Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction

Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction Suspense like other genre fiction is often assumed to be inferior in quality to serious fiction A suspense story can be every bit as well wrought as any other argues Patricia Highsmith in Plotting

  • Title: Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction
  • Author: Patricia Highsmith
  • ISBN: 9780312286668
  • Page: 201
  • Format: Paperback
  • Suspense, like other genre fiction, is often assumed to be inferior in quality to serious fiction A suspense story can be every bit as well wrought as any other, argues Patricia Highsmith in Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction To show how, Highsmith focuses as much on her failures as on her successes Amid discussions about growing ideas, story development, plotSuspense, like other genre fiction, is often assumed to be inferior in quality to serious fiction A suspense story can be every bit as well wrought as any other, argues Patricia Highsmith in Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction To show how, Highsmith focuses as much on her failures as on her successes Amid discussions about growing ideas, story development, plotting, first and second drafts, and revisions are anecdotes from Highsmith s own career Highsmith Strangers on a Train admits to editing with crayon doing so gives one the proper cavalier attitude , napping on the job it helps solve problems , and having written one really dull book Though this book is slim, there are some lovely thoughts on such issues as creating a murderer hero with pleasant qualities, stretch ing the reader s credulity, and using as much care in depicting the face and appearance of main characters as a painter would with a portrait Jane SteinbergPatricia 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 She talks about, among other topics how to develop a complete story from an idea what makes a plot gripping the use and abuse of coincidence characterization and the likeable 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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    About “Patricia Highsmith

    • Patricia Highsmith

      Patricia Highsmith was an American novelist who is known mainly for her psychological crime thrillers which have led to than two dozen film adaptations over the years She lived with her grandmother, mother and later step father her mother divorced her natural father six months before Patsy was born and married Stanley Highsmith in Fort Worth before moving with her parents to New York in 1927 but returned to live with her grandmother for a year in 1933 Returning to her parents in New York, she attended public schools in New York City and later graduated from Barnard College in 1942 Shortly after graduation her short story The Heroine was published in the Harper s Bazaar magazine and it was selected as one of the 22 best stories that appeared in American magazines in 1945 and it won the O Henry award for short stories in 1946 She continued to write short stories, many of them comic book stories, and regularly earned herself a weekly 55 pay check During this period of her life she lived variously in New York and Mexico.Her first suspense novel Strangers on a Train published in 1950 was an immediate success with public and critics alike The novel has been adapted for the screen three times, most notably by Alfred Hitchcock in 1951 In 1955 her anti hero Tom Ripley appeared in the splendid The Talented Mr Ripley , a book that was awarded the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere as the best foreign mystery novel translated into French in 1957 This book, too, has been the subject of a number of film versions Ripley appeared again in Ripley Under Ground in 1970, in Ripley s Game in 1974, The boy who Followed Ripley in 1980 and in Ripley Under Water in 1991.Along with her acclaimed series about Ripley, she wrote 22 novels and eight short story collections plus many other short stories, often macabre, satirical or tinged with black humour She also wrote one novel, non mystery, under the name Claire Morgan, plus a work of non fiction Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction and a co written book of children s verse, Miranda the Panda Is on the Veranda.She latterly lived in England and France and was popular in England than in her native United States Her novel Deep Water , 1957, was called by the Sunday Times one of the most brilliant analyses of psychosis in America and Julian Symons once wrote of her Miss Highsmith is the writer who fuses character and plot most successfully the most important crime novelist at present in practice In addition, Michael Dirda observed Europeans honoured her as a psychological novelist, part of an existentialist tradition represented by her own favorite writers, in particular Dostoevsky, Conrad, Kafka, Gide, and Camus She died of leukemia in Locarno, Switzerland on 4 February 1995 and her last novel, Small g a Summer Idyll , was published posthumously a month later.Gerry WolstenholmeJuly 2010

    589 thoughts on “Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction

    • I like to read these "writer's tips" sort of books once in a while, just to get to know how their minds function.Patricia Highsmith's book is nothing great: very light fare, in fact. The advice is pretty much standard: jot down your ideas, allow them to develop, pay proper attention to plotting, the first draft, the second draft, revisionsBut it was very enjoyable to read how she actually plotted her stories. Two pieces of advice stayed in the mind:The plot: It should be tight - absolutely water [...]


    • In 1972 The Authors League reported that 95% of writers in America must hold another job all their lives to make ends meet.A sobering thought to end this book on the writer's craft from one of the greats of 20th century storytelling. Remind me, why do I want to do this?The talented Ms Highsmith is not at her most comfortable with this educational piece especially, as she says herself, she doesn't really consider herself a writer of suspense fiction or a fan of the label created by American publi [...]


    • I recently re-read Patricia Highsmith’s PLOTTING AND WRITING SUSPENSE FICTION. And I found it meant a lot more to me now than it did when I read it the first time, many years ago. She is one of my all-time favorite writers, so her words of wisdom resonate.


