Tag Archive - tension

Creating Tension in Fiction Scenes

Today’s guest post is by Erick Mertz.

One of the things writers commonly ask me is, how do I create more compelling scenes? How do accomplish the elusive gold standard of “show but don’t tell”?

If you have written for any amount of time, you’ve probably been given feedback along those lines. For any number of reasons, the story feels weak. The prose is filled with soft spots. Maybe the characters come off as flat. Somewhere between inspiration and execution, the story lost some necessary life.

Writers receive these types of comments for any number of reasons. Sometimes it is because of a lack of clarity in a scene or the need for vivid color in a particular description. Other times it is a matter of repetition. One section of a manuscript too closely resembles another, or else it outright mimics it. But, in my experience, one reason tends to rise above the others: a lack of conflict.

Focusing your writing on a series of strongly rooted conflicts is the best way to elevate your storytelling. In bigger terms, these would be defined as the archetypal clashes of person versus person, person versus self, or person versus machine, just to name a few. When characters are at odds with something or someone, the stakes in the story naturally ramp up, and the quality of prose follows. Continue Reading…

How To Write A Perfect Cliff-Hanger

Today’s guest post is by Rachael Cooper.

Fiction thrives on conflict. Whether it’s a bank robbery or a breakup, our best stories tend to be about people striving to achieve something while other people and events get in their way. In stories, conflict drives the plot, and the plot is what keeps readers reading.

Your job as a storyteller is to captivate your reader. A good story should be impossible to put down. You want to get your reader dying to see what happens next.

With so many distractions out there, this can appear impossible, but don’t worry—there are plenty of ways writers grab and hold their reader’s attention.

From well-crafted characters to plot twists to sharp dialogue, there is a selection of skills and techniques you should try to hone in your writing game to keep your reader on the edge of their seat. One of my favorite ways to hook a reader, and keep them hooked, is by using cliff-hangers.

In this post, I’ll be drilling down into the world of cliff-hangers. I’ll discuss the mechanics of cliff-hangers as well as the best ways to use cliff-hangers in your stories. There will also be plenty of examples of cliff-hangers from great writers and stories to help you see their potential. Plus, I’ll share some of the best tips I’ve come across on how to write the perfect cliff-hanger. Continue Reading…

4 Key Ways to Ramp Up Tension and Pacing in Your Fiction

This month we’ve been looking at pacing and tension, the fiction writer’s Fatal Flaw #7. This isn’t always easy for writers to assess in their scenes. How can you tell if your scene is dragging and there is little tension?

Our four editors explored some great ways to ramp up tension and pacing in novel scenes. To reiterate, here are some key points:

1)  Inner and outer conflict. First, overall, you want to have your pages full to the brim with conflict. Meaningful conflict. Showing a character fussing for a full page about her lousy manicure isn’t all that meaningful.

Now, that situation could be the center of a really hilarious comedic moment, and if so, terrific. Humor—great humor—is so often overlooked, and it ramps up pacing and engages readers. But not all novels are chock-full of funny moments.

Conflict is tension. Meaningful conflict creates strong tension. Hemingway said, “Don’t mistake movement for action.” Just because you have a lot of things happening, plot-wise, doesn’t mean anything is really happening. You could have tons of exciting car chases and plane crashes and shoot-outs and the reader could be dozing off, nose planting into your book. Continue Reading…

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