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Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction

Highsmith, Patricia

740 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0871161257 / ISBN 13: 9780871161253
Published by The Writer, 1981
Condition: Very Good Hardcover
From citynightsbooks (Allston, MA, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

New revised edition, 1981. The celebrated suspense writer discusses technique in her fiction. Navy cloth, gilt titles. Book near fine, slightly 'dusty.' DJ in Mylar very good plus with rubbing, a couple of short edge tears. 145 pp. Bookseller Inventory # 9863

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction

Publisher: The Writer

Publication Date: 1981

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good

Edition: Revised Edition.

Book Type: Book

About this title


Patricia Highsmith, author of "Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Found in the Street," and many other books, known as one of the finest living suspense novelists. In this book, she analyzes the key elements of suspense fiction, drawing upon her own experience in four decades as a writer. She talks, among other topics, about 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.

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.


Suspense, like other genre fiction, is often assumed to be inferior in quality to more "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 Steinberg

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