- Series: Elements of Fiction Writing
- Hardcover: 176 pages
- Publisher: Writers Digest Books; First Printing edition (February 1, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0898796342
- ISBN-13: 978-0898796346
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 36 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,090,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Conflict, Action and Suspense (Elements of Fiction Writing) First Printing Edition
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"Scene & Structure" "Characters & Viewpoint" "Beginnings, Middles & Ends"
The above three books are invaluable -- must reads. They are the best of the series, in my opinion, and are packed with good information on every page. Well-done.
"Conflict, Action & Suspense" "Description" "Plot" "Manuscript Submission" "Setting"
The above five books are good, solid reads. Again, they contain good information and cover the subject decently.
"Voice & Style" "Dialogue"
To me, the last two books need to be rewritten. They are by far the weakest of the series. Both suffer from an annoying style, particularly Dialogue, and both are very skimpy on real information. Neither one is very helpful.
This is the order in which I'd recommend reading them.
Conflict, Action & Suspense is a treasure trove of tools and techniques to help control the pace and effect of fictional scenes. The only thing it really lacks is a governor. Noble does inject a cautionary note about not overusing some of the more esoteric techniques but, for the most part, his advice seems to be `more is always better'. If you take him literally you could wind up with some REALLY horrendous writing.
As an example, take the technique of rapid-fire viewpoint switching. It could be effective in very limited fashion but, used in the way he seems to be suggesting, it would not only be confusing and irritating but, more importantly, it would almost certainly nullify any character identification. The equivalent of having a madman in charge of the video editing in an arty film production obsessed with making you dizzy.
There is a fundamental principle in danger of being violated here. If your technique becomes intrusive- if the reader notices WHAT you are doing rather than being carried with the flow- then you are doing something wrong. Period. Bottom line: Check your favorite authors to see how they handle a particular technique before overusing it yourself.
He also managed to punch my buttons with another pet peeve: Referring to `classical' literature as though that is still how people should be writing. He's quite correct in saying that drab cliche' descriptions should be avoided... but so should the flowery frippery and exaggerated imagery of bygone eras of literature. You'll lose your modern audience (except for a few literary eggheads) in a bout of disgusted snickers.
The above reasons are why I give the book only four stars. BUT in every other respect I'd rate it as a five star plus. Noble does a masterful job of presenting a vast array of techniques (several of which I have not seen elaborated elsewhere) to keep your audience breathless in anticipation of your next devious twist of fate. This is a reference I plan to keep close at hand. The major challenge will be learning to use it responsibly.
"Blah, blah, blah, increase drama... blah, blah, blah, increase suspense... blah, blah, blah, hook the reader... blah, blah, blah..."
There are plenty of examples throughout this book, although some are really unclear, but the author takes no time in dissecting them other than to say, "See, this excerpt illustrates my point." The general high level points the author makes are supportive of concepts taught by many other professional writers and writing coaches of speculative fiction, but many of the limited details, tricks, and tips seem to illustrate what other successful professionals have labeled as "bad advice" and "do not's of writing". This book does not explain the how's and the why's of the author's illustrated techniques, just the what's and the when's. There is no advice on how to learn to use the described techniques, no pro's for or con's against the various techniques, no potential pitfalls that these techniques can get the writer into, and generally nothing that even an experienced reader of fiction wouldn't be able to figure out on their own. This book appears to contain mostly general common sense for writing speculative fiction.
As the title of this review states, this book is not worth the time or the money. You would be better served reading other quality books on writing speculative fiction such as Jack M. Bickham's title, Scene and Structure.
Noble's secrets on subtly and misdirection, finding ways to let scenes, storylines, and themes converge, and insights on character development, transitions, and story structure will improve the work of any author. Guaranteed.
Whether you write for a living or as a hobby, your library of writing resources will never be complete without a copy of "Conflict, Action & Suspense." Highly recommended.