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Conflict, Action and Suspense

(Elements of Fiction Writing)

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  512 ratings  ·  35 reviews
What makes a book a page-turner? How do you grab your readers from the start and hold them through the last sentence? How do you make your plot twist and turn and keep the action moving without losing continuity?

You do it by generating drama and developing it using conflict, action and suspense. You make your reader burn to know what's going to happen next. You create tension…and buildcontinuity?

Paperback, 185 pages
Published March 15th 1999 by Writer's Digest Books (first published 1994)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  512 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Conflict means drama . . . Action means happenings. Suspense means uncertainty." (p. 2) Grammar, point of view, hooks, dialogue, and character development are a few of the methods to develop conflict, action and suspense. The importance of setting, mood, atmosphere and pacing are as crucial as how a story begins and ends. The reader must never feel cheated and must always be respected.
Anyta Sunday
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
There are a few examples earlier in this book that are quite blunt and it gives the narrator a bit of an arrogant feel, but the content and instruction worked for me. I look forward to applying some of these methods in my writing.
Mar 18, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
One of my dad's old books that I thought I'd read before giving away, been a while since I thought about craft anyway. It's a good thing to think about, reconnect with a little, and this is fairly good for that. The thing that's stuck with me is his writing teacher asking everyone if they had a deep dark secret no one knew, and of course most people do. Then they had to build a character around it. He didn't make this point, but I liked thinking about how most ordinary every-day folks have a dar ...more
Becky Black
Apr 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I got as far as chapter 10 of this, but didn't finish. I just lost confidence in the writer, because of a couple of annoying errors I found when he cited examples from books. Like he referred to Gatsby and "Dolly". Well unless that's a different Gatsby than the obvious one, that should be Daisy. Okay, so that could have been a typo, I let it pass. Until I came to where he started talking about Sherlock Holmes' "curious incident of the dog in the night" time and referring to that as being in The ...more
Wanda Paryla
Sep 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is helpful even if you're not working on your first novel. I highly recommend it. It gave me a lot of good "ah-ha" moments which I believe will help me to better my writing. I gave it 4 stars because I feel there could have been a bit more information and examples in the book.
Jeffrey Howard
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: creative-writing
It is part of a great series (Elements of Fiction Writing): however, it fell short of my expectations. I read Characters and Viewpoints, by Orson Scott Card, and loved it. This was a let down. Although I learned new techniques and gained insights, it was redundant and chalk-full or writing examples, used to prove points, that were of sub-par quality themselves. I have not read any of Noble's fiction, but based on this book and the examples he included, I doubt I would be very impressed.

Again, s
Kameel Nasr
Mar 17, 2017 rated it liked it
I know this is an old book, but the art of stories has not changed over the centuries. Noble's outlined approach I helps writers craft better stories. He goes through details, giving abundant examples from all aspects of writing stories. I'm giving it only three stars because I believe there are now better books for writers, especially "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.
Kameel Nasr is author of The Symphony Heist.
Takim Williams
Jun 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great advice here especially on writing dialogue, which to me is one of the hardest aspects of fiction. Ill be coming back to consult these pages many times, and Ill probably check out some of the other books in the Elements of Fiction Writing series
David Fortier
Jan 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Another great book in the Elements of Fiction Writing series by Writer's Digest Books. This is a book, I could review again and again. The information here can help any book stay interesting through the creation of drama.
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Learned lots!
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: educational
It's not a thick book but it's a dense one so it's easy for me to carry around and read.
Jennifer Griffith
Jul 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
I read this as preparation for a workshop on conflict, and it wasn't exactly what I was looking for at the moment, but it was well organized, well thought-out, and well expressed. I liked all the angles he covered, up to and including the fact that grammar plays a role in building tension in a story. (Any argument for better grammar goes a long way for me.) Noble makes several very good points I'd never considered, and he explains better than any other book I've ever read how to handle pacing in ...more
Glen Stripling
Dec 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As a writer myself, I am always looking for improving my writing skills and I need all the help I can get.

Mr. Noble's book has taught me a lot about using action and suspense to grab a reader's attention and to hold it from start to finish throughout a novel.

I would suggest this book to any writer who seeks improvement of his writing skills or who is just getting started.

Writing a good quality novel is not easy and I believe this guide is one of the best.
Jennifer Worrell
May 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: craft
This book is very accessible and brings up some good points. Good for keeping you on track. However, some of it seems obvious, like not making a novel action-packed from beginning to end. I was hoping for more details on the actual writing, like what makes the actual prose suspenseful? What's exciting to me as the writer may not translate that way to the reader, since I can't control what they're seeing.
Dec 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reference
An interesting book on how to improve your writing. As its title implies it deals with those elements that spice up one's fiction. Examples are given which are drawn mainly from the mystery and suspense genres. What surprised me were a couple of editorial errors which I would not have expected from a book published by Writer's Digest Books.
Oct 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: library, 2015, on-writing
While this does occasionally tend towards the formulaic, I still found it helpful. It has given me hope for the rest of the series. It has helpful ways of thinking about structure and building tension.
Jan 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: library, on-writing
I'm very gradually reading my way through this series of writing books from the library. This one is not as good as the others I've read so far, but not a complete waste of time either. Some errors and strange bits, but some solid advice as well.
May 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: authors
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
Another great book from the "Elements of Fiction Writing" series. Learned a lot about creating, well, conflict, action, and suspense. A must-read for any aspiring or established authors who wants to add some punch to their stories.
Feb 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book has quite a bit of good advice in it, without a lot of the space filler a lot of "how to" authors include. I was very pleased. I couldn't put it down until I did at least one quick read-through. Now to go back for read number two!
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nf-writing
Another writer that is my go to for writing.
May 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
A good discussion on integrating plenty of tension in your stories to keep readers hooked, and how it's important in all aspects of writing (characters, setting, endings, etc.).
A.L. Stumo
Jun 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Has some very useful advice, especially if the work in progress is a suspense thriller or mystery. For other genres, some of it applies.
May 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reference
Really helpful to me. It brought up questions I could pose to the piece I'm working on and dug into various ways of developing conflict that were new to me.
Jacqui Jacoby
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Pretty good book on learning the craft. Some chapters I didn't need, some I looked at more thoroughly. Would recommend.
Kimberly McRae
Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
I highly recommend this book to all aspiring writers of both fiction and non-fiction. William Noble does a fantastic job of both instructing and inspiring the use of techniques to engage the reader.
Feb 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: from-library
Probably the most helpful writing book I've ever read.
Michael Prenez-isbell
Nov 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Good follow up to Scene and Structure.
Barb Rude
Sep 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
Mildly unorganized, a bit rambling, and every single example of what to read was written by a man. It got old.
Susan Tietjen
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent information for the aspiring writing. No one should try to write without this sort of guidance at hand.
May 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a great book for all novelists to have and look back for future reference who needs help on conflict, action and suspense for their novels.
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