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Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  800 ratings  ·  162 reviews
Bold new essays on how to craft a thrilling read--in any genre--from the bestselling author of The Dead Lands

Anyone familiar with the meteoric rise of Benjamin Percy's career will surely have noticed a certain shift: After writing two short-story collections and a literary novel, he delivered the werewolf thriller Red Moon and the postapocalyptic epic The Dead Lands. Now,
Paperback, 173 pages
Published October 18th 2016 by Graywolf Press
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Sam Quixote
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Novelist and comics writer Benjamin Percy imparts his literary wisdom in Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction, most of which make a lot of sense and contain useful advice and tips if you’re looking to develop seriously as a writer.

I’m with Percy in being a strong believer in story over artiness (though that needn’t exclude art, just that entertainment should be the primary focus with novels). If you’re someone who wants to write books where it takes 80 pages to describe a sunset or whatever, Thrill Me
Richard  Thomas
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The best book on writing fiction that I've read in a very long time. No matter what genre you write, but especially if you write at the intersection of literary and genre, between realism and the supernatural—this book is for you. Fantastic. I nodded my head the whole time, not just in agreement on the content, the lessons, the methods—but the examples, as well. Everyone from Stephen King to Joyce Carol Oates, Cormac McCarthy to Alice Munro, Ray Bradbury to Flannery O'Connor. Ben is one of the f ...more
Brandon Petry
Benjamin Percy has written the most concise, clear and useful book on the writing craft that I have ever read. ...more
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
If I get at least one major thing from a writing book, then I think it's a great writing book. I got more than one thing from this one.
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
Like many readers I enjoy books about the writing craft, even though I'm not a fiction writer myself. I have not (yet) read Benjamin Percy's fiction, (I follow him on Twitter?) but I gave the first essay a chance last night and found his writing voice fresh and compelling. ..... Upon finishing: I liked this book a lot. I felt as if Percy had taught me the secret handshake and let me in the door of the fiction writers' clubhouse so I could eavesdrop. He'd make a great writing teacher to study wit ...more
Book Riot Community
A collection of work by Percy is fabulous, but it’s extra-exciting when it’s published by the amazing Graywolf Press, purveyors of fantastic non-fiction. This is a wonderful collection, surrounding things to do with fiction. The title essay is a challenge to the notion that literary and genre fiction are somehow mutually exclusive, and the whole books is full of Percy’s advice, wit, and wisdom on the craft of writing. GOOD STUFF.

Backlist bump: Refresh, Refresh: Stories by Benjamin Percy

Tune in t
Benoit Lelièvre
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not your usual nuts-and-bolts "gets from point A to point B" book about writing.

This is more of a "make the road from point A to point B" as interesting as possible kind of book. It reminded me of Donald Maass' The Fire in Fiction, in that regard. Sometimes, its fragmented nature made it difficult to care about certain of the more "basic" essays like "enjoy revision" but otherwise Benjamin Percy's (who I have never read) original and contextual outlook on literature was worth more than the askin
Mbogo J
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I noticed a curious thing, I have been reading a lot of books on how to write fiction. I have no intention of ever writing a novel, a more honest assessment I think I lack the ability and the discipline to actually write a novel. No book should lie to you that writing a novel is easy....

I really enjoyed these essays mostly because I could see the writer Benjamin Percy in them and he looked like a fun person. There was some good writing advice, priceless really but the former reason accounts for
L.K. Simonds
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-writing
This is the best book on the craft of fiction that I've read. I think that's because Benjamin Percy focuses entirely on what works for readers. He's an unusual guy in the world of literary fiction, coming to it reluctantly from adventurous genre stories, television, and movies. Nevertheless, Percy is well-versed in literature, and I added no fewer than half a dozen books to my Goodreads to-read shelf while I was working my way through Thrill Me.

It's apparent what Percy likes is what works. For
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It is hard to describe how much I enjoyed this book on how to write fiction. I loved how the Percy made his points by using relatively new books and authors, many of which I've read. I loved how he used movies and personal experience to make his points. This book contains 15 essays that address important points about writing, and reading, fiction. I won't touch on all of them but just on a few of the points that made it hard for me to put this book down.

The first essay - Thrill Me - tells Percy
Tim Weed
Feb 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
A most worthy craft book, entertainingly written and filled with excellent and useful insights—though in my view it does have a few weaknesses. Like other craft-book writers with a background in film, Percy seems to operate from the assumption that as related forms of narrative art, movies and novels are interchangeable. In truth the reader’s and the viewer’s experience of the two genres are qualitatively different, which is why I’m suspicious of craft books that are ostensibly focused on fictio ...more
Melissa Embry
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’ve loved Benjamin Percy’s essays in Poets & Writers magazine, where he evoked the power of thrills and chills, horror and terror to inspire even the most literary of writers. Now he’s gathered more than a dozen of his essays on writing into Thrill Me, a volume dedicated to putting the power of genre writing into literary fiction. Or, if you please, showing genre writers how to hone their most cherished tools without descending into clichés.

“When people ask if I grew up a reader, I say yes, but
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Aug 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book on writing that I have read since Stephen King's On Writing.

I thought it was going to be a book about reading fiction, which is more up my alley since I don't write fiction at all (or nonfiction really, other than book "reviews"), but it turned out to be a collection of essays apparently adapted from Percy's college classes on writing.

