Contact Me

Email me
"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Review: Conflict & Suspense by James Scott Bell

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 Elements of Fiction Writing: Conflict & Suspense.

So as soon as I discovered it was available, I downloaded it to my Kindle.

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?
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 started reading it this past week, but when yesterday came and I had time away from the day job, I couldn't stop reading it and finished it in a marathon session (I was at it so long it drained my Kindle battery!).  I had my Kindle highlighting feature working overtime.  Most importantly, Conflict & Suspense 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 usually glean at least one useful strategy from each of them, but not all of them immediately spark my imagination with regard to my own works in progress.

While you will see some material in this text that you've seen before in Mr. Bell's earlier books (such as the LOCK System), don't let it dissuade you. This book is 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. I hope publishers and e-reader makers will find a way to overcome this (as far as I can tell sole) disadvantage to reading non-fiction on e-readers.

Even though I bought the Kindle version of the book, I'm going to have to buy myself a paper copy too--first because I feel an itch to use a real highlighter throughout its pages (and I want to scribble notes in its margins) and second because I'm OCD.  Plot and Structure and Revision & Self-Editing sit on my physical bookshelf, and just knowing they have a third partner that isn't there yet is going to drive me crazy.  Weird, I know.

As one who has bought numerous writers reference books over the years, I can honestly say you'll get a lot of practical use from this one. Forget the high-brow theory. Mr. Bell puts you straight to work on your masterpiece.  And that's as it should be.

No comments: