How to Write Killer Fiction by Carolyn Wheat

Pros: A great book on how to craft mystery & suspense.

Cons: If you don’t care about suspense, then this book isn’t for you. But I’d say you’re crazy.

Thoughts: There don’t seem to be many writing books dedicated to the specific techniques of genre. The book is split in two parts. The first half is mystery, and the second half is suspense. The author does a good job of explaining how the techniques used can often be very different. The suspense half of the book is just plain old Good Storytelling, and the tricks explained in that section would work for almost any story. Who doesn’t want a suspensful story?

Summary: I wish more books on storytelling were like this. Just buy it.

 

Table of Contents:

    Preface :: 15

    • The Funhouse of Mystery :: 16
    • The Roller Coaster of Suspense :: 16
    • The Writing Process :: 17

     
    Introduction :: 21

    • Two Different Dreams :: 21
    • Reason and Emotion :: 22
    • Two Steps Ahead, Two Steps Behind :: 23
    • Myth vs. Tale :: 24
    • Larger World/Smaller World :: 24
    • Information Concealed or Revealed :: 25
    • Central Questions :: 26
    • Crossovers :: 26
    • Different Dreams, Different Choices :: 28
    • Write What You Read :: 28
    • Mystery/Suspense Checklist :: 29

     
    Part 1: The Funhouse of Mystery

  1. Welcome to the Funhouse :: 33
    • Welcome to the Funhouse :: 33
    • A Little Mystery History :: 34
    • That Was Then, This Is Now :: 35
    • Other People’s Troubles :: 42
    • Write What You Read :: 43

     

  2. Cover-Ups and Clues :: 44
    • Cover-ups :: 44
    • Getting a Clue :: 49

     

  3. Build Me An Arc, I :: 59
    • Arc One: The Beginning (The Setup) :: 59
    • The Four-Arc System for Organizing Your Novel :: 60
    • Arc Two: The Big Bad Middle :: 63
    • Arc Three: Waist-Deep in the Big Muddy :: 70

     

  4. Endings Are Hard, I :: 73
    • The Non-Action Ending :: 74
    • The Two-Layered Ending :: 75
    • Why Endings Fail :: 75
    • The Action Ending :: 77
    • The Coda :: 78
    • The Meta-Novel :: 79

     
    Part 2: The Roller Coaster of Suspense

  5. Buckle Up for the Ride :: 85
    • The Roller-Coaster Effect :: 85
    • A Little Suspense History :: 86
    • Descendents of the Gothic Tradition :: 87
    • Spy Fiction Offshoots :: 90
    • Crimes and Capers :: 95

     

  6. Myths and Dreams :: 96
    • Rites of Passage :: 97
    • The Hero’s Journey :: 100
    • The Hero’s Journey :: 101
    • Psyche’s Journey to Hades :: 104

     

  7. Build Me An Arc, II :: 108
    • The Prologue :: 108
    • Arc One :: 109
    • Arc Two :: 115
    • Arc Three :: 120

     

  8. Endings Are Hard, II :: 123
    • How To Finish Your Book Before It Finishes You :: 124
    • Endings that Satisfy :: 128
    • Endings that Let the Reader Down :: 129
    • Hostage: Arc Four :: 130
    • Sting in the Tail Endings :: 133
    • What Can You Do for an Encore :: 134

     
    Part 3: The Writing Process

  9. Scene and Style :: 139
    • What Makes a Scene :: 139
    • How To Scene :: 143
    • The Storyboard :: 146
    • Narrative–The Alternative To Scene :: 149
    • Style :: 151

     

  10. Outliners and Blank-Pagers :: 155
    • Expansion and Contraction :: 156
    • The Outliner’s Process :: 158
    • The Blank-Pager’s Toolbox :: 162
    • Revision :: 166
    • The Writing Process: Tools to Help You Finish :: 170

     
    Epilogue: Next Step, Published! :: 173

    • The Writing Zone :: 173
    • When Is It Finished? :: 179

     
    Selected Bibliography :: 181

    • I. Writer’s Bookshelf Stapes :: 181
    • II. Theoretical Underpinnings :: 183
    • III. Fiction To Learn From :: 185

     
    Index :: 187

 

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