My fingernails are gone…every last one of them.
I haven’t been watching horror flicks or reading thrillers.
What I have been doing is reading the latest book on the craft from James Scott Bell (@JamesScottBell), Conflict & Suspense.
Unfortunately for my manicure, Bell uses multiple examples from books and movies that—frankly—I have avoided up to this point.
doesn’t want to give it all away, I’m now conflicted. Bell
Do I go ahead and read The Silence of the Lambs? Is it worth never being able to take a shower again to see Psycho?
(I won’t keep you in suspense. The answer is NO).
But don’t misunderstand. I’m not complaining.
Conflict & Suspense lived up to my high expectations. The good stuff begins in the Introduction. Don’t skip it. He makes a strong case for “making trouble” for your characters and concludes that no matter what your genre is, “trouble is your business. And conflict and suspense are the tools of the craft that will take your business to the readers.” (p. 2)
He then dives into fourteen chapters on Conflict. He covers inner conflict, ways to lace your dialogue with conflict, methods for structuring your novel with conflict in mind, how to brainstorm for conflict, and much more.
In Chapter 15, he turns his attention to Suspense. (This is where my nails lost the battle). We’re talking cliff hangers, stretching the tension, using your setting to add suspense, and how to include instant suspense in some of your low tension scenes. There’s advice on coming up with twists and how to style your dialogue to heighten the suspense.
The final chapter is only four pages—and those four pages alone are worth the price of the book. And no, I’m not going to tell you what they say. You’ll have to buy the book to find out. My copy is dog-eared and highlighted with particular emphasis on the “Do This” exercises. So if you see me in a Panera with 3x5 cards scattered all over the table, please don’t offer to help clean up the mess.
It’s just me—making some trouble.
Care to join me?
Lynn Huggins Blackburn has been telling herself stories since she was five and finally started writing them down. She blogs about faith, family, and her writing journey on her blog Out of the Boat. Lynn is a member of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and the Word Weavers, Greenville. She lives in South Carolina where she hangs out with three lively children, one fabulous man, and a cast of imaginary characters who find their way onto the pages of her still unpublished novels. She drinks a lot of coffee.