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    Review of WRITING PAST DARK by Bonnie Friedman

    Perseverance Press, 2003

    Mystery writing is about control--the brilliant sleuth who uses his unique insights to probe the criminal mind and to re-create the "good world." Suspense writing is about loss of control--about the ordinary man (or woman) faced with extraordinary circumstances, forced to grow, make mistakes (as opposed to Sherlock Holmes who never made mistakes), and face horrible danger. The growth takes largely emotional forms, meaning that it's tough to have a suspense protagonist in a series. Since mystery sleuths are already enlightened, they can continue to solve crime after crime.

    So author Carolyn Wheat describes the difference between these two related genres (both deal with death, crime, and danger) and both, in the post-Hercule Poirot age, take on aspects of one another.

    Wheat describes the character arcs through which mystery and suspense protagonists travel--setup (including the choice to pursue the mystery on the part of the amateur sleuth), tests and failure, build toward climax, and showdown--describing how these arcs differ in suspense and mystery.

    In the second half of her book, Wheat steps beyond mystery/suspense to deal with core issues most writers will face: to outline or not; when to write; where to send your work; how you know it's done; eliminating adverbs; writing the good-enough chapter 1.

    HOW TO WRITE KILLER FICTION is targetted toward the beginning writer, however (or at least to the writer who is beginning in mystery/suspense). But it is filled with thoughts and insights that even more experienced authors may want to consider--either to have something they know expressed clearly and systematically, or to fill in those little ah-has that they're now ready for. This isn't one of those books that will change your outlook on writing, but it has plenty of good rules and concepts for improving what you do write.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 6/03/06

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