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Tips for Adding Tension to
Imagine you plunk down $1.50 for the Sunday paper and the headline reads, Some Stuff Happened But We Didnt Feel Like Researching it, Check Back Tomorrow. Youd be upset and probably want your money back. After all if those lazy reporters cant do their jobs then why should you waste your money?
Yet, there are countless books out there with chapters where nothing really happens. Why should a reader waste their time?
If dramatic tension stays flat chapter after chapter why are those chapters in the book? Exposition? Boring! Look for these tension killers and eliminate them.
Repetitiveness - Writers want to make sure the reader understands whats happening in the story. Then make sure what you wrote was clear the first time, instead of slowing the pace by repeating yourself.
Rambling Man - Moving characters from one place to another, can slow the pace of a story. If one scene is in the living room and the next dramatic scene is in a grocery store, the reader doesnt need to follow the character into the garage, out the driveway, past the church at the end of the block, waving to Mrs. Johnson You see my point here, right? If there isnt a horrendous collision that sends your character into a coma, ala soap writing 101, somewhere on the way to the store your reader will lose interest. End the scene in the living room, add an extra line and then begin the scene at the store.
A Whole Lot of Thinking Going On -- If your character is having a problem with indecision dont let them sit around thinking. Get their problems out of their head and into dialog. Better yet, add a scene that shows the characters indecision through their action or inaction.
DANGER, DANGER! Is your character in enough danger from one chapter to the next? Danger can take many different forms. The easiest and most obvious is the physical danger. Dont forget to use emotional danger. You as the writer have a moral responsibility to torture these characters as much as you can. Pile on the emotional danger along with the physical and see where that leads you. Moriarity he aint! -- Your antagonist must be as smart or even smarter than your protagonist to create dramatic tension. If your antagonist is as bumbling as the three stooges then your reader wont be interested enough to keep turning the page.
next step is a doozy! --- Is your protagonists goal clear
and are they taking a step closer in each chapter? Think
of your story as a rollercoaster. Without the slow climb
toward the giant hill and killer loops, the ride wouldnt
be as satisfying. Dont deprive your reader. Notch
them up the hill slowly but make sure each chapter is
another step up and not a plateau.