Ever have a scene that just didn’t hold your readers’ attention? How about an info dump you couldn’t eliminate because it contained vital information?
Janice Hardy offers some good tips for correcting both of these issues in her articles “Ready, Set…Where’s the Action? Keeping Informative Scenes Tense” and “Is a Lack of Action Really the Problem?”
When it comes to adding tension to a story, I personally am a fan of:
- two characters with conflicting opinions going head-to-head
- no-win situations
- point of no return decisions (especially when the protagonist has to choose whether or not to rely on someone who may or may not be trustworthy)
I hope Janice Hardy’s articles give you some good ideas for how to raise the tension in your scenes and keep your readers hooked.
One important element to storytelling is tension. No one wants to read a bland story. Readers want the protagonist’s urgency to transport them from one event to the next. If something is not emotionally, financially, physically, politically, relationally, or spiritually important to the protagonist, why should the reader care?
Any situation or task, however boring or mundane, can become