Elements of Fiction Writing - Conflict and Suspense
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Elements of Fiction Writing - Conflict and Suspense

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4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  212 ratings  ·  41 reviews

Conflict pulls readers into a story and suspense carries them along until its conclusion. Expert author of over 15 thrillers, James Scott Bell offers proven techniques that help writers craft fiction that their readers won?t be able to put down. Learn how to believably weave conflict and suspense into a story, how to pace your story and keep the pressure on throughout, and

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Paperback, 272 pages
Published January 12th 2012 by Writer's Digest Books (first published December 15th 2011)
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Lee Thompson
Jan 28, 2012 Lee Thompson rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anybody interested in becoming a professional writer
Well worth your time and money if you want to improve as a writer. I just stole this from the book (because I agree with it completely) "Getting the words down is what makes a disciplined writer. Getting them down with the craft working for you is what makes a professional writer."

Highly recommended.
Vicki Hopkins
Fantastic book. I love writing conflict into my stories. Frankly, it's the spice that keeps them going like the Energizer Bunny. People accuse me of torturing my characters, and this books gives me affirmation I'm doing it right.

James Scott Bell tells it like it is, with humor and great examples. It's nice to know when I get to my cliffhanger in my current novel, it's okay to hang my antagonist over the edge and drag my reader with him.

If you're a published author or aspiring writer, this is a...more
Suzannah
I took a quick break from my reading and other jobs to zip through this little book, and I'm so glad I did. I'm mostly self-taught in writing and plotting, and I do recommend the approach I took--learning by observance of plots you like--but this filled in the gaps I had and gave me a simpler understanding of the process.

My only criticism of this enormously helpful book (which I am so looking forward to putting into practice) is that while some of the author's advice would apply to any writer in...more
Audra Spicer
LOCK your novel and watch conflict build

James Scott Bell teaches fiction writers some important lessons about how to create conflict and suspense by creating high stakes situations for our characters. Do you have conflict that is so big, your character is facing death--professional or personal, emotional or psychological? If your character's problem doesn't threaten some kind of death, then Bell teaches us to find ways to up the ante. Death can threaten in many forms, and conflict can come from...more
R.l.
There are literally thousands of books on the craft of writing, and I've read my share of them. Some of them are good and they've helped me, but none as much as this one.

The problem with most writing books is that they are short and incomplete, but Mr. Bell's book is thorough in sharing tools and techniques for adding conflict and suspense to every element of your story, including characters, dialogue, and theme. So thorough, in fact, that as I was reading it, I kept thinking I was near the end...more
Gwen Burrow
Chockfull of brilliant pointers. What struck me as I kept reading advice like "Ramp up the tension!" "Tighten it some more!" "Make bad things happen!" "Make worse things happen!" "Make your hero work harder!"--is how much more we'd enjoy our roles in God's story if we remembered that our best writing advice comes from observing the conflict and suspense in the best story ever told--this one. Ours.
Bobbi
Every book about writing that I've read gives me something; inspiration, direction, focus, or just the urge to sit down and write. So I'm tempted to give this 4 stars, but the annoyance of constant typos and missing words or letters is enough to drive that back down. I enjoyed this book, and it did give me some good ideas, although it is a bit smug and self-satisfied.
Melissa Mahle
I tend not to read a lot of craft books, except if I am having a problem in a story. I recently read Bell's book because my latest action/espionage plot seems to just plod along. I needed to up the stakes and hit the gas in the pacing. Bell provides an excellent technical review on structure in relationship to conflict. I highly recommend it.
Gregory Frost
Do not write your thriller/genre novel until you have read what James Scott Bell has to say. An essential "how to" book for the library.
Deborah Biancotti
Marvellous, comprehensive, practical exploration of exactly what the title denotes: conflict AND suspense.
Emily
A must-read for writers. I'll definitely be coming back to this book again and again.
Helen
James Scott Bell provides another tool box cutting to the heart of what makes a book hard to set down. Conflict and Suspense, regardless of the genre. The book is subdivided into cohesive chapters covering a specific technique, aspect, or approach to creating and maintaining conflict and suspense throughout a novel. James covers items from planning, writing, and revision to keep in mind, with several easily approachable exercises. The examples he use are pithy passages (which will draw you into...more
Malrubius
Recommended by "Inside Creative Writing" podcast (now on hiatus). Probably the only book I have read that I would recommend to every beginning fiction writer (like myself). Covers in detail many characteristics of engaging fiction, organized as conflict and suspense. Well written and open-minded. Pretty much indispensable.
Justin
James Scott Bell provides a lot of useful information for incorporating conflict and suspense into all the elements of fiction writing. Not only was this an informative read, but it was also an entertaining one. Bell provides clear details, examples and exercises to illustrate his points. I would highly recommend this book for those wanting to improve their writing. This is a book I'll be referencing often.
Jay Miklovic
Excellent book. I have wanted to try my hand at writing a novel for some time, but have considered it a pointless dream that was never meant to be realized. The obstacle was not a lack of plot ideas or of interesting characters. The obstacle was that I simply had no idea how to make a story worth reading. The practical advice in this book has left me believing that at minimum I can give it a try.

