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Conflict, Action & Suspense

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Conflict, Action & Suspense

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Conflict, Action & Suspense
How to Pull Readers in and Carry them Along with Dramatic, Powerful Storytelling
Elements of Fiction Writing Series
By William Noble
Writer's Digest Books, 1999
ISBN: 978-0-8987-9907-1

Reviewed by Harry S. Chou - April 8, 2015

Conflict, Action & Suspense is one of the books in the very fluid Elements of Fiction Writing series, published by Writer's Digest Books. I say fluid, because over the years a few books have fallen out the series by dint of not being released, while new titles have entered the series's list. This is one of the books that has, for some unknown reason, fallen out of favor with the publisher and appears to have been replaced by James Scott Bell's Conflict and Suspense.

This is unfortunate because while Bell's book is excellent, I much prefer William Noble's Conflict, Action & Suspense. While the publisher seems to no longer sell this book, you can readily find both new and used copies, in paperback and hardback, in most of the larger online bookstores.

As the series title subjects, the books' in this series deal with the key elements of fiction writing, and as such are geared toward novice writers, as well as more advance writers who are still mastering the basic techniques of fiction writing. Although slanted toward those on the bottom rungs of the writing ladder, even more advanced writers will find a treasure trove of tips and sage advice within the confines of this book. They will not, however, find the book as useful as those just starting out.

For new writers, this book is essential reading for anyone seeking to master the technique of dramatic storytelling. Starting with the basics, Noble explains the fundamentals of drama, how to set the stage for your story, and he provides advice on how to craft a stellar opening line, followed by a gripping scene that will propel your reader deeper into your story. He follows this with advice on how to increase the tension in your story by learning where best to cut a scene or transition to another element of the story. He also touches upon the uses of dialog, character development, and creating just the right atmosphere and mood to make your story explode.

Also covered are the ins-and-outs of point-of-view, how to use misdirection to tantalize your reader, the challenges and rewards of using time and setting to improve your story, and how to pace your story for optimal effect. Finally, Noble helps you tackle the ending of your story or novel. From beginning to end, Nobel walks you through the fundamentals of creating conflict, supercharging the action in your story, and in heightening the suspense element in your writing. This book alone will not make you the best writer you can be, but if you absorb Noble's advice and rework it so that it best fits your writing style and genre, you will have made great strides in mastering one of the key elements in fiction writing. For your next step, I'd recommend Dwight Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer. Compared to Noble's book, Swain's book is much tougher to master, but by the time you are done with it, you will be well on your way to mastering the art of scene writing. After studying Swain's book, reread Noble's. If you do so, you'll find that his advice will take on a deeper meaning and you will be able to apply the techniques you learned in Conflict, Action & Suspense much more efficiently.


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