Learning to Create Tension

Tension Ropes MFThis week, I’ve been doing a lot of research on tension and the art of hitting tension points to keep the reader on the edge of their seat.

I’m an outliner. I like knowing and remembering what scenes I want to go where. It keeps the story moving forward in my head and hopefully moving forward for the reader.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally veer away from the outline when the characters decide to go in a slightly different direction. But having a map means my characters and I don’t get completely lost.

Many of us enjoyed watching the Back to the Future movies this week. Like most people, I’ve seen all three several times. This time, I watched with a writer’s eye and discovered something fairly interesting: Even though these movies are not classified as action movies, there’s a ton of action.

Let me break it down even further. There’s no soggy center. Each scene moves the story forward and keeps the audience engaged.

So, how do I apply this to my own writing?

  • Each scene should present a conflict for our hero/heroine which ties into the overall story conflict.
  • The reader needs to learn something valuable from each scene. If you can cut the scene out completely and have it not change anything about the story, then you don’t need it.
  • Backstory needs to be weaved into the narrative or dialogue gently. Dumping will bore the reader. Only details that reveal information critical to the story need to be included.

I’ve been using an awesome outlining tool I downloaded from Ally Bishop over at Upgrade Your Story, which gives you a clear cut layout of where the tension beats need to be. She offers it on her website Upgrade Your Story for free. I highly recommend it.

But I’m also trying to fine tune my outline to make sure each scene contains its own great tension in my current WIP. I’m outlining to avoid a soggy center from the get go. I want my future readers turning pages, eager to find out what’s going to happen next. I’ve learned that chapter breaks should not be a convenient place for the reader to put down the book, but rather only a change of scene, taking the reader right back to the middle of the next action.

I think by fine tuning my outline, I can develop the high-tension scenes I’m looking for and cut out the potential for any lull that could lure the reader into taking a break.

I’m excited to see how it changes the way my WIP comes together.

Author PicI was born and raised in San Francisco, CA, and have a husband and two children. Music is an addiction. I can often be found in the car, singing along at the top of my lungs to whatever is playing. I work full time, and I split my spare time between family, reading, blogging, and writing. I’m a habitual quoter. Lines from films and TV shows constantly pop into my head—my kids are the only ones that really get it. I’m an only child, and so of course I married a man who is one of ten children. Other than English, I speak Spanish, Moroccan, and a little French. I love to travel, but don’t do enough of it. Reading has been a passion for most of my life and I now love writing. I’m klutz, and in my own mind, I’m hilarious.

Find me at http://www.yoursweetandspicyromanceauthor.com/

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