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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

*Snap*–Goes the Tension

Keeping the Reader Involved.

You can create tension from many sources. Not just action, car chases, and shoot-em-ups.

Dialogue and conflict go together. “I know I shouldn’t do this but—” MC said.

We want to know why the MC pushes on when he/she knows they shouldn’t.


Pit allies against each other. One has misplaced loyalty. The other argues against a tactic. They disagree.


Tension comes from within. Emotions. Resistance. Arguments. Difference of opinion.

Use action to create tension.

Kick it into high gear. Take narratives from the dinner table to a battle scene. Show the characters going about their daily life.  Punctuate this with a little internal angst.

Then, EXPLODE into action.

The first chapter (chapter not prologue) of Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan illustrates this concept. One moment, the MC and his father are fixing a meal. Then a heavy knock at the door announces an attack. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough after that.

Show conflict. Include tension on every page. But use a subtle touch. Let the reader experience the emotion. Don’t tell them. Let you MC convey this.

Example of ‘telling’:

“After receiving the award, Marge was unhappy.”

Example of ‘showing’:

“After receiving the award, Marge stared at the chair in front of her.”

Involve the reader in the story.


Michael Offutt, Supra-Genius said...

Thanks for the pointers. Now all I need to do is put them into application as it were.

Angela Brown said...

This is something I will need to work on after my first re-write. Tension is a driver for page turning and I really want to ensure a balance of that through out my WiP.

Stephen Tremp said...

Any good story will be conflict-driven. Character development is vital, but without conflict, the story is just told and I'd rather watch grass grow.