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Elements of Fiction Writing: Conflict and Suspense Paperback – December 1, 2012
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
We all know that conflict is essential in fiction. "Boy meets Girl, Girl falls in love with Boy, they marry and live happily ever after" doesn't even make a good short story. Not without conflict and suspense.
Bell starts with the premise that a good novel must be emotionally gripping, and that the best tools for building that emotion are conflict and suspense. But he goes on to say that the stakes in an emotionally satisfying novel have to be death. Wait a minute, now--death? I write humor. Nobody dies in my books. Well, hardly anybody. And if they do, they probably deserve it.
Think about the last sitcom you watched on TV. If you sat through the show, and laughed, there was definitely plenty of conflict and suspense, but I'll bet nobody died. Does that break Bell's rule?
Not at all, because death, thank goodness, need not be literal. It might be, of course (Bell writes thrillers), but it may also be professional (a career or life disaster) or psychological (if Boy can't win Girl, or vice versa, the world might as well come to an end). In comedy the most trivial problem can turn into a towering threat. Just think about Frasier.
Most of us do our best to avoid conflict in our day-to-day lives, even when we welcome a little suspense. It isn't always easy to throw metaphorical rocks at our characters, chase them down dark alleys or up comedic trees, but that's just what we need to do to write good fiction, and Bell's book is full of tools for the job.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Almost done with this book. If you've read any of James Scott Bell's other books, you'll see that his books on writing are very similar. Read morePublished 6 days ago by Angie
He always exceeds my expectations. This is a book, as the name suggests, for writers. If you write you need to know how to create conflict.Published 3 months ago by molico
Excellent recommendations for beginners and advanced writer.Published 3 months ago by Robert Simpson
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It breaks down a wide range of tactics to build tension for your story. It has examples for a variety of genres as well. Easy read. Action packed. Read morePublished 4 months ago by A. R. Slater
This book does a great job of listing all the methods to the madness of conflict and suspense. This is a book to read over and over again.Published 4 months ago by Lucas Carlson
This was the book I have been looking for, straight to the point about conflict and suspense, easy understandable and pedagogic structure. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Comprehensive and well structured book. Couldn't let it down, highly recommended.Published 4 months ago by Cateluta Cucu
Great resource for writers. I may use this as a supplemental class text.Published 5 months ago by lacemaker