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Conflict and Suspense

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Conflict pulls readers into a story and suspense carries them along until its conclusion. Expert author of over 15 thrillers, James Scott Bell offers proven techniques that help writers craft fiction that their readers won?t be able to put down. Learn how to believably weave conflict and suspense into a story, how to pace your story and keep the pressure on throughout, and Conflict pulls readers into a story and suspense carries them along until its conclusion. Expert author of over 15 thrillers, James Scott Bell offers proven techniques that help writers craft fiction that their readers won?t be able to put down. Learn how to believably weave conflict and suspense into a story, how to pace your story and keep the pressure on throughout, and how to bring it all to a gripping conclusion.


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Conflict pulls readers into a story and suspense carries them along until its conclusion. Expert author of over 15 thrillers, James Scott Bell offers proven techniques that help writers craft fiction that their readers won?t be able to put down. Learn how to believably weave conflict and suspense into a story, how to pace your story and keep the pressure on throughout, and Conflict pulls readers into a story and suspense carries them along until its conclusion. Expert author of over 15 thrillers, James Scott Bell offers proven techniques that help writers craft fiction that their readers won?t be able to put down. Learn how to believably weave conflict and suspense into a story, how to pace your story and keep the pressure on throughout, and how to bring it all to a gripping conclusion.

30 review for Conflict and Suspense

  1. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    Another one for the keeper shelf from JSB. It includes some of the same concepts as Plot & Structure and Revision & Self-Editing (like the LOCK system and the character grid), but puts them in the context of increasing suspense and intensifying conflict. If you're trying to diagnose or avoid pacing problems in your novel, there are a lot of excellent considerations here. Another one for the keeper shelf from JSB. It includes some of the same concepts as Plot & Structure and Revision & Self-Editing (like the LOCK system and the character grid), but puts them in the context of increasing suspense and intensifying conflict. If you're trying to diagnose or avoid pacing problems in your novel, there are a lot of excellent considerations here.

  2. 4 out of 5

    nananatte

    This book is just GREAT! Easy to read, loads of samples, straight to the point... You'll get lots of practical advice for what you are looking for if you want to improve your current draft. This book is just GREAT! Easy to read, loads of samples, straight to the point... You'll get lots of practical advice for what you are looking for if you want to improve your current draft.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lee Thompson

    Well worth your time and money if you want to improve as a writer. I just stole this from the book (because I agree with it completely) "Getting the words down is what makes a disciplined writer. Getting them down with the craft working for you is what makes a professional writer." Highly recommended. Well worth your time and money if you want to improve as a writer. I just stole this from the book (because I agree with it completely) "Getting the words down is what makes a disciplined writer. Getting them down with the craft working for you is what makes a professional writer." Highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lee Dunning

    I picked this book up on a whim. I just signed up for the 30-day free trial of Amazon's new Kindle Unlimited, and I snagged a bunch of books that had been languishing on my wish list, and this was one of the ten that made it from my list to my Kindle. So, first of all, confession time. I added the book to my wish list based on the cover and a misunderstanding of the title. The cover shows a couple of chaps slashing at one another in a fencing display. The title also uses the word "conflict" and m I picked this book up on a whim. I just signed up for the 30-day free trial of Amazon's new Kindle Unlimited, and I snagged a bunch of books that had been languishing on my wish list, and this was one of the ten that made it from my list to my Kindle. So, first of all, confession time. I added the book to my wish list based on the cover and a misunderstanding of the title. The cover shows a couple of chaps slashing at one another in a fencing display. The title also uses the word "conflict" and my mind jumped to "how to write fight scenes". Stupid brain. This book has nothing to do with actual physical confrontation. It's about how to add conflict, drama, mystery and suspense in your writing through sentence structure, word choice, imaginative verbs, body language, appropriate use of cliff hangers, etc. And it's not just a 35 page "wham bam thank you ma'am" sort of writing book. It's 274 pages of detailed discussion on how to keep people turning the pages of your book. Many examples are utilized, and even though Mr. Bell has a tendency to reach for cinema examples (along with many literary examples), I don't mind so much because he also discusses the decisions directors like Alfred Hitchcock made in designing scenes in their movies, how they turned the mundane into something different and exciting. And before you turn away because you think this book is only useful for those writing thriller or horror novels, stop and reconsider. Conflict, tension, uncertainty... these are elements needed in all styles of writing. That means you romance writers. You too chick lit, folks. What keeps us reading is wondering what is going to happen to the characters we've become invested in. You want to add interest to a boring scene where two friends meet for coffee? This book will explain what you're doing wrong and how to fix it. Turn that scene of boring, domestic, every day monotony into one that gets people's imaginations working. I was quite enamored of what I read, and bookmarked several sections to go back to and read as a reference or refresher. And once I was done I realized that another of his books, "Write Great Fiction - Plot & Structure" is the manual for my writing class I'm signed up for the fall semester at college. For once, I may actually enjoy reading my college textbook! Highly recommended.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vicki Hopkins

