This blog post turned into more about links I’ve visited while revisiting the concept of creating tension in my writing. Something that’s on my mind as I revise my novella. I thought I’d share some of them with you. You know, just in case you’re interested.
This the second time I’ve posted this advice from an former blog post I found at Writer Unboxed. It’s the second part of an interview with Donald Maass that you can find here. It’s about creating tension on every page.
Donald Maass: The absolutely essential exercise that everyone should do, with every novel, is to toss the manuscript pages in the air and collect them again in random order. (The pages must be randomized or this won’t work.) Next, go through the manuscript page-by-page and on each page find one way to add tension. Now, that sounds easy enough but most people are quickly stymied. That is because they do not truly understand what tension means. In dialogue, it means disagreement. In action, it means not physical business but the inner anxiety of the point-of-view character. In exposition, it means ideas in conflict and emotions at war. Study your favourite novelists. If they make you read every word, even while turning pages rapidly, it is because they are deploying tension in a thousand ways to keep you constantly wondering what’s going to happen. Tension all the time is the secret of best selling fiction, regardless of style, genre or category. If it sells big, it’s got tension on every page.
I’ve been on a reading binge for the last week and I’m on my third book. Nothing goes with a sinus/cold/cough thingy better than a book, especially in the middle of the night. As a rule, I have no serious shut-eye issues and I think I panic a bit when I can’t sleep. Or breathe. Reading calms me and passes the time until the over-the-counter drugs take affect.
All three books are paranormals. I don’t like to read romantic suspense while I’m knee-deep in writing it. Okay, so it’s supernatural suspense but, like, I’m going to read something I don’t love when I feel like crap. Anyway, three books, three different stories, two that made me read every word and one that did not.
Another great blog post about tension of every page from The Sharp Angle. I love how she talks about worry for the moment keeping readers turning the page.
Even in the not-so-action-filled scenes, there is still tension as we absorb everything that’s happened or is going to happen. Tension does not always equal action. It always equals worry, whether the current pace is high or low.
(The Hunger Games come to mind as a good example of tension on every page.)
Yet, another great article on creating tension at the Flogging the Quill blog.
You don’t have to create overt conflict on every page—a story with strong stakes and consequences makes it possible to use impending conflict to keep building tension in a reader. There will be tension on every page even without direct conflict. Have those happy moments, but create “when-will-the-trouble-I-know-is-coming-strike?” story questions that foreshadow trouble which will damage or diminish the protagonist.
Oh look, time for more cough medicine. Got any great book recommendations showcasing great tension? I’m almost finished with book three. And I hope this cold is finished with me.