As you might have figured out by now, I’m a writing-craft-book junkie. So it should come as no surprise when I picked up Elements of Fiction Writing: Conflict & Suspense by James Scott Bell. I wasn’t planning to. But then author Jody Hedlund gushed about it on her blog. And she was right. The book seriously rocks (Okay, those weren’t her exact words).
It’s divided into two sections: Conflict and Suspense. These are further subdivided into twenty-two informative chapters (you can check out the table of content here). The explanations in each chapter are brilliant, and examples from various novels are used to demonstrate the key points. For those of you who enjoy exercises that transfer to your writing (me me me!), the book is rich in that area. For example (chapter 12—Styling for Conflict):
- Identify a highly charged moment in your book.
- Make a list of possible actions, gestures, or setting descriptions that might reflect upon the scene.
- List at least twenty to twenty-five possibilities as fast as you can. Remember, the best way to get good ideas is to come up with a lot of ideas and then choose the ones you want to use.
- Write a long paragraph incorporating the detail, then edit the paragraph so it is lean and potent. The telling detail works best when it is subtle and does all the work by itself.
If you’re going to buy only one book on writing fiction this year, definitely keep this one in mind. It’s doesn’t matter what genre you write, the advice in the book will help you create page-turning stories readers will love.