Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction

Overview

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...
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New York, NY 1990 Trade paperback New. Book Appears Unread Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 160 p. Writer's Library. Audience: General/trade.

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Overview

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.

Anyone who wishes to write crime and suspense fiction, or who enjoys reading it, will find this book an insightful guide to the craft and art of a modern master.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Whether you want to write a whodunit, a howdunit, or even a whydunit, you have to have suspense. One of the finest suspense novelists in existence, Patricia Highsmith, has analyzed the basic components in creating suspense and gathered them together in an easy-to-read book: Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction. Learn how to make your plots as gripping as possible, create interesting characters, and utilize the basic elements of suspense to make your mystery stand out from the rest.
Publishers Weekly
From the author of The Talented Mr. Ripley comes a how-to manual on her craft. In Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, the late Patricia Highsmith gives advice on generating ideas ("It is amusing to let the imagination play with such incidents as a faintly heard song and an invaded apartment, and to see what evolves from them"), helpful practices (keep a notebook), overarching philosophies ("The first person you should think of pleasing, in writing a book, is yourself") and specific craft issues ("where should one place the climax in a book?"). The advice is all sound (particularly her ideas on "almost incredible" coincidences), and her status as a suspense heavyweight and a commercial success make her book eminently credible. ( Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The late Highsmith, author of 27 works of fiction, including The Talented Mr. Ripley, wrote this book over 20 years ago to help new writers craft suspense fiction. Writers will be glad that it has finally been published. Not that there is a lot of new information here the pleasure is in the style of the book. It is casual and personal, and writers will feel as if Highsmith herself were sitting next to them sharing tips and bits of advice she gleaned from years of experience. The book begins with getting ideas and moves on to plotting, drafts, snags, and revisions. A "case history" of her novel The Glass Cell and some general notes on suspense conclude the book. The book offers useful instructions to writers, plus a glimpse at how a suspense writer works. Highly recommended for public libraries. Lisa J. Cihlar, Monroe P.L., WI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"[This book offers] sensible, good-humored, and practical advice from a distinguished mystery writer. Much of what [Highsmith] says about novels can be applied to short stories."—Damon Knight

"[Highsmith] is no more a practitioner of the murder mystery genre than are Dostoevsky, Faulkner, and Camus."—Joan Smith, The Los Angeles Times

"For eliciting the menace that lurks in familiar surroundings, there's no one like Patricia Highsmith."—Time

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312048679
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/1990
  • Series: Writer's Library Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 5.42 (w) x 8.24 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

The great mystery/suspense writer Patricia Highsmith published more than two dozen works of fiction, as well as numerous reviews and essays, and was awarded the French Grand Prix de Littérature Policière (1957) and the British Crime Writers Associations's Silver Dagger (1964).

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    1. Also Known As:
      Mary Patricia Plangman (birth name); Claire Morgan (pen name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 19, 1921
    2. Place of Birth:
      Fort Worth, Texas
    1. Date of Death:
      February 4, 1995
    2. Place of Death:
      Locarno, Switzerland

Table of Contents

Preface ix
Foreword xi
I The Germ Of An Idea 3
II Mainly On Using Experiences 14
III The Suspense Short Story 27
IV Development 37
V Plotting 53
VI The Frist Draft 61
VII The Snags 82
VIII The Second Draft 97
IX The Revisions 103
X The Case History Of A Novel: The Glass Cell 108
XI Some Notes On Suspense In General 133
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