Tag Archive - tension

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…

Layering Tension in Happyland

This month we’ve been attacking Fatal Flaw #7—Lack of Pacing and Tension. Tension is crucial in a story. Without it, readers will stop reading. Pacing is linked to tension, and there are many ways to ensure strong pacing in a novel. Today editor Robin Patchen shows how writers can take those dull “happy” scenes and infuse them with tension.

We’ve been talking tension and pacing this month, and today I’m going to add to our discussion by looking at layering undertones of tension in your scenes.

There are a lot of ways to add tension to your novels. You can have characters who disagree, characters who want conflicting things, characters fighting battles against villains and weather and animals and, often, friends and siblings and parents.

But some segments of scenes have no inherent tension. You have to get your character into a position where the bad thing—whatever it is—can happen, but until the bad thing happens, everything seems fine. How do you bring tension into scenes like that?

That’s where those subtle undertones come in.

Take a look at these Before and After passages and see if you notice the difference in tension. Continue Reading…

Tension and Pacing Through Conflict and Emotional Narrative

This month we’ve been attacking Fatal Flaw #7—Lack of Pacing and Tension. Tension is crucial in a story. Without it, readers will stop reading. Pacing is linked to tension, and there are many ways to ensure strong pacing in a novel. Take a look at what editor Christy Distler suggests to create strong pacing and tension through conflict and emotional narrative.

This month we’ve been talking about tension and pacing in fiction. As a quick review, tension is what motivates your reader to keep turning the pages of the story. It grabs their attention and makes them want (or, even better, need) to know what’s going to happen next.

Pacing is the rate at which a story is told, and it can vary from slow to fast depending on several factors—for example: the characters, the setting, or the scene’s action (or lack of it). While pacing is always present and tension isn’t, both require good storytelling if they’re to work in a writer’s favor.

Two great ways of keeping up the tension and pacing are through the use of conflict and emotional narrative. Conflict, or a character’s opposition with other characters or circumstances (or both), keeps a story interesting. Emotional narrative invokes readers’ interest by allowing them to get to know a character and care about what happens to him or her. If a character’s inner thoughts and motivations aren’t shown, he or she seems more like a puppet just going through the motions. Continue Reading…

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