I read a terrible book this weekend. (Not the book this review is about! We’ll get to that in just a moment.)
Possibly the worst book I’ve ever read all the way to the end.
The writing was novice-level.
The editing was non-existent.
The continuity was broken several times.
And the suspension of disbelief was interrupted at least once per chapter.
I may or may not have yelled out loud at the writer numerous times during the 2 sittings it took to read it, prompting my mate to come check on me because it sounded like I was injured. (I did. And he did.)
When he asked what was wrong, I described this scene to him:
The executioner shoved her onto her knees, forcing her to fall forward towards the chopping block while her her hands were tied behind her back and in the very next sentence, she’s feeling the smooth wood of the block with her fingertips…
How?!? How is she feeling anything in front of her while her hands are tied behind her back?!?
It was that bad.
But, despite hating how it was written, I kept turning the page to find out what happened next.
I wanted to know if the main character ever catches a break or gets even a moment of happiness.
So how does something this bad, keep even an aficionado like me engaged?
The book nailed its conflict and suspense.
Conflict and suspense is the #1 thing that will keep a reader interested.
Now, if you want to be a successful writer who sells a lot of books, I recommend you also nail good storytelling, continuity, and maintain the suspension of disbelief by having characters that stay in-character.
Because it’s the successful weaving of all these elements that inspire glowing book reviews, fans that rave about your books on social media, and fill the preorders for your next book.
But if were to improve just one element of your writing skills, conflict and suspense is probably the best place to focus.
And thriller author, James Scott Bell, is just the guy to help you do it in his book, Conflict & Suspense.
What Makes This Conflict & Suspense Book A Must For Your Fiction Arsenal?
This writing reference book is from the Elements of Fiction Writing series published by Writer’s Digest.
Let’s look at what makes this book a valuable addition to your fiction arsenal.
“When a reader describes getting ‘caught up’ in a novel, it’s just shorthand for saying that trouble is happening to a character, or group of characters, and the reader wants — no, needs — to see what happens.”
Conflict and suspense are your tools for getting your characters into and out of trouble in a way that keeps your reader caught up in the story.
It’s also what makes a book that readers “couldn’t put down.”
Read the beginning of Conflict & Suspense by James Scott Bell:
In Conflict & Suspense, Bell walks you through how to come up with ideas for creating tension in your story, how to keep your character from getting what he/she wants, and how to use conflict & suspense at the right moments in your story so that there’s a rhythm that keeps readers turning pages.
He uses numerous examples from well-known books and breaks down why these scenes work so well.
He offers formulas to help you build a solid foundation, such as LOCK:
Lead worth following
Objective (with death hanging over a character – and death can be psychological, physical, or professional – another concept taught in this book)
And then the book goes through all the different ways to use conflict. Including, but not limited to, conflict in:
- point of view
- opening scenes
- different types of scenes to keep the story moving through the middle
- showing instead of telling
And so much more.
He even dedicates whole chapters to how to increase the conflict during revisions and how to use conflict to develop your “voice” or style of writing.
One of my favorite chapters looks at things like punctuation, sentence length, and such things and points out how different elements keep the reader’s eyes moving across the page, eager to find out what happens, while other elements interrupt the flow and shock the reader out of the spell they’ve been under.
Something as simple as quotation marks in the wrong place can jostle your reader and give them enough pause to put the book down.
It also looks at how you can use these same elements to increase tension and suspense, causing your reader’s heartbeat to quicken and read faster!
What Stage Of The Writing Process Is This Perfect For?
If this is your first time writing a novel, or you simply want to improve your storytelling skills so your next novel is better than your last one, then this book will spark many ideas for how to craft a genuine page-turner.
WHEN to use this book:
AFTER you have a basic idea of the story you want to tell.
Either before you start structuring it into the 3 acts (or whatever other structure you wish to use)
or, during the rewriting stage when you want to boost the impact of your story so it sells more books
This book is IDEAL for:
Fiction writers of all genres.
The skills taught in this book are equally valuable for thrillers as they are for fantasy, sci-fi, romance, horror, or any other type of fiction.
HOW to use this book:
It’s simply not possible to read this book from cover to cover without getting sparks of inspired ideas for how you can apply these techniques in your WIP.
So get ready to sit down with this book but have your story handy so you can implement what you learn as you go.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 out of 5 times would recommend to my inner circle and anyone wanting to write better fiction stories.
251 pages of useful and valuable information (plus about 12 more pages of nitty-gritty stuff like the index)
You can sample some of Bell’s writing and see how he analyzes his own use of these tension tactics in his novel, No Legal Grounds.
Click here for the PDF. (link opens PDF)
Not sure if this has that one tidbit of information you need to solve your current problem?
Leave a comment and I’d be happy to dig into the book and tell you exactly how it answers that question.