Dos and Don’ts for Creating Tension

Dos and Don’ts for Creating Tension
July 5, 2016 1 Comment For Authors, Writing Advice J.K. Allen

Tension is the interplay of conflicting elements in fiction. It is the anticipation of upcoming events due to curiosity or concern for the character.

Conflict arises from the opposing goals the protagonist and antagonist have and the obstacles the antagonist provides for the protagonist. This conflict leads to tension, which keeps readers turning pages to find out what happens next. Will the hero win in the end? Will they overcome all obstacles? This is your tension in your story so let’s take a look at some dos and don’ts for building tension.

DO: Do keep tension going throughout. Meaning introduce a new element of tension when the previous tension has been resolved. So when your hero overcomes an obstacle, give him another problem to deal with.

DON’T: Don’t make obstacles too easy. Really let your hero struggle and fail. If he wins every time, there’s no question he’ll win in the end and if there’s no question, there’s no need to keep reading.

DO: Do have characters who argue or don’t get along. We disagree with people all the time in real life and it gets boring when all your characters are perfectly chummy. Have your main characters disagree about something to add more tension to your story.

DON’T: Don’t let things wrap up too easily or too soon. The point of tension is the anticipation from an event, so don’t resolve lines of tension too early, leaving readers with no other questions to be answered. Let anticipation build and introduce another obstacle when one’s been overcome. Make the reader wait to find out how it went.

These should help you build tension, making your story into a page turner. What story did tension best in your opinion? Share below and happy writing.

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Looking for more advice on writing action? Check out this guest post by Ell Meadow, and this post on great openings.

J.K. Allen Julia Allen received her BA in Creative Writing and English from Michigan State University. She did her senior thesis in poetry under the tutelage of Diane Wakoski, but has been focused primarily on fiction as of late. Common writing themes that can be found in her work address identity and the type of strength that can be found in ordinary people. Julia is currently working on a Young Adult fantasy novel and can be found at local cafes in her hometown when writing, and painting, drawing, or reading when not.

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