Last month I looked at how tension emerges on the page when apparently nothing is happening. The inverse of that is when high action hits with bullets whining, cars careening and explosions mushrooming.
You’d think that high action would be the most riveting stuff in any novel, but strangely it often is easy to skim. C’mon, be honest. You’ve skimmed some action, haven’t you?
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending a day with Chi-Libris, a group of published authors of Christian fiction. Late in the day we tackled micro-tension. A participant offered a paragraph from a WIP in which a cougar carried a toddler across a stream (in its mouth, in case you were wondering), pursued by the story’s protagonist.
The passage was well written, visually clear—and not particularly scary. When I asked, “What do you think will happen next?” hardly anyone was stirred to speculate. I then asked, “How can we add tension?”
As I expected, most suggestions focused on making the cougar more menacing, raising the stakes (the toddler is a Senator’s child!), changing the protagonist’s actions, etc. No improvement. The outcome still didn’t matter to most.
Then came a suggestion that held the key to increasing tension: heighten the emotions of the point-of-view character. Even better, create conflicting emotions. Bingo. Suddenly the moment sprang to life. Both the interest level and uncertainty of the outcome spiraled up… [Read more…]