A friend asked me what books I would recommend to get started writing fiction. Two recent reads immediately came to mind, Hallie Ephron’s Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel and Patricia Highsmith’s Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction.
While I tend to be a “pantser” when it comes to writing fiction, I’m not opposed to at least working up background for characters, and Ephron provides this and more. Her tips and advice prove useful for any genre, not just mystery.
Her section on plotting and the three-act structure is one of the clearest I’ve read to understand that particular approach to structure. And while it might sound like I’m advocating a formulaic approach, all great fiction, all great writing needs some foundation to build on.
Ephron has written several best-selling novels, including the Dr. Peter Zak series. She comes from a family of great storytellers that includes the late director and screenwriter Nora Ephron.
Highsmith was born in Fort Worth, Texas, but spent most of her life in Europe. She is the creator of conman and killer Tom Ripley.
In Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, Highsmith, who died in 1995, discusses basics like plotting and generating ideas common in most writing books. But it’s her last section that stands out, as she leads you through the processes she talks about by describing how she applied them to writing her novel The Glass Cell.
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