Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Creating Tension

As novelists we are always being taught to create TENSION. Sometimes this is laughable because, seriously, do we really need to learn this.

I had tension at dinner time when my daughter was throwing her food.

And what about earlier this week when I realized I need 2 washer & dryers in order to get enough laundry done in an afternoon.

The Major and I are considering how our first deployment is going to go in a few months.

Sometimes our lives don't need ANY. MORE. TENSION!

Link for image: HERE
But, {sigh} alas we must.

Watch any reality show and you'll learn what you need to know about tension. Producers are amazing at this. They find the spark and BANG...that's not only the clip that gets into the preview but you, as the watcher, are waiting...waiting...waiting for it. Like who's Project Runway design looked like a Halloween costume instead of super expensive & chic? (by the way, last week it was JOSH's awfully pretty in the front awfully awful in the back get-up that he designed!)

Or on Design Star who's paired up with who and complaining about not being the leader or hates the color on that person's wall. Or the person who CONSTANTLY is talking about EVERYTHING they are good at and what they've done for the past 15 years. Seriously...that makes me tense just thinking back to the last season.

It's why we watch, right? Okay, maybe not the ONLY reason why we watch, but it definitely helps the stakes to be high enough that we want to see WHO WILL WIN!

So as a writer, it is what I must do. Raise the stakes. Give the characters something to lose and the reader something to invest in. I'm learning. I'm learning. I'm learning...

YOUR TURN: It's all about tension! Don't you hate a scene that has chit-chat...uh, how are you? I'm fine. You? Yep, I'm good. BORING! What's a pet peeve of yours when you read and it seems like the tension is a flop. Tell me. Tell me. I really want to know!


PS: What am I reading? WHITE by Ted Dekker. A-mazing!


Melissa Tagg said...

Hey Elizabeth - I met you at ACFW through Roxanne...I saw your blog link on facebook and literally laughed out loud because this morning I attempted to craft a scene (um in my head, while still in bed)...and I just couldn't find the tension. Finally I decided if there wasn't any tension, then the scene was pointless...and I fell back asleep. True story.

By the way, Ted Dekker's Circle series is incredible. White is fabulous!! (Wasn't a huge fan of Green, but the other three blew. me. away...)

mrskingsbury71 said...

I'm not sure this is what you are looking for...but when I am reading, my biggest pet peeve, and it does take away from any tension that may be building, is a misspelled word or misuse of grammar. In the world where we have spell & grammar check, we have become lazy, they don't catch everything. You can type in a word that is spelled correctly, but is the wrong word or the wrong use, such as whose vs. who's or its vs. it's.

David said...

I was reading the same advice in a craft book, and I was also arguing with it a little in my head. I was thinking that I like to read for relaxation/escape and the wonder of another world (why I read & write fantasy). After thinking some more about it, there's still an level of tension in the low-tension books I thought of as examples. The tension may be a different flavor and a different level than than the suspense stories we first think of when we think of tension, but it's still the tension that draws us into the story and makes it good.

Jackie said...

Hi Elizabeth,
I love when the tension is so tight that my heart races. I hate when it's so tight I can't sleep.
Brandilyn Collins' books, I won't even read if I'm home alone at night. And I love her books! She's great at tension.
Thanks for sharing!

Suzanne said...

The reason I had some ho hum scenes in my first novel (before some wonderful critique partners instructed me the error of my ways) was that I liked my characters too much. Yes, I had plenty of action in my story, but I had passed by many opportunities to add more tension because I didn't want my characters to suffer any more than they had to. I'm very thankful my crit partners helped me to learn this (and even gave me some wonderful ideas that are now incorporated into the book), and I'm sure my readers will be too, as it is a much better book because of it.