Thursday, July 21, 2011

Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, by Patricia Highsmith

(pb; 1983: non-fiction)

From the back cover:

"Patricia Highsmith, author of Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Found in the Street, and many other books, is known as one of the finest suspense novelists. In this book, she analyzes the key elements of suspense fiction, drawing upon her own experience in four decades as a working writer. Among other topics, she talks about: how to develop a complete story from an idea; what makes a plot gripping; the use (and abuse) of coincidence; characterization and the 'likable criminal'; going from first draft to final draft; and writing the suspense short story.

"Throughout the book, Highsmith illustrates her points with plentiful examples from her own work, and by discussing her own inspirations, false starts, dead ends, successes, and failures, she presents a lively and highly readable picture of the novelist at work..."


Reading this is like having a practical-focus, friendly chat with an ego-eschewing writer who's had a wide array of writing experiences, good and bad, and is willing to share them with us, the reading audience.

Excellent read, not only for the above qualities, but for the fact that Highsmith, like any smart writer, acknowledges that each author's process and style is individual - a fact that she notes a few times in Plotting.

I'd recommend this book to writers of any genre, because much of the advice Highsmith offers, as far as publishing and preparation is concerned, applies to most, if not all, writing genres.

Worth owning, this.

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