Creating Tension in Your Writing

At the heart of just about any piece of fiction is conflict. Will the hero get the girl? Will the heroine slay the dragon? Will the villain triumph? But in order to have conflict, there must be some tension as our character’s attempts to achieve his goals are thwarted again and again. How do you create that tension? Here’s a great list of 25 tips and tricks to get you started from Terrible Minds. There is some colorful language in that list, though. Nothing outrageously NSFW, but bear it in mind when deciding to click.

What I especially loved about this list is that some of the advice gets you to reveal more information, not less. If you want your reader to be on the edge of his or her seat for a long period of time, your reader needs to know more than your characters. Here’s a great video of Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, explaining why this is so. For the “less is more” crowd, these tips might be hard to swallow, but your tension will be profoundly enhanced by revealing more information sometimes.

But don’t think this list is just a checklist of plot points. Some of the items are about character. Your audience must care for your characters. There must be some sympathy there. That way, when your character unknowingly walks into danger or makes a huge mistake, your audience will have an emotional reaction. That emotion creates engagement on the part of the reader. They will want to see the consequences of these actions.

Well-drawn characters and an interesting plot. See, fiction’s not so hard after all. Now get writing. Keep up those NaNoWriMo totals!