Top critical review
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A handy, if slightly flawed, book
on May 20, 2004
Drama produces excitement in our writing. It keeps the reader interested. And how do we create drama? By playing with conflict, action, and suspense. Noble's book covers the basic concepts of drama, confrontation, pulling on the reader's emotions, escalation, and immediacy. He also deals with elements that keep your story moving: appropriate grammar, charged images, shifts in point of view, and contrast. He does a good job of telling us the how and why of things, rather than simply telling us what to do.
He touches on suspense's relationship with all sorts of basic writing issues such as dialogue, openings, cliffhangers, mood and atmosphere, character development, point of view, pacing, endings, and so on. Noble does a good job of focusing on specific techniques relevant to suspense for the most part.
It isn't a perfect book. It isn't as dry as most textbooks, but it could certainly be better than it is. Some of the examples that Mr. Noble makes up to use in the book are a bit on the overblown side, which kind of undercuts some of his points. He might have been better off using more examples from published fiction. Also, some of Mr. Noble's assertions regarding his topics have since been proven to be wrong. For example, when talking about the logic of settings: "...And a horror-suspense story would have problems if it was set in the unfolding of a miracle." I've seen this done quite well, actually.
This book was originally copyrighted in 1994, and this may be part of the problem. Since then some of the techniques that he lauds as strong and effective have become over-used and trite. (Overused techniques became that way precisely because they're so effective.) Some of the things he says can't be done have been done. As it is, this book serves as a very good example of why you need to do a lot of reading in the fiction field you want to write in. Otherwise, how will you know which of his techniques have been over-used, which can be seen as trite if you aren't careful how you use them, and which are still seen as solid, useful methods?