    • Un libro sobre escribir, de una escritora que sabe de lo que habla. Es entretenido y muy didáctico. Es genial averiguar como la buena de Patricia era toda una señora y como se ven ciertas pinceladas de crítica social sin que ella parezca darse ni cuenta.Me ha encantado saber como nacieron algunas de sus novelas y "como" desde su punto de vista debe construirse una novela desde cierta distancia.


    • Opinião rápida:- É mais interessante se você já escreve alguma coisa.- As dicas sobre suspense em si são poucas. - Vale como registro de uma época em que o ofício de escritor e o mercado literário eram muito diferentes. - Papel carbono e máquina de escrever, aqui tem! :)


    • Poorly titled collection of recollections about the author's experience writing novels and stories. A few insights here and there, and worth a look, but nothing particularly inspiring. She's unwilling to make general pronouncements or to preach, which is admirable but makes the book seem almost lesson-less. Liked the bit about writing stories based on a memorable emotional experience.


    • Once upon a time, about five to ten years ago, I was obsessed with becoming a writer. I used to spend most of my time writing fiction, often to the point of neglecting my kids. It was some time during that period that my husband gave me this book as a present, but I didn't read it because "suspense fiction" was not my genre.Although I did eventually finish a novel (Harry Potter fanfic) and manage to sell a few short stories, I basically stopped writing when I began working 9 to 5. I'm a much mor [...]


    • This book offers few tips on writing suspense fiction, which was the reason I picked it up at a used book store, but few books on writing have inspired me more than this one. Ms. Highsmith was an artist in every sense of the word, and through her own thoughts and explanations of the subject, the reader gets to know her own singular artistic sentiments and temperament. What a wonderful time it would have been to sit with her during a meal, although I suspect she would have found me boring. The wr [...]


    • One of the best books on writing I have ever read, no joke! So approachable and down to earth and warm and practical. I wanted to underline every page! Was very moved by the ending when she talks about the joy of writing, and how "it is good to remember that artists have existed and persisted, like the snail and the coelacanth and other unchanging forms of organic life, since long before governments were dreamed of." YASS!


    • Plotting is an intuitive act, IMO. We learn more about it from other writers than we consciously register. In fact, the best way to learn more is to read more. Plotting is something a writer makes personal peace with. There is no trick of the trade. For instance, what works for me sometimes is the slow unraveling of the material, like an onion being peeled calmly, almost in a state of repose, because the subdermal violence or a moment of unreality that I try to suggest in a story is enhanced by [...]


    • I was thrilled to find a how-to-write book by one of my favorite authors, Patricia Highsmith, of the Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train fame. And, while I underlined many wise and helpful hints throughout the book, I found it less helpful than say Stephen King's On Writing, and even Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing. First of all, through no fault of the late Ms. Highsmith, the book is now quite dated. She writes a lot about her interaction (direct interaction) with editors, publish [...]


    • One of the best books on writing I've ever read whether one is specifically interested in the genre or not. The author of Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley and other classic thrillers not only reveals herself to be a consummate literary craftsman with a refreshingly down-to-earth, nuts-and-bolts approach, but also offers a unique window into her own creative process. To pick but one small example, in discussing her rather gruesome short story, "The Terrapin", she mentions that the sh [...]


    • Dans ce livre assez court, Patricia Highsmith (auteur notamment du Talentueux Mr Ripley et de Strangers on a train) nous parle de son métier d'écrivain. Le titre n'est pas vraiment adéquat, il s'agit plus ici de découvrir la carrière d'écrivain de Patricia Highsmith et la façon dont elle a écrit certains de ses romans, que de donner réellement une méthode sur comment écrire un thriller. Intéressant donc sur le fond, mais inapproprié si on cherche un livre de méthode.


    • Highsmith gives relaxed and honest advice and steers clear of the self-organizing, process nonsense mistaken for creativity today. People who write habitually will find the lack of a "system" and her description of certain pitfalls familiar and soothing. Beginners will find her accessible and no nonsense. Those preferring business style organizational tactics and quick fixes with little respect for a stubborn unconscious should give it a pass.


    • 145 pages of hard selling prior books and introspection, Do not recommend it for those who actually want to learn elements of the writing craft.


    • Betritt man heute eine "moderne" Buchhandlung, findet man ja zumeist wenig Bücher, dafür umso mehr Bastelzubehör, Bürobedarf oder Schreibwarenartikel. Hat man sich dann zu diesen Gegenständen mit den harten Außenseiten und den weichen Blättern innendrin vorgearbeitet, stellt man fest, daß man es keinesfalls mit Literatur, nicht mal mit Spannungsliteratur zu tun hat, sondern mit.Ratgebern. Der Ratgebermarkt scheint jenes Feld an Büchern zu sein, das am schnellsten und stetigsten wächst. [...]


