Monday, March 8, 2010

Cranking up the Tension

It's a topic that I keep on discussing, but one that is also very important for keeping the reader involved, tension. How do you generate it, and how do you keep it?

There are simple ways to do this. Put a bomb in a room with your character and light the fuse. Effective, but not very useful for most situations. Besides, you have to make sure the character cannot get out of the room, or they will simply run away.

How can you take that simple example and make the tension even greater?

In the first example, only one character is affected, so the tension is high for them, but if it is a minor character, or someone that we don't yet know, maybe we don't care.

One way around that problem is to put your main character in with the bomb, but if the bomb ends up blowing up early in the book, I think you are going to have plot issues.

How about if the bomb affects more than one character? How about if the bomb sets off a chain of events that could lead to the deaths of thousands, or even millions?

It can be a simple device, but making the consequences affect more than one person can be a good way to crank up the tension.

OK, so bombs in the closet are easy, what about personal relationships?

What if your characters' Mother becomes upset with her? That can be tense. Maybe not as tense as the bomb, but if well written, you can make the reader feel emotion.

What would make the tension stronger? What if the characters' Mother threatens to never talk to her again? What if the Mother threatens to reveal the affair to your characters' husband?

Now there are more people involved, more to get hurt, more that care.

The point that I am trying to make is to add all the tension you can, and then go back and make it worse, lots worse, make it unbearable not only to your character, but to you as well. If you feel like you can't do that to your character, then you should do it. Your readers will thank you for it later.


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