To be honest, I wasn't aware of Percy at all, and had to look up his books to find out what sort of books he writes (horror, thriller, litera
David Macpherson
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
Well written, full of a good ideas and advice, I really wish I liked it. It all goes down to the authoritarian voice he used for some of his pronouncements, "Don't use backstory" "Plot out everything" and so on. Not bad ideas but it shouldn't be everyone and then he listed the great writers who broke his rules and he forgave them because they are great writers and they can get away with such transgressions because they are great writers and we mortals with keyboards should not attempt to do such ...more
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have not read a writing book in a long, long time. I recently felt like I needed a shot in the arm. I picked this up at a local bookstore. It was the best thing I could have done. From the moment he began discussing merging the best of literary and genre, I felt like Percy helped me let go of inhibitions. He pulls from all example of storytelling and allows us a glimpse into his own writing journey with its ups and downs. I just needed this at this time, a kind of rooting for the underdog, no ...more
Mar 21, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who love Rocky more than they do their own grandma
Pretty weird, in my opinion! It reminded me of A Million Little Pieces in that it said much more to me about the author than it did about its theme.

Here is a guy who frequently disparages literary fiction but uses it exclusively when citing examples of good writing. A guy who reveres genre fiction but rarely even mentions it, specifically. A guy who mainly uses his thoughts about movies to make his points about good storytelling, never names the screenwriters, and sometimes seems not to realize
Jeff Bursey
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book is billed as "an urgent and entertaining book on craft." It's not billed as a how-to book, nor is there a reason given for its existence. Those who want to know what a genre writer thinks of plot, character development, setting, and so, and who share Percy's belief that those are essential features of a particular type of "thrill me" short story or novel--not anyone who thinks ideas or style are thrilling in and of themselves--may find this book useful.

Why 2 stars? Because it does what
Terrance Shaw
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There’s a new volume to add to the first shelf of books on the craft of writing. Benjamin Percy’s ‘Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction’ is worthy to stand alongside such classics as Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and Ursula K. LeGuinn’s ‘Steering the Craft’; books that not only offer invaluable advice, but ultimately expand the mind, inspiring us to question our most deeply-entrenched assumptions about literature—what it is, what it isn’t, what’s good, what’s bad—our prejudices about process—what works, w ...more
Eleanor Roth
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the most helpful books on craft I've read. Percy cites so many examples to demonstrate various applications of the lessons - from poetry, novels, screenplays, and short stories. He also chooses some great real life stories to build up to concepts, which make the essays really engaging and give them a logical flow. I appreciate how Percy has clearly learned from both literary and genre fiction, and pulls the best from either side of the spectrum. Many craft books feel repetitive, but this ...more
Aug 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Great reminders and useful information. I also have mixed feelings about this one. I wasn't sure about his advice on "don't do this, and don't do that. . ." and then he goes on to talk about some of the greats who did what he said not to do; the beautiful rule breakers. I did appreciate his own personal history with writing as that part was written with humor.
Nate Berneking
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book truly changed my life as a writer. Percy takes everything I've ever heard in classes, workshops and conferences and boils it down in compelling, easy to read essays. Every writer needs this book.
Mindy Goorchenko
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I recommend this to anyone writing fiction. I am going through the trauma of editing the first draft of my first novel, and rather than wallowing in the mediocrity of it all, I have a perspective from this recent read which gives me direction and confidence. Not only is “Thrill Me” well-written; it proffers an appropriate paradigm shift in regards to common problems in fiction.
Skyler Greyson
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-on-fiction
Fantastic book. I had never read an essay book, and never thought I would, until Thrill Me. It read like an adventure, from cover to cover. It's witty, funny, insightful, honest, and thrilling. I can truthfully say that this book changed my writing for the better. 5/5
Wendy Wakeman
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Explication, inspiration, and encouragement. Three things I like in a craft book.
Jen (LOHF/Book Den)
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
A few thoughts soon!
Catherine Moore
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Terrific advice with compelling examples.
Monica Drake
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I adore this how-to essay collection. So good, so fun, so spot-on.
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Best craft book ever for writing impactful stories. After the essays on urgency and suspense, you'll need to take a couple Valium to calm down (after writing a killer story first).
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading for anyone interested in narrative craft.

I've had the good fortune of hearing Benjamin Percy deliver lectures based on several of the essays in this book. I think the thing that stood out to me most when hearing him in person and again when reading this book is his dedication to understanding narrative structure. As he explains in one essay, if he watches a movie and likes it, he'll find the screenplay and read through it, taking notes on how the story works. He just doesn't li
Artur Nowrot
Nov 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Very mixed feelings about this one. I highlighted some quotes, but overall I think I have a very different sensibility than the author. Maybe because I appreciated genre first, literary fiction second, and the book seems to be aimed towards MFA students who turn their noses up at genre; maybe because my stories are not really plot-oriented and I'd rather cultivate my own approach; or maybe because I'm just too blind to see good advice and take it to heart. Either way, the beginning was very stro ...more
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Benjamin Percy is the author of four novels, The Dark Net (HMH, 2017), The Dead Lands (Grand Central, 2015), Red Moon (Grand Central, 2013) and The Wilding (Graywolf Press, 2010), as well as two books of short stories -- Refresh, Refresh and The Language of Elk -- and a craft book, Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction. His fiction and nonfiction have been published in Esquire (where he is a contributing e ...more

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