Understanding the power of writing tension is essential to creating engaging and captivating stories. Tension, when used effectively, can make a story come alive, and can be used to build suspense, create conflict, and develop character arcs. By learning how to utilize tension in their writing, fiction writers can ensure that their stories are entertaining and memorable. In this blog post, we will discuss the different ways to increase tension between characters in your fiction writing.
WHAT IS TENSION?
Tension can come from a number of elements, be it a conflict of interest or a race against time. but in most cases, it reflects the obstacle your characters must overcome in order to evolve and or reach their goals or destination. As an author, you have an endless abundance of life situations to help you build tension into your story structure for maximum writing improvement.
WHY IS TENSION IMPORTANT?
Simply put, life doesn’t come easy. So, neither should your character’s life.
Your story’s arc relies on your character overcoming obstacles in order to persevere. Thus, the greater the challenge, the more involved your readers are likely to become.
Higher stakes mean page-turner your readers. Tension is one of the most effective tools for writing improvement. It acts as a kind of emotional scaffolding around your story structure and gives it dimension and depth. Through tension, you can show the complexity of your characters and let them grow and change through their experiences.
Tension can also be used as a catalyst for conflict between characters. As a writer, you can create tension by having characters that have different goals and opinions butting heads. This will create an atmosphere where disagreements and misunderstandings between them will arise naturally, and they can either be solved or lead to further conflict that drives your plot forward. You can also add tension by creating an atmosphere of uncertainty or danger that can drive characters into difficult situations that must be resolved for them to continue with their journey. A powerful way to increase tension is by adding elements such as ticking clocks and limited resources that require quick decision-making from the characters and create a sense of urgency and immediacy in their decisions and actions.
WAYS TO CREATE TENSION:
The first step is to know what your character’s goals are. What do they want most in life? What heroics must they accomplish? Once you have that figured out, now ask, “What is the worst thing that could happen to get in the way?”
Introducing obstacles will help to heighten the stakes and create tension in your writing. Incorporating this into story structure can be a powerful writing improvement tool – creating obstacles for your characters gives them something difficult to overcome and for readers it creates a suspenseful atmosphere and a gripping story arc. Ask yourself how these obstacles create tension and how these conflicts can be solved – these conflicts should drive and influence each other within the story and increase the tension between characters. Keep adding scenes that expand on these conflicts and ensure readers become more invested as the story progresses. A great writing improvement tip would be to look at how experienced writers set up their stories – from there, learn how to introduce twists and setbacks into stories as this will be a great tool for building tension between characters. To make this even more effective, look at how far apart each event should be spaced – if it’s too close then readers won’t experience enough time to feel suspense and tension building.
TIPS TO INCREASE TENSION:
So have you discovered what the worst thing could be? Good, now double down. Yes, that’s what I said; come up with a problem then make it twice as bad. Or create a chain reaction of things going wrong.
This is a great way to not only increase tension, but also to show how a single decision can lead to increasingly dire consequences. It also helps to provide structure for your story and keeps it progressing forward. If you find yourself stuck for ideas, try looking for writing improvement opportunities by asking yourself questions such as: “What is the next logical consequence of my characters’ decisions?” or “What would happen if someone made the wrong decision?” By brainstorming these possibilities by constantly asking, “What else could possibly go wrong?” and exploring multiple avenues, you can find ways to further increase tension and take your story to the next level.
Additionally, look for ways to build tension into your story structure. Use suspenseful chapter endings and cliffhangers to leave your readers hanging, and sprinkle clues and foreshadowing throughout your story to ensure they are always on the edge of their seats. Keeping the reader guessing and weaving tension through your story structure will leave them wanting more!
EXAMPLES OF TENSION IN ACTION:
In my book, TIME: Wounds All Heal from the Teddy Bear Collection, Channing Maroussas is a journalist who traveled into a war-torn middle east to follow a story of corruption. Chris Sayer, an agent within the CIA’s black ops, is sent after him to silence him, but on a personal level he wants to save him. It also may be his only chance to let him know he loves him.
For Channing, learning of Chris’s love is a dream he never expected to come true but couldn’t have come at a worse time. He’s hot on the trail of corruption and he isn’t about to let Chris drag him back until he has the proof he needs to break the story, even if it means ISIS taking his head off for it.
Tension starter: Channing travels into a war zone.
Tension builds up: CIA sends Chris after him.
Tension conflict of interest: Chris is in love with Channing.
Tension level up: Channing won’t leave until he has what he came for.
Tension life in dyers: Enemies capture and threaten Channing’s life.
Resolution: Chris’s extraction order is now a rescue mission.
The above formula creates some dramatic ‘edge of your seat’ reading.
Let’s look at another example:
Let’s say your character, “Streven, is a highly skilled mountain climber and has been hired by the town of Andonsborough to climb and retrieve a rare energy crystal found only on top of their sacred mountain which has the power to heal. Along the climb, Streven encounters a yeti and out of fear runs but becomes wounded. His wounds so severe he can neither finish the climb nor return down the mountain. His only hope is to be rescued.”
So far, the tension is only mild. So now, let’s up the tension.
“Eivindur has been watching through the telescope for days, knowing Streven should have reached the summit by now. So why hasn’t he set his flag up to signal him? Only one possible reason and that is his friend is in danger. So that afternoon he sets out to rescue Streven. However, a snowstorm rolls in, making it difficult to see and perilously sends Eivindur’s snowmobile off a ledge and tumbles down.
Streven saw the crash. Though injured, the crash isn’t far, and he just might be able to make it to the snowmobile and his friend Eivindur. But the storm is getting worse and time for them both is running out.”
To increase tension even further and give the story structure, you can add an additional obstacle like a rival team who is also looking for the same rare energy crystal. This adds an element of competition as each team tries to get to the summit first and gain the energy crystal’s power before anyone else does. Moreover, writing improvement could involve having unexpected twists such as if the yeti offers some help with the healing process or if the rival team discovers something about the crystal’s power that nobody else knows about.
These elements will help build suspense and create anticipation throughout the story, pushing characters to strive harder against seemingly insurmountable odds in order to reach their goals and be successful in obtaining the crystal’s power.
So there you have it, tensions is an important structural part of your story, so don’t leave it out. Have fun with it and don’t be shy about leveling up on the trouble your characters can get into. Your readers will thank you for the adventure.
Let us know how this article has helped you by leaving a comment below and HAPPY WRITING!!