These small tips are my Season’s Greetings to you all!! And maybe I’m making a small statement about 2020?
I hope you enjoy!
Conflict and Tension
Every story benefits by having high tension and strong conflict. First drafts are generally not high tension drafts – it isn’t until revision that I add as much tension as I can. Not only is tension crucial to keeping reader engagement at the broadest level of a story – micro-tension is made by certain word choices and sentence structures and must be deliberately added.
I turned to a random sentence in The Artifact Hunters and found this: “The door blew open and Kat raced into the room.” Both of those verbs, “blew” and “raced”, ratchet up the tension in the scene.
But, great conflict isn’t about constant confrontation or physical danger. Internal conflict is even more important, even when not fully understood by the character until near the end of the book.
Ask, what is going on inside the character? What does the character really want, need, desire? That longing – for love, security, approval, etc. – underlies every action that the character takes, for good or ill. In Faithful, my main character Maggie desperately wants to find her mother. This longing drives everything she does, even to the point of making poor choices that endanger those she cares about the most.
For much more on tension check out any of Donald Maass’s books, especially The Emotional Craft of Fiction.
My Round Two Writing Tips Are…
- Add tension at both the macro and micro levels. Be sure to select strong action verbs and solid nouns over adverbs and adjectives to describe tension.
- Internal conflict is just as, if not more important than, external conflict.
- Check out Donald Maass’s books for more on conflict and tension, and also James Scott Bell’s Conflict & Suspense.