Things Are Getting Tense

What’s up with the weather? Lately the days have reminded me of September and October. Color has appeared in some of the foliage. That’s okay. I like the fall, but I wonder what October will bring. Regardless of what it’s like in your area, I hope you are continuing to use your God-given gift of imagination. Whether you write or just read, your imagination is a necessity, so use it wisely. Now on to our topic – tension.

I don’t doubt that what every writer loves to hear from their audience is, “I couldn’t put down the book.” There may be several things that enter that mix to cause that reaction, but one of them certainly is tension.

When you think about it, most fiction carries the same plot. Your protagonist needs or wants something and sprinkled throughout are obstacles attempting to prevent his/her attainment. Yes, your characters have unique personalities. The twists and turns may different from other books. Particular obstacles line your pages. But is that enough?

Probably not. It’s tension that keeps the pages turning. Consider the following:

  • Ask yourself, what’s the worst that could happen? Then deliver. Put your character in an impossible situation that only gets worse as the plot progresses. Let the bad guy temporarily win. A hostage is held at gunpoint. What’s the worst that could happen? Remember to show, not tell. But remember also that if the hostage is your protagonist, you need to create a way for him to escape.

A peeping Tom appears at a window. What’s the worst that could
happen? Keep it clean, but be sure to bring out the emotion of that
terrifying moment.

A child is abducted in a supermarket. What’s the worst that could happen? You decide, then make it happen.

  • Create tough situations. You may love your characters, but put them in some uncomfortable circumstances.

    Your protagonist’s boss just fired him and the bills are piling up with no relief in sight.

    An arsonist burns a homeless shelter to the ground. Tough situation – now what’s the worst that could happen?

    A coworker flirts with your character and wants to spend time with him. The problem is, he is happily married, but the pressure is getting heavy. Is he willing to risk it all, or remain true?
  • Raise the Stakes. It’s not enough to just add tension. Things have to be getting worse for character as the story progresses. It may even be a they lose all hope situation. Perhaps the villain kidnaps your main man to get him to cooperate with his evil plan. When your character doesn’t give in, your antagonist reveals he also has his wife and family locked away in another room, and anything but complete obedience will bring them death as well. Keep it going. Fill the pages with tension, and your readers will read.

Okay, that’s enough. I’m going to go enjoy some of this fall weather. See you in seven.


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