wrong with this one.
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