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How to Write a Spiritual Dramatic Suspense Novel*

A Look at a Very Specific Subgenre

I had never heard of this particular sub-subgenre of suspense! As a writer and editor myself, I am fascinated by the topic of writing. So when I saw this show up at one of my favorite book review sites, I was curious and had to choose it to find out more. Unfortunately, I found this book a little light on content, though it did have some interesting insights and exercises.

The book starts out with a very brief definition of this subgenre and then goes into other information about the overall arc and elements of a suspense story and what the author calls tropes. I found the writing of this part to be a little tedious because the author tends to state what she is going to explain at some length and then explains it more fully, even for relatively minor concepts. Just get to the explaining! If she felt a need for a transition between ideas, a simpler one could have been chosen. I also disagree with what the author calls tropes. I think she is mixing up the concepts of genre conventions and tropes in most cases.

The bulk of the book is actually the author’s book called Intent. Interspersed between paragraphs is the author’s commentary about what she was doing in a particular segment of a scene, discussing some elements that she had talked about in the general section previous. Each chapter ends with a writing exercise or two about an idea that the author believes was reflected in the preceding chapter. These are actually fairly decent writing prompts/exercises for any fiction writer, not just for one of this subgenre. She suggests exercises that look at minor characters, foreshadowing, tensions, and the like. There’s no real wrap-up section, which I think would have been helpful. It does end with a little discussion on theme.

I believe the author should have explicitly stated on the cover that the book is more about Christianity rather than general spirituality. In fact, Bible quotes precede each writing exercise. Perhaps she should have used the word “Christian” instead of “spiritual” as the title. After all, there are many types of spirituality which could form the basis of a suspense novel.

I felt like the beginning section, the part before her novel and analysis of it, was too short to be of much use to someone who actually is interested in writing this subgenre. The writing itself in that section, also, was sometimes confusing, and not just because she didn’t seem to understand the difference between conventions and tropes. I think nonfiction is best when it’s written in a conversational style, as if you were just telling the information to a good friend who is interested in the topic but doesn’t have the amount of knowledge that you do. Unfortunately, the author did not succeed in that very accessible nonfiction writing style.