Tuesday Tip: Building Tension

1271221089188203My writer’s group last Saturday explored the topic of building tension in our writing.

What is tension? I can tell you what its not; its not the mundane, day-in-the-life type writing. Its not scenes of someone making a cup of coffee or calling their mother. (Unless these scenes are pertinent to the plot) If you’re adding details, they better be moving the story along.

Tension is that element of a story that makes you stay up late reading incessantly when you know you should be asleep. It asks ‘what if?’ but puts the character’s values at stake.

Tension in stories reflects real life, times ten. Add problems, a timeframe, people moving against you, dilemmas and hard decisions, and throw in the not-so-occasional monkey wrench. You want character to suffer enough so they grow and evolve as ‘people’.

You characters may or may not know exactly what the cause of tension is or where its coming from. Its important, however, that the reader experience the tension.

Ever have a scene in a movie make you jump? The scenes before that moment is tension. It builds, sometimes slowly, to evoke fear, anger, and the desperation of your characters, and the reader.

Try the following sentences and add tension:

I asked her what was wrong?

Now add more trouble and conflict. Add time constraints, or a dilemma, or a villain.

Try this with other sentences you find.


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