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Conflict, Action and Suspense (Elements of Fiction Writing) [Paperback]

William Noble
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Mar 2001 Elements of Fiction Writing

What makes a book a page-turner? How do you grab your readers right 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 build it...to the breaking point.

William Noble shows you how to intensify that pressure throughout your story. You'll learn exactly what constitutes conflict, action and suspense, how they relate to other important ingredients in your story, and - perhaps most important - how to manipulate them.

Through thorough, step-by-step instruction, you'll learn how to...

  • set the stage with techniques and devices that enhance drama
  • introduce suspense from the very beginning of your story
  • build suspense through cliff-hangers, dialogue, mood, character
  • development, point of view, subtlety and indirection, and time and place
  • bring all that conflict, action and suspense to a gripping conclusion
There are all sorts of ways to create tension in your prose - from using adjectives and nouns that drip with imagery to making quick scene cuts and transitions to accelerating the pace. Learn them here. Then use them, and your story will plunge your readers into a river of worry...and the current will carry them to The End.


Frequently Bought Together

Conflict, Action and Suspense (Elements of Fiction Writing) + Beginnings, Middles and Ends (The elements of fiction writing) + Plot and Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish (Write Great Fiction)
Price For All Three: 27.24

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Product details

  • Paperback: 185 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books; New edition edition (1 Mar 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898799074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898799071
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 16.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 232,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best in the series 23 Jan 2003
By HLT
Format:Hardcover
Here's a list of chapter topics:
Nuts and Bolts of Drama
Stage-setting
Openings
Leave-em Hanging
Dialogue
Mood and Atmosphere
Character Development
Point of View
Subtlety and Misdirection
Time and Place
Pacing
Endings
If you look at the list, you'll see many of the "usual suspects" of writing subjects - things that you may well have studied before.
What this book tries to do is to show how each of these areas relates to the subject matter - conflict, action, and suspense. So, for example, building these through dialogue, or point of view, is covered.
This worked well for the first few chapters - even with topics with which I'm very familiar, I felt I was learning new ways of looking at the tools available, and using them in the service of better conflict.
But I'm afraid it got very flabby towards the end, as if the author was running out of things to say, or had left the things he's less comfortable with until last. All in all, the points he has to make could be distilled down into a far more compact form, which would be quicker to read and easier to refer to.
Also, I'm afraid the samples he offers to illustrate his lessons are dreadful (except where he's culled them from other, more accomplished writers). That shouldn't make a difference, perhaps, because they're only examples after all, but in a series that includes people like Orson Scott Card, who's a superb writer as well as teacher, I expected better.
Overall, while I've certainly gleaned some useful insights from this book, I came away disappointed. I was far more impressed by other titles in the series: Character and Viewpoint, and Beginnings, Middles, and Ends, come to mind.
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3 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In depth analysis, practical advice 9 Oct 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
A great book, useful even for experienced and professional writers. I picked up several useful tricks.
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  30 reviews
49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A handy, if slightly flawed, book 20 May 2004
By H. Grove (errantdreams) - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Drama produces excitement in our writing. It keeps the reader interested. And how do we create drama? By playing with conflict, action, and suspense. Noble's book covers the basic concepts of drama, confrontation, pulling on the reader's emotions, escalation, and immediacy. He also deals with elements that keep your story moving: appropriate grammar, charged images, shifts in point of view, and contrast. He does a good job of telling us the how and why of things, rather than simply telling us what to do.
He touches on suspense's relationship with all sorts of basic writing issues such as dialogue, openings, cliffhangers, mood and atmosphere, character development, point of view, pacing, endings, and so on. Noble does a good job of focusing on specific techniques relevant to suspense for the most part.
It isn't a perfect book. It isn't as dry as most textbooks, but it could certainly be better than it is. Some of the examples that Mr. Noble makes up to use in the book are a bit on the overblown side, which kind of undercuts some of his points. He might have been better off using more examples from published fiction. Also, some of Mr. Noble's assertions regarding his topics have since been proven to be wrong. For example, when talking about the logic of settings: "...And a horror-suspense story would have problems if it was set in the unfolding of a miracle." I've seen this done quite well, actually.