    • WHAT I LIKEDThis was a brilliantly written book. No it isn’t an instruction manual but what Highsmith does is she takes all the mistakes she made in life, all the experiences she gained from her writing and her related successes and failures and tells us exactly where she thinks she went wrong and what we can do to avoid the same mistakes. It is wonderful to be able to learn from a great author’s mistakes without having observed them in close quarters. I am a fan of hers since watching Stran [...]


    • No está mal, pero realmente se centra más en contar su experiencia, sus argumentos o detalles de sus novelas antes que en dar consejos sobre crear suspense. De hecho, los consejos que va dando a lo largo de la novela son genéricos (cosa que es buena, en cierto modo, porque se aplica a cualquier género, pero cuando buscabas que te ayudara a crear suspense es un poco decepcionante) y nada que no haya leído en otros libros. Por lo menos la forma de narrar era cercana y ágil. Y la forma en la [...]


    • Not a thriller or suspense reader myself, but Patricia talks openly from her experience and makes many important remarks on plot, mostly which go beyond her genre. Her rational approach makes writing a book or a story seem playful but a very pragmatic activity as well.



    • Leí El talento de Mr. Ripley cuando era un adolescente y me encantó. Luego salió la película de Minghella y me convertí en un fanático. La película es diferente pero a la vez es superior a la saga de Ripley, y eso es mucho decir, ya que el libro es demasiado bueno. Aparte de la saga de Ripley leí Extraños en un tren, el cual disfruté y consideró uno de los mejores argumentos de la novela de misterio. No he leído más de Highsmith pero sé que me iré adentrando a su obra sin prisa. E [...]


    • Toda novela tiene suspense. Cada texto, incluso. Cuando algo carece de suspense, cuando conocemos todos los posibles giros o sucesos que acontecerán en un momento dado, entonces algo no va bien. No porque la función última de cualquier acto comunicativo sea el suspense, sino porque todo texto debe ser, necesariamente, más que la suma de sus partes. El verdadero suspense no se da en el descubrimiento de la primera lectura, sino en los detalles ocultos que van surgiendo a raíz de su relectura [...]


    • I read this book after Damon Knight included it among his “Suggested Reading” at the end of CREATING SHORT FICTION. He wrote, “Sensible, good-humored, and practical advice from a distinguished mystery writer. Much of what she says about novels can be applied to short stories.” I agree that there are lessons to be learned from this book, but readers will have to hunt for them inside this highly personalized, subjective book. After all, Highsmith (who wrote THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY and STRA [...]


    • “Perhaps I have some severe and severely repressed criminal drive in myself, or I would not take such an interest in criminals or write about them so often.” Patricia Highsmith, 1983.They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. It’s a maxim that certainly holds good for this one, which promises to be something of a handbook. In fact it’s more of an autobiography, and a fascinating one at that.It’s a short affair – quotes the paperback at 145 pages – but nonetheless it provides [...]


    • I've never read any Highsmith, but found this book useful and informative. While not a typical writer's craft 'how to', this is a great look at Highsmith's particular techniques when writing suspense. It's highly entertaining to read her take on inspiration and how she develops her 'germs of ideas'. I found her enthusiasm immediately infectious and her dry, matter-of-fact observances hilarious. "The most exciting story told by a friend with the fatal remark, 'I know you can make a terrific story [...]


    • An odd little book but certainly not without its insights. I've seen complaints about it elsewhere -- valid ones to some degree. Highsmith doesn't offer any hard-and-fast rules for writing a novel (or for writing at all), and what she does offer, she presents with a little bit of a shrug: might work for you, might not, who knows? But while there's no step-by-step blueprint here for writing your own novels, she does proffer the kinds of questions that anyone trying to write a novel should ask him [...]


    • I probably wouldn't have benefitted from reading this book when I was just starting out as a writer; I was still too green, and writing is a craft only mastered through long years of practice. Now, looking back at decades of writing and lots of mistakes, reading what Highsmith has to say not only offers many shock of recognition, but helps me see ways to avoid some of the mistakes she cites. Not recommended for the novice or aspiring writer, who is likely to become discouraged, but recommended f [...]


    • This book was part of a series by writers about their craft, published in Boston at mid-century and blessedly still lingering in the stacks of my local library. I find it unlikely that Highsmith has much advice that would be useful to contemporary writers but enjoyed reading about her own writing process (intuitive, reclusive) and the economics and logistics of American publishing at the time--serialization fees, pasted-up galleys, etc. I was unsurprised to learn that Highsmith felt “psychical [...]


    • Intuitive and informative. Highsmith breaks down how practical writing fiction really is, reflecting on what her first novel lacked, and what made her subsequent works better. Tinged with dry humor and drawn through a matter-of-fact prose, Highsmith starkly emulates what King did with 'On Writing'.



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