THE END OF TENSION TALKS! How to Increase the Tension in Your Story

In my earlier posts these past couple of weeks, both Steve Wedel and Mark Del Franco had some interesting things to say about point-of-view and tension.

So, in this final blog, I’m going to talk about that a tiny bit more and then give some quick hints about creating suspenseful stories.

Because like Jeff Deaver said it’s our responsibilities as writers to: Give my readers the most exciting roller coaster ride of a suspense story I can possibly think of.


Although, to be fair I agree with Fawn Brodie’s sentence: Show me a character whose life arouses my curiosity, and my flesh begins crawling with suspense.

Character is really intertwined with point-of-view.

There are two main point of views I’m talking about here, first person and third person.

Every day you live in your own point-of-view. Every day you are the main character of your story living out the suspense of your life. That’s the first person.

If you expand beyond yourself, use empathy and imagination to jump back into other people’s lives as well, creating a web that connects both, that’s more third person.

Or, you might end up in this book turned movie, I’m not sure:

Anyway, there are special problems with both point of views.

Issues with I Stories:

1.      You know the narrator is probably not going to die, so there isn’t that mortal danger worry.

2.      In first-person past tense it’s hard to keep it fresh, because the I of the story already knows what’s going to happen.

Good Things About I Stories:

1.      You can use the ‘peril detector.’

2.      The narrator’s fear moves the scene forward, increasing tension.

Issues with Third-Person Stories:

1.      Sometimes it’s harder to get you to care about the character. There. Sorry. I said it. Haters get at it.

2.      Sometimes, if you don’t do it well, switching around can actually ruin the tension and frustrate the reader.

Good Things about Third-Person Stories:

1.      You can set up what’s going to happen, the crisis, the conflict, the scary by switching back and forth between the good guy and bad guy.

2.      It’s very freeing.

I asked Editor Andrew Karre (currently executive editor at Dutton about first vs. third person.

Andrew said, “I think suspense is often important, but adding it to a manuscript tends to involve removing stuff and rearranging stuff. I think a clear, sequential, third-person story is rarely maximally suspenseful, so if suspense is in order, I think a meandering, unreliable first person is the way to go.”

Okay. Here are some take-away tips about adding suspense to your story.

They are summarized from an article by Vivian Gilbert Zabel, which is sourced below.

1. Make the main character someone you like but someone who can screw up. The reader has to care. If the reader doesn’t care about the character, the reader closes the book. If the character is perfect and can’t screw up? Then there’s no tension.

2. Make the plot a question and then “Make a list of all the possible reasons why the answer could be “no.” Those “no” answers become the focus of problems and obstacles – suspense,” Zabel says.

3. Make the hero have a really good reason for what she wants. Make her need.

4. Do that for the bad guy, too.  Stories like Harry Potter wouldn’t be nearly so fun if there wasn’t the possibility that the evil wizard Voldemort might kick everyone’s butts.

5. Make things harder and harder for the hero. Make it get worse.

6.  Pick the right POV for you and your story.

7.  Try to make the story urgent. Imagine a bomb ticking down before the explosion. Make the story a race against that.

And there you go! I hope all these blog posts on tension help you out a bit instead of making you more tense.

SOURCES:

Luce, Carol. “Writing Suspense That’ll “Kill” Your Readers.” The Complete Book of Novel Writing. Ed 2002. Med Leder and Jack Heffrom. Cincinatti: Writers’ Digest Books, 2002.

Reynolds, William. “Keeping Them In Suspense.” The Complete Book of Novel Writing. Ed 2002. Med Leder and Jack Heffrom. Cincinatti: Writers’ Digest Books, 2002.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Vivian_Gilbert_Zabel 

Personal Interviews with Mark Del Franco, Andrew Karre, and Steven Wedel, Sept. 2008.

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Where Does All That Writing Tension Come From?

This week, I’ve been talking about story tension which basically comes down to this question:

Where does all that tension and all that suspense comes from?

That makes it sound like this is a blog post about dealing with rejection and deadlines and cranky editors. It isn’t.

All of us have tension in our lives. We worry about our loved ones, our jobs, our selves, our country. The tension comes from multiple sources.

That’s how it works in writing, too.

Suspense can come from:

  1. Plot
  2. Characters
  3. Place

Suspense from Plot

 In his Essay “Killing Them in Suspense” William Reynolds writes, “The most obvious source of suspense is plot – indeed, in genre fiction especially, it’s nearly impossible to separate the two.”

 He cites the movie North by Northwest (one of editor Andrew Karre’s favorites about ten years ago).

Poor Cary Grant is besieged by nasty guys who are 100 % positive that Dashing Cary is someone they’ve been trying to capture for a long, long time. Dashing Cary Grant dashes around so he doesn’t get caught. We root for him. We worry for him. We want to know what will happen and there’s a real danger that the bad guys will catch him and Dashing Cary will dash no more.

Suspense from Characters

 What your characters do also creates suspense. Their actions, their reactions will increase the tension. This is why your characters have to be flawed. Their flaws up the stakes. In the Harry Potter books, Harry’s stubborn streak makes him vulnerable. When he chooses to dash off — ala Cary Grant —  and save the world alone we worry for him, but that’s his character choice to do that.

 We don’t know if Harry will survive Voldemort, the evil wizard. We don’t know if Harry will even survive his Tri-Wizard Level tests and we care because we care about Harry. We worry about him.           

Suspense from Place

It’s the “unpredictable nature” of certain places, which also create suspense Reynolds believes.  In Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe, Sunnydale is a Hellmouth and all sorts of demons can come on through. The demons play by different rules. The place creates suspense. Lots of science fiction and fantasy novels do this.

In many literary novels the unpredictable weather creates suspense.

Stephen King uses the rural landscape of Maine, the isolation of homes and people to create suspense. Stephenie Meyers does the same thing in her Twilight series.

Reynolds uses his own first line in his novel, Things Invisible, to show how it’s done. What’s the first line?

            “Days like this remind you that you’re going to die.”


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NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is coming out October 1 and if you pre-order it now, you can get the Ebook for .99 before the price goes up to $2,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

ARE YOU TENSE? Getting the Tension Out of Your Life and Into Your Story

ARE YOU TENSE? Getting the Tension Out of Your Life and Into Your Story

 
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This is a continuation of this week’s blogs about adding tension and suspense in your writing. It’s a bit short today. Sorry. Or maybe that’s a good thing….

Here goes:

Is My Voice a Little Tense?
 

Tension in writing can also come from your voice.

Not your speaking voice, but your writing voice, your style and your pacing.

Author Justine Larabeister has a series of posts on her blogs about how she alternates action-packed scenes/chapters with more introspective scenes.

Author William Reynolds calls it a roller coaster ride and says, “It works for pacing your writing as well as your scenes.”

I’ve talked about this before especially when I critique things. Sentence length and sound impact the reader’s experience of action and introspection.

While we’re having nice introspective wonderings about things to give the reader a break and/or a build-up we can have long, winding sentences wondering if anyone is actually reading this blog post at all and we can also natter on about it for a bit with no white space, and with long-long paragraphs.

But…

Action comes.

And as Reynolds points out:

“Sentences are short.

Paragraphs too.

Maybe there isn’t even time to –

Get the picture?”

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Short sentences. Short paragraphs. White space. Action verbs. That’s what makes it tense, baby.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Don’t be tense. Don’t add tension to other people’s lives. Know how your presence makes other people feel.


SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


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