This book was originally copyrighted in 1994, and this may be part of the problem. Since then some of the techniques that he lauds as strong and effective have become over-used and trite. (Overused techniques became that way precisely because they're so effective.) Some of the things he says can't be done have been done. As it is, this book serves as a very good example of why you need to do a lot of reading in the fiction field you want to write in. Otherwise, how will you know which of his techniques have been over-used, which can be seen as trite if you aren't careful how you use them, and which are still seen as solid, useful methods?
52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's the Emeril Show of fiction writing! 12 May 2003
By Wayne Rossi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
William Noble, from the start of Conflict, Action & Suspense, writes about making your story into DRAMA! (And yes, the way he talks about it, emphatics like that are appropriate.) The book is written in a rather appropriate style, going short and choppy when it needs that dramatic emphasis, and giving ominous warnings about how, if you don't do things right, bam! Another reader lost. But in the end, it reads like watching the Food Network's Emeril hovering over your shoulder while you're writing and telling you to "Kick it up a notch!" - it gets as tiring as a book written as per Noble's advice would.
Most of Noble's examples are action-oriented melodrama; his techniques lend themselves naturally to the same. On the bright side, it doesn't have to be action-oriented; Noble endorses soap operas at one point, meaning that you can also use emotions as what you're constantly escalating. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against having your writing be exciting; but it should be exciting because there are dynamic characters at opposition, not because you're using tricks like Noble's to artificially generate it.
You can write a pretty good, forgettable airport novel if you follow Noble's advice; if you also buy Jack Bickham's Scene & Structure, you can even think about elevating your potboiler up to the level where you can make some cash off of it. But don't get it into your head that this is the right, or only, way to write...because it's not.
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More is less 5 Jun 2000
By Ziv Wities - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the first book I've read from the "Elements of Fiction Writing" series, and I can't say I'm very impressed. The first couple of chapters were very annoying. Basically, Noble keeps writing that, to create suspense, you need to EMPHASIZE things. You need to employ wods that NO ONE EVER USES in order to seem original. You need to OVERUSE ITALICS. You get the idea. I completely disagree with this approach, because such prose seems forced and jarring. The examples Noble gives are also not very enlightening, as the "bad" ones are so horribly contrived that you have to be TRYING to sound awful to think of them, and the "good" ones aren't that enthralling either. In the later chapters, the book improves somewhat, giving more examples of methods to create suspense and action. Still, these are not terribly insightful and most could come up with these ideas on their own by reading a few action and suspense novels - plus they'd get to read the novels, rather than an annoying book which seems to be written by one of those guys who thinks that if you repeat something often enough and with enough ITALICS, it might actually work.
42 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rating the Elements of Fiction Writing series 22 April 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I've read all the books in the Elements of Fiction Writing series and this is how I'd rank them.
"Scene & Structure" "Characters & Viewpoint" "Beginnings, Middles & Ends"
The above three books are invaluable -- must reads. They are the best of the series, in my opinion, and are packed with good information on every page. Well-done.
"Conflict, Action & Suspense" "Description" "Plot" "Manuscript Submission" "Setting"
The above five books are good, solid reads. Again, they contain good information and cover the subject decently.
"Voice & Style" "Dialogue"
To me, the last two books need to be rewritten. They are by far the weakest of the series. Both suffer from an annoying style, particularly Dialogue, and both are very skimpy on real information. Neither one is very helpful.
This is the order in which I'd recommend reading them.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not worth the time or the money... 19 Jun 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Let me summarize this book briefly:
"Blah, blah, blah, increase drama... blah, blah, blah, increase suspense... blah, blah, blah, hook the reader... blah, blah, blah..."
There are plenty of examples throughout this book, although some are really unclear, but the author takes no time in dissecting them other than to say, "See, this excerpt illustrates my point." The general high level points the author makes are supportive of concepts taught by many other professional writers and writing coaches of speculative fiction, but many of the limited details, tricks, and tips seem to illustrate what other successful professionals have labeled as "bad advice" and "do not's of writing". This book does not explain the how's and the why's of the author's illustrated techniques, just the what's and the when's. There is no advice on how to learn to use the described techniques, no pro's for or con's against the various techniques, no potential pitfalls that these techniques can get the writer into, and generally nothing that even an experienced reader of fiction wouldn't be able to figure out on their own. This book appears to contain mostly general common sense for writing speculative fiction.
As the title of this review states, this book is not worth the time or the money. You would be better served reading other quality books on writing speculative fiction such as Jack M. Bickham's title, Scene and Structure.
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