Friday, 3 June 2011

Generating Tension

Tell Me A Story - writing tips

 From time to time, I’m asked how to go about generating conflict in a story. It isn’t magic; it comes about when a certain mixture of elements in a story, are correctly balanced.

Creating Tension
I can’t claim this to be complete, but here’s a short list that might be useful as a starting point for creating tension in stories.
  1. The aims of the central characters should be contradictory, and mutually exclusive.
  2. The central characters should be fighting to reach their separate goals autonomously, and to the detriment of the other.
  3. The path your characters take in reaching their goals becomes the foundation of action. You should exploit the actions and contradictions - take full advantage to heighten the tension.
  4. The plot should have a poignant side.
  5. Strong feeling shouldn’t merely be narrated in characters; show by reactions, don't tell.
  6. Emotions that you invoke in your readers are what count most.
  7. It’s essential you understand the feelings you wish to stir in your reader before you write. You must write with that emotion in mind at all times.
  8. The theme of the story should be one about which you care deeply.
  9. You must be affected by your characters, and caught up with what happens to them.
  10. You should believe in your characters and empathise with their struggle. If you don’t, how can anyone else. Your work will lack the oomph that tempts people to turn pages.
As a final thought, a time restriction can also heighten anxiety. Having to complete something vital, before it adversely affects characters, is often a good way of creating tension.