    Fantastic book. I love writing conflict into my stories. Frankly, it's the spice that keeps them going like the Energizer Bunny. People accuse me of torturing my characters, and this books gives me affirmation I'm doing it right. James Scott Bell tells it like it is, with humor and great examples. It's nice to know when I get to my cliffhanger in my current novel, it's okay to hang my antagonist over the edge and drag my reader with him. If you're a published author or aspiring writer, this is a Fantastic book. I love writing conflict into my stories. Frankly, it's the spice that keeps them going like the Energizer Bunny. People accuse me of torturing my characters, and this books gives me affirmation I'm doing it right. James Scott Bell tells it like it is, with humor and great examples. It's nice to know when I get to my cliffhanger in my current novel, it's okay to hang my antagonist over the edge and drag my reader with him. If you're a published author or aspiring writer, this is a wonderful reference. Frankly, it's the best of any how-to book I've purchased.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kelsea

    As with nearly every James Scott Bell writing book I’ve read, this one was excellent! On topic, with relevant examples from well-known books and movies, clear explanations and actionable items. Personally, I found that many of the suggestions were things I’d already discovered through trial and error, but there were new ideas I hadn’t considered yet. Great for beginner writers, but also a useful refresher/checklist for more experienced writers.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    I didn't read the chapters to this book in order, because some of it was familiar to me from John Truby's "Anatomy of a Story." However, the book provided tips I hadn't heard previously and outlined exactly how to maximize suspense in every moment of each scene. The advice I have implemented so far has made the difference between proof readers and readers saying 'this is great' to 'this is amazing'. It has also made writing slightly more challenging and fun - I feel like I have a puzzle and I ne I didn't read the chapters to this book in order, because some of it was familiar to me from John Truby's "Anatomy of a Story." However, the book provided tips I hadn't heard previously and outlined exactly how to maximize suspense in every moment of each scene. The advice I have implemented so far has made the difference between proof readers and readers saying 'this is great' to 'this is amazing'. It has also made writing slightly more challenging and fun - I feel like I have a puzzle and I need to figure out where each piece best fits. It is very satisfying to reach that point! Now to finish a book... damn. James Scott's writing is succinct and enjoyable as well. I would highly recommend this book if you feel your writing needs more of the 'wow' factor.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Suzannah

    I took a quick break from my reading and other jobs to zip through this little book, and I'm so glad I did. I'm mostly self-taught in writing and plotting, and I do recommend the approach I took--learning by observance of plots you like--but this filled in the gaps I had and gave me a simpler understanding of the process. My only criticism of this enormously helpful book (which I am so looking forward to putting into practice) is that while some of the author's advice would apply to any writer in I took a quick break from my reading and other jobs to zip through this little book, and I'm so glad I did. I'm mostly self-taught in writing and plotting, and I do recommend the approach I took--learning by observance of plots you like--but this filled in the gaps I had and gave me a simpler understanding of the process. My only criticism of this enormously helpful book (which I am so looking forward to putting into practice) is that while some of the author's advice would apply to any writer in any genre or any time, some of it is based upon a modernist understanding of story which authors like Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott, JRR Tolkien, or Evelyn Waugh could and did easily ignore. But anyone who reads those or other authors attentively should be able to see where they diverge with this book. Thanks, Mr Bell.

  9. 5 out of 5

    G.M. Burrow

    Chockfull of brilliant pointers. What struck me as I kept reading advice like "Ramp up the tension!" "Tighten it some more!" "Make bad things happen!" "Make worse things happen!" "Make your hero work harder!"--is how much more we'd enjoy our roles in God's story if we remembered that our best writing advice comes from observing the conflict and suspense in the best story ever told--this one. Ours. Chockfull of brilliant pointers. What struck me as I kept reading advice like "Ramp up the tension!" "Tighten it some more!" "Make bad things happen!" "Make worse things happen!" "Make your hero work harder!"--is how much more we'd enjoy our roles in God's story if we remembered that our best writing advice comes from observing the conflict and suspense in the best story ever told--this one. Ours.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Amanda at ORIONMISSING

