5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and entertaining
I'm glad I bought this book. As an author of suspense myself, I found it very worthwhile. It won't teach you how to write--but I've found no book can really do that. In the same vein as Stephen Kings book On Writing, it is more an account about how this highly successful author developed her craft over the years, her successes and failures. If you want a how to guide...
Published on May 8 2004 by Suspense Fan
3.0 out of 5 stars A very personalized guide, with a few helpful hints
In this short book, Patricia Highsmith offers her opinions on writing suspense stories. She addresses story ideas, using personal experiences, story development and plotting, first and second drafts, revisions, and other dimensions of the writing craft. Highsmith is honest up front, stating that "This is not a how-to-do-it handbook." After giving writers the...
Published on June 21 2002 by M. A Michaud
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5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and entertaining,
I'm glad I bought this book. As an author of suspense myself, I found it very worthwhile. It won't teach you how to write--but I've found no book can really do that. In the same vein as Stephen Kings book On Writing, it is more an account about how this highly successful author developed her craft over the years, her successes and failures. If you want a how to guide you would be better off with another title. It also enhances the enjoyment of this book if the reader is familiar with Highsmith's books. I found it interesting to know where she got her ideas and how she developed a small incident into a novel.
2.0 out of 5 stars Mildly amusing, but useless.,
Very little useful information contained in this book. You can learn more about the craft from reading her fiction!
Get Stephen King's On Writing instead. Much more practical advice.
5.0 out of 5 stars Behind the Scenes at the Abbatoir,
A modestly written, terse, readable and nuts and bolts book about how plots come to be put together, how a writer makes a living (or doesn't) and how to tell the story. What I found most charming about this "How-To" book was that it wasn't chirpy, wasn't preachy, didn't have a whiff of unreality arising from its advice, and was eminently practical. The only crime writing manual so far that I have picked up, browsed in, bought, took home and actually finished reading from cover to cover (sometimes doing the reading on a bus, that's how gripping it is). Recommended.
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read in one sitting,
I have never read Patricia Highsmith's work, but I have seen Talented Mr. Ripley on DVD. I picked up this book in order to get a better feel of what writing suspense fiction is all about. This book provided me with the essentials of suspense without going on and on about the mechanics of it.
You won't find exercises or lists or specific techniques. Reading this book is similar to reading a novel, or just sitting down with a cup of coffee while an esteemed author tells you her experiences. If you want a book that goes more deeper into plotting, I would recommend more technical how-to books like PLOT (ELEMENTS OF FICTION WRITING) or SCENE AND STRUCTURE (also from ELEMENTS OF FICTION WRITING SERIES).
The reason why I enjoyed this book so much was because it offered insight into the craft that most writing books lack. She talks about some of the obstacles she had to overcome as a writer (such as the "foggy area three quarters into the book")and I found myself with more direction after reading. I also picked up some handy tips on organization and focus, as well as crafting a good hero-criminal.
4.0 out of 5 stars Helpful, Yet Sometimes Contradictory Advice,
Patricia Highsmith produced some really wonderful works of suspense. It helps to be familiar with at least one or two of them before jumping into this book; she refers to her work quite a bit...maybe a little too much. Yet, Highsmith's comments are mostly helpful in such areas as plotting, point of view, and revisions.
From the very beginning, Highsmith advises writers to write in order to please one person: yourself. If you read good works and are satisfied with your own work, you're probably producing good writing. She also recommends focusing on characters and allowing them to take on a life of their own.
There are times when Highsmith seems to throw out all kinds of advice, sometimes contradicting what she has said earlier. For example, she strongly advises outling each chapter and its events, yet she also advocates winging it free-write style, without knowing where you're going.
Overall, a helpful book, but more valuable information should be packed into its 145 pages.
2.0 out of 5 stars A Bad Guide Written By An Excellent Writer,
It is true that not all great writers are good teachers of writing; this book only proves the point. There are points of merit. Highsmith incorporates examples from her own work, even from her mistakes, and the manner with which she discusses her own work (with a mercilessly objective eye) is interesting to read.
That said, there is not much original advice this writer has to offer. Much of it is insipid regurgitations of what many others have said, or what the tortured inner selves of all writers say in their heads. She even makes a disclaimer of this fact in the beginning of the book, but when I found out that she really wasn't kidding - that this book really had nothing of real teaching value to offer - I was more than disappointed, because I highly respect Patricia Highsmith as a writer, and love her books.
She makes much of the craft of writing, but even when discussing writing itself, she makes it seem it's such bloodless working out of logic. This book made me understand why Ms. Highsmith chose to write suspense; much of her drive to write, and her writing practice itself, is driven by her relentless desire for a commercial success. This is not to say that she did not care writing for writing's sake. But reading this book, it became apparent that commercialism was the governing force in her writing, and this approach can be quite detrimental to a young writer learning his/her craft, I imagine.
The best of Highsmith's books and stories had a rare blend of artistry and craft. It's a shame that this book contains no special insights on making art, but only exposes grating machinery of the craft.
3.0 out of 5 stars A very personalized guide, with a few helpful hints,
In this short book, Patricia Highsmith offers her opinions on writing suspense stories. She addresses story ideas, using personal experiences, story development and plotting, first and second drafts, revisions, and other dimensions of the writing craft. Highsmith is honest up front, stating that "This is not a how-to-do-it handbook." After giving writers the somewhat despairing advice that "It is impossible to explain how a successful -- that is readable -- book is written," she goes on to describe her own methods, describing failures as well as successes. There are some useful hints in here, but much of the material is too personalized to be of general use. Suspense writers need a better handbook than this one.
4.0 out of 5 stars How She Did It,
In her introduciton to Plotting and Writing Suspense, prolific suspense author Patricia Highsmith tells us that this will not be a how-to book, but a book that collects her own ideas and thoughts on the craft of writing. She isn't there to give us a grammar lesson. She wants to tell us how she does it and, hopefully, teach us a thing or two in the process.
It's great fun to read this legendary author's thoughts. After all, Highsmith has written some of the best novels of suspense; The Two Faces Of January, The Blunderer and, of course, The Talented Mr Ripley series. In this book, she collects her thoughts on the genre and on the process of writing. And she tells us quite bluntly that what worked for her as an author might not work for us. But I think that any author (or fan) could and will learn a thing or two from this author's lessons.
The best parts are when Highsmith takes her own books apart to show her readers that not even the established writer is safe from the typical mistakes most writers will make at one time or another. And if there is one thing that you'll come away with from reading this book is that writers (pros and beginners alike) have to learn to practice and practice and practice some more. Practice, according to Highsmith, does make better. And that is one lesson I will not forget.
3.0 out of 5 stars More of a How-I-Did than a How-To,
As noted on the cover of the book, Highsmith is the author of "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "Strangers on a Train," both of which have been made into movies. That is not the main idea of this book though. She does mention that it requires a different kind of thinking, but she did not write the screenplays. She just mentions that some of her books were made into movies in England, American, France, and Germany.
If you are picking up this book to learn how to write suspense fiction, this should not be the book. There are no things to remember and no rules. Merely, she is telling you about how she has written books. If you are very familiar with her works (not just the more famous ones), then you may be able to make this work for you. Otherwise, the book is more about her. Writers should know that you should go through a few drafts at least.
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting but..,
I thought this was an interesting book, and I read all of it, but I didn't get any useful pointers about writing from it. I would recommend it to readers who just enjoy reading about writers, but it certainly isn't any kind of guide to plotting and writing.
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Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith (Hardcover - Aug. 1989)
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