I try and learn as much as I can from the books I read—even the terrible ones. One thing I’ve noticed about the bad published books I’ve read lately is there is a lack of tension.
Tension is an ABSOLUTE must!!! I think the more the better. So what can you do to add more or fix the tension you have?
What to do:
- Big tension. Have overarching tension, a problem that starts at the beginning of the books and follows the characters around like a black cloud. This tension will only be resolved at the end of the book.
- Small tension. Tension should peak and resolve over and over. Small bits of changing tension will push people to read your story.
- Use setting. The emotion of a place can really increase the emotion in your character. Cut off escape routes and narrow options.
- Add potential threats. Potential sometimes has more power than actuality. What could go wrong? Play that up!
- Put your characters in danger. Physical danger. Emotional danger. Psychological danger. But don’t forget to have them react!
- Choices. Force your characters to make impossible choices. Choices between people. Choices that are all terrible.
What NOT to do:
- Don’t rely on the overarching tension to carry the story. It will always be there, but it is usually not enough.
- Don’t undermine your tension. If the situation is scary don’t have your characters making out :) Character reactions add to the tension. Use them.
- Long lyrical sentences and paragraphs don’t really add tension. They take time to read and understand. Keep it short and simple. Faster reads speed up tension.
I hope that helps a little. Tell me what has helped you to add more tension to your stories.