Suspense, like other genre fiction, is often assumed to be inferior in quality to more "serious" fiction. A suspense story can be every bit as well-wrought as any other, argues Patricia Highsmith in Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction
. To show how, Highsmith focuses as much on her failures as on her successes. Amid discussions about growing ideas, story development, plotting, first and second drafts, and revisions are anecdotes from Highsmith's own career. Highsmith (Strangers on a Train
) admits to editing with crayon (doing so "gives one the proper cavalier attitude"), napping on the job (it helps solve problems), and having written one "really dull" book. Though this book is slim, there are some lovely thoughts on such issues as creating a murderer-hero with "pleasant qualities," "stretch[ing] the reader's credulity," and using "as much care in depicting the face and appearance of ... main characters" as a painter would with a portrait. --Jane Steinberg
From Publishers Weekly
From the author of The Talented Mr. Ripley comes a how-to manual on her craft. In Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, the late Patricia Highsmith gives advice on generating ideas ("It is amusing to let the imagination play with such incidents as a faintly heard song and an invaded apartment, and to see what evolves from them"), helpful practices (keep a notebook), overarching philosophies ("The first person you should think of pleasing, in writing a book, is yourself") and specific craft issues ("where should one place the climax in a book?"). The advice is all sound (particularly her ideas on "almost incredible" coincidences), and her status as a suspense heavyweight and a commercial success make her book eminently credible.
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