    I recommend reading Conflict & Suspense by James Scott Bell if you have finished a first draft and are ready to take the story you've written to the next level. We all know that conflict makes a compelling story, but how do you ensure you have enough? Or that the the conflict you do have was executed correctly? . This book will explain what you tried to do, how you did it wrong, & what you can do to make it right. It'll also explain what you did right, but how you can still make it better. I recommend reading Conflict & Suspense by James Scott Bell if you have finished a first draft and are ready to take the story you've written to the next level. We all know that conflict makes a compelling story, but how do you ensure you have enough? Or that the the conflict you do have was executed correctly? . This book will explain what you tried to do, how you did it wrong, & what you can do to make it right. It'll also explain what you did right, but how you can still make it better.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bobbi

    Every book about writing that I've read gives me something; inspiration, direction, focus, or just the urge to sit down and write. So I'm tempted to give this 4 stars, but the annoyance of constant typos and missing words or letters is enough to drive that back down. I enjoyed this book, and it did give me some good ideas, although it is a bit smug and self-satisfied. Every book about writing that I've read gives me something; inspiration, direction, focus, or just the urge to sit down and write. So I'm tempted to give this 4 stars, but the annoyance of constant typos and missing words or letters is enough to drive that back down. I enjoyed this book, and it did give me some good ideas, although it is a bit smug and self-satisfied.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Mahle

    I tend not to read a lot of craft books, except if I am having a problem in a story. I recently read Bell's book because my latest action/espionage plot seems to just plod along. I needed to up the stakes and hit the gas in the pacing. Bell provides an excellent technical review on structure in relationship to conflict. I highly recommend it. I tend not to read a lot of craft books, except if I am having a problem in a story. I recently read Bell's book because my latest action/espionage plot seems to just plod along. I needed to up the stakes and hit the gas in the pacing. Bell provides an excellent technical review on structure in relationship to conflict. I highly recommend it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Teri-K

    If there's anything an author should know about creating conflict and suspense in their stories that isn't in this book, I'll be shocked. It's extremely thorough. It's also geared to be very helpful, with many clear steps to adding and increasing the tension in your writing. I plan to go through this book page by page and try everything when I'm ready to revise. Highly recommended. If there's anything an author should know about creating conflict and suspense in their stories that isn't in this book, I'll be shocked. It's extremely thorough. It's also geared to be very helpful, with many clear steps to adding and increasing the tension in your writing. I plan to go through this book page by page and try everything when I'm ready to revise. Highly recommended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Harper

    For a writer trying to hone my craft I found this book practical and insightful. Most of the stuff I knew, but it helps to have the information refreshed. This book is written in an engaging, optimistic style. A must read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Biancotti

    Marvellous, comprehensive, practical exploration of exactly what the title denotes: conflict AND suspense.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gregory Frost

    Do not write your thriller/genre novel until you have read what James Scott Bell has to say. An essential "how to" book for the library. Do not write your thriller/genre novel until you have read what James Scott Bell has to say. An essential "how to" book for the library.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This is an exceptional book for writers, covering conflict and suspense fully, but with so much more thrown in.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Rosenberg

    James Scott Bell writes great craft books for writers of fiction. If there is one tool a writer needs in their tool box, it's CONFLICT. This is a great book for clear examples and how-to. James Scott Bell writes great craft books for writers of fiction. If there is one tool a writer needs in their tool box, it's CONFLICT. This is a great book for clear examples and how-to.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Daws

    So, admittedly, a lot of what he shares is available from other sources online free of charge. But, the convenience of having it all neatly together in one place, complete with quality examples from books and movies that demonstrate his point is worth the cost of the book. Mr. Bell did a great job of breaking down building conflict and suspense into fiction well, from the beginning foundational work of picking a location and creating characters to the final clean up work when the rough draft is So, admittedly, a lot of what he shares is available from other sources online free of charge. But, the convenience of having it all neatly together in one place, complete with quality examples from books and movies that demonstrate his point is worth the cost of the book. Mr. Bell did a great job of breaking down building conflict and suspense into fiction well, from the beginning foundational work of picking a location and creating characters to the final clean up work when the rough draft is done. And what I most appreciate is that he doesn't merely tell me what I should do, but why I should work toward it and how the book will be better with it. This is an excellent resource for any writer.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tony Blenman

    This is the first book I have read by this author and it was quite engaging. The contents were true to the title of the book. I liked how Bell used LOCK to integrate his teachings and examples. In reviewing some works of other authors, Bell was clever in highlighting confrontations of the characters, then carrying readers to the brink to create suspense, leaving them hanging by suggesting readers to pick the respective book to find out what happened. Bell emphasizes that characters should experi This is the first book I have read by this author and it was quite engaging. The contents were true to the title of the book. I liked how Bell used LOCK to integrate his teachings and examples. In reviewing some works of other authors, Bell was clever in highlighting confrontations of the characters, then carrying readers to the brink to create suspense, leaving them hanging by suggesting readers to pick the respective book to find out what happened. Bell emphasizes that characters should experience conflict whether it be internal or overt if a writer is going to avoid having his work fall flat.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joy Pixley

    Another knockout craft book from James Scott Bell. He dives in deep to describe why and how to incorporate more conflict and suspense into every facet of the story, offering plenty of examples and ideas. This book helped me realize why certain arcs and scenes in my stories are falling flat or seeming slow -- especially in dialogue -- and gave clear directions for improvement. Highly recommended!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Max Mulholland

    An outstanding presentation of conflict and suspense. Mr. Bell details every aspect of the craft as it relates to this subject matter. An excellent learning tool complete with suggestions for creative prompts and exercises for revision. Bell does a complete break down and then a total build up of every element of creating suspense. Useful for all genres and all levels of writers. I'll be keeping this on my shelf and be referring it to it often. An outstanding presentation of conflict and suspense. Mr. Bell details every aspect of the craft as it relates to this subject matter. An excellent learning tool complete with suggestions for creative prompts and exercises for revision. Bell does a complete break down and then a total build up of every element of creating suspense. Useful for all genres and all levels of writers. I'll be keeping this on my shelf and be referring it to it often.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hamster

    Haven't quite finished this. Not sure want to. Mostly obvious, tired advice by an author who touts his own lackluster writing. So far 2 or 3 things have seemed interesting/useful. Certainly not worth my time or money. Maybe if I finish and the second half is amazing, I'll update the review. Otherwise I don't plan to read any more by this author. Craft or fiction. Haven't quite finished this. Not sure want to. Mostly obvious, tired advice by an author who touts his own lackluster writing. So far 2 or 3 things have seemed interesting/useful. Certainly not worth my time or money. Maybe if I finish and the second half is amazing, I'll update the review. Otherwise I don't plan to read any more by this author. Craft or fiction.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gwyn Haller

    No trouble giving this book 5/5 stars James Bell's Plot and Structure was one of the first books paper books I purchased "full price" off a book store shelf. That was a long time ago, and that book was borrowed and is still a prodigal son. CONFLICT and SUSPENSE with Plot and Structure "steak and potatoes"? Bravo! James Scott Bell. No trouble giving this book 5/5 stars James Bell's Plot and Structure was one of the first books paper books I purchased "full price" off a book store shelf. That was a long time ago, and that book was borrowed and is still a prodigal son. CONFLICT and SUSPENSE with Plot and Structure "steak and potatoes"? Bravo! James Scott Bell.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jen Grogan

    Conflict has always been one of my weaker spots as a writer, and I've seen in some of my editing jobs that it's often tough for others as well. I thought this was a good primer on how to work on that issue. Lots of concrete suggestions and exercises, good examples, generally very good advice. Conflict has always been one of my weaker spots as a writer, and I've seen in some of my editing jobs that it's often tough for others as well. I thought this was a good primer on how to work on that issue. Lots of concrete suggestions and exercises, good examples, generally very good advice.

  26. 5 out of 5

    lauraღ

    Said a bunch of things that I probably needed to hear. Plotting is my weakest area, and I'm pretty balls at conflict. I took everything with a grain of salt and I could probably use a reread of this, but overall I liked it. Said a bunch of things that I probably needed to hear. Plotting is my weakest area, and I'm pretty balls at conflict. I took everything with a grain of salt and I could probably use a reread of this, but overall I liked it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Philip Dampier

    I like everything I've read by James Scott Bell but he does repeat things from one book to another. That's okay as repetition is a great teacher. Since I write books with conflict and hopefully suspense I found the book not only interesting but helpful. I like everything I've read by James Scott Bell but he does repeat things from one book to another. That's okay as repetition is a great teacher. Since I write books with conflict and hopefully suspense I found the book not only interesting but helpful.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Hayden

    Solid, if at times a little more basic than I was expecting. However, it really, really helped me overcome some trouble/writer's block I've been having with my current wip. Sometimes just hearing advice you sort of already know--just phrased a different way--can make all the difference. Solid, if at times a little more basic than I was expecting. However, it really, really helped me overcome some trouble/writer's block I've been having with my current wip. Sometimes just hearing advice you sort of already know--just phrased a different way--can make all the difference.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lavinia Thompson

    A fellow writer friend recommended this book to me and I am so glad I took the tike to read it! There are so many tools for writers in this book. The author breaks down how to utilize conflict and suspense and how to integrate it into a well-crafted story. A must read for any author.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael Cruz

    I learned more by reading this book in an hour compared to a semester's worth of Creative Writing courses I took in High School and in University. I learned more by reading this book in an hour compared to a semester's worth of Creative Writing courses I took in High School and in University.

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