There were tons of practical examples and straight forward pieces of advice. Even if I never get to t...more
Lexie
Writing books are page-turners for me. This book will be invaluable to my over-all view of writing fiction. I will be referring back to it often as a staple.
Elizabeth Barone
This book has been a game changer for me. I learned so much. James Scott Bell really knows his stuff.

While I don't agree with everything Bell says or all of his approaches, I found most of his advice invaluable. I plan on doing a full review over on my blog, so I'll make sure to come back here and post the link.

For now, though, I will just say that this book is worth the $16.99. Every author should read it. You can always create your own formulas or techniques, but this was a great starting poin...more
Alex Ristea


Solid tips here. I'd definitely pick it up if you're thinking of writing any sort of novel. The author sometimes has a lofty and pretentious voice, and uses too many examples from books I haven't read, but overall a fantastic read.

Only a few more left in my quest though the Writers Digest books! (I'd say this one comes second, after Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card.)
Hugh Long
Another great book my James Scott Bell. Bell gives us a broad set of tools to re-evaluate an existing novel, or to plan a new novel with an eye to creating conflict and suspense. I was impressed with all the techniques to create conflict - such as asymmetric dialogue: not answering a question directly, but saying something else. The book is chock full of such clever tips.
John
Very good, though it should be titled, "How to Write Plot-driven Thrillers." While thrillers are usually defined by conflict and suspense, those elements are found in other novels, too. If you want to write a character-driven novel that has conflict and suspense, but does not revolve around them, this book WILL help, but you may find it a bit narrow in scope.
Henry McLaughlin
An excellent book for any writer. Bell's easy-going style makes the techniques and tools he recommends come alive as he encourages us to make our stories better by increasing the tension and suspense. His principles apply to every genre and his exercises allow us to apply his principles to our own writing. I highly recommend it to all writers.
Nicole Blades (Author of Earth's Waters)
Heard James Scott Bell speak at a writers' conference and went to immediately buy his book after his session. He was funny, smart and completely approachable. The book is all of those things as well. I like how he uses clear examples from film (primarily) literature to illustrate his great points. All this to say: very helpful book.
Katy Mann
I highly recommend this clear, informative work by James Scott Bell. His techniques are concrete and easy to apply. As I was reading, I was making changes in my own work, tightening and restructuring chapters on my own work-in-progress.

Thanks for sharing these insights with us.
Anna Serra i Vidal
I hadn't reviewed it yet because I've been reading it on and off and then on again but at this point I have at least read the whole book twice this year.
It is really helpful when you know what you want to do and it is wonderful to enhance already written manuscripts.
Janet
Writing/Instructional

Excellent! Like taking a writing course, in the comfort of my recliner. Essential information for fiction writers. This book belongs in every writers arsenal of reference books.
Michael Murphy
Pretty good, but overlaps significantly with JSB's other works on writing. You will actually get near as much on the topic just from reading Plot and Structure (still his best book).
K.M. Carroll
Excellent writing tips! Especially about brainstorming all the conflicts in your novel before setting out. I'll probably buy this just so I can underline everything.
Anne
Love this book. But I notice that once you read a couple of them, much of the information becomes similar to each other.
Michael
This is an exceptional book for writers, covering conflict and suspense fully, but with so much more thrown in.
Cynthia
A really great book for all writing genres to make your writing better through conflict and suspense!
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Jim is a former trial lawyer who now writes and speaks full time. He is the bestselling author of Try Dying, No Legal Grounds, Presumed Guilty, Glimpses of Paradise, Breach of Promise and several other thrillers. He is a winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Inspirational Fiction, and was a fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine. He has written two books in the Writers' Digest serie...more
More about James Scott Bell...
Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish The Art of War for Writers Revision & Self-Editing: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft Into a Finished Novel Presumed Guilty Try Dying

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