Purple Prose + writerly books

On My Writerly Bookshelf

During the holiday season, I realized I have A LOT of books about writing fiction. And of course, I added a few more titles to my shelves last month. So, I’ve decided to start a fairly regular feature where I review non-fiction books on writing that I either own or have borrowed from the library. These posts will occur either on a Monday (in lieu of that week’s photography tips) or on Wednesdays. They won’t, though, be weekly.


In addition to writing YA, I’m now venturing into the world of romantic suspense. Face it, I’m a sucker for anything filled with romance and danger (which also describes the YA novels I write). This is why I decided to check out Writing the Thriller by T. Macdonald Skillman.

This is an advance writing book. After exploring the different categories of suspense, the requirements for writing them, and reader expectations for each, she focuses on the important elements of fiction and the considerations you need to be aware of when writing the different types of suspense. However, she already expects you to have a good understanding of these elements beforehand, which include:

  • Characterization
  • Plot
  • Setting and atmosphere
  • Point of view
  • Backstory
  • Goals and motivation
  • Dialogue
  • Pacing
  • Theme
  • Style
For example, under characterization, she talks about the specific character types you would expect to find in the different categories of suspense and how to make these characters work in the type of suspense you choose to write. These categories include:

  • Action-adventure
  • Legal thrillers
  • Medical thrillers
  • Political thrillers
  • Psychological suspense
  • Romantic suspense
  • Women-in-jeopardy suspense
  • Techo-thrillers
In Part II of the book, experts (i.e. bestselling authors) further discuss their particular category of suspense and provide additional suggestions and hints to help you. Overall, I thought the book was good, especially since it isn’t rehashing the basics that you can learn elsewhere. The first part of the book was definitely the strongest part. I did, though, find the information on romantic suspense slightly lacking (as well as for a few of the other subgenres) in the second part. I actually learned more about romantic suspense from reading The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Erotic Romance. Go figure!

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On My Writerly Bookshelf + writerly books