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Book Reviews
Book Reviews May
By Billie A. Williams
May, 2006, 23:42

une into IN reviews for the best of How-To books about writing all genres from high adventure to haiku, from fact to fiction, cookbooks to commentary and much, much more. Always check IN to see what's in. We only publish the best and our rating scale below is based upon the values of the three Es: Ease-of-Read, Educational, and Entertaining.

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Title: Goal, Motivation & Conflict: The Building Blocks Of Good Fiction
Author: Debra Dixon
Publisher: Gryphon Books for Writers
ISBN: 0-9654371-0-8
IN Rating:

Review: Though Goal, Motivation & Conflict (GMC) is a small book in size, it is clear, immediate, and relevant to all writers. It is powerful advice for giving a story shape, form, and urgency.

Dixon States, "Regardless of what you call GMC, the bottom line is that these three topics are the foundation of everything that happens in the story," and then goes on to show you how in clear, concise, and easy-to-emulate detail. And while GMC is not just for the beginning writer, it can give the novice a jump-start over the competition.

Dixon takes the aspiring writer through the who, what, why, and why not of story writing. If you can trace every action in your book to unique character goals and motivations, your characters will create your plot.

Using an example of a character chart, she illustrates the development of a sample character. A writer can use such charts to elicit a character's internal and external goals while keeping the character consistent and the action moving. Each chapter of GMC concludes with a summary, reinforcing the main points made in that section.

The presentation of GMC is simple, but not simplistic. It will direct, challenge, and motivate you with pertinent, well-defined, and expertly delivered information you need to create the next New York Times Best Seller.

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Title: Writing The Thriller
Author: T. Macdonald Skillman
Publisher: Writer's Digest Books an imprint of F&W Publications
ISBN: 0-898879-928-7
IN Rating:

Review: T. Macdonald Skillman begins Writing The Thriller with a definition of suspense and an exploration of its categories. Then moving through the elements of technique for writing in general, she clearly delineates their place in the creation of a thriller.

Like most writing books, this one covers topics such as characterization, plot basics, setting/atmosphere, and point of view, in chapter-by-chapter detail. Breaking away from the normal writing books, she includes the essential ingredients of writing a suspenseful thriller such as pacing.

"The heart of a suspense novel; how to entice the reader into your story, slam the door, bolt the locks, and have them clinging to the edge of their seat till the end of the ride; mountains and valleys the need for breathing room along the way," is pacing as described by Skillman.

In Skillman's view, every genre has its own rules of pacing, and much of it has to do with the placement of emphasis. For example, in a mystery emphasis is placed on the quest for answers or the puzzle. The leisurely stroll through the countryside and the events of an epic saga or historical novel are diametrically opposed to the expectations of the thriller's audience. According to Skillman, those expectations include being "kidnapped by fear and dragged along on a wild ride."

The thriller's pace is more like a climb up a steep series of stairways not unlike those of the Statue of Liberty. Suspense novels explore the climb, the experience on the way to the pinnacle. Examining quickly what was accomplished to get there. Leaving writer and reader breathless in the end is key to the pace of a thriller.

In part two of Skillman's in depth look at the suspenseful thriller, she interviews authors noted for writing the types of stories she is talking about. Authors such as Michael Connelly, Tess Gerritsen, Richard North Patterson, and Joy Fielding give great insight into their methods, reasons, and means of writing edge-of-your-seat thrillers.

Using examples from the legal thrillers of John Grisham to the political thrillers of Tom Clancy and most everyone between, T. Macdonald Skillman provides an in depth yet succinct primer for writing a memorable thriller that keeps its promises to reader expectations.

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If you like this review, take a look at 'Our Members Library Of Recommended Reading' for books that have made a significant difference in our members' writing careers.
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Billie A. Williams lives in Amberg, a small rural northern Wisconsin community. She has published over fifteen novels ranging from Cozy Mystery, Suspense, Romantic Suspense, Young Adult Historical Adventure and more. She writes a "Whodunit?" column for Voice In The Dark Newsletter published by and is owner/manager of three writing groups. Go to for more information about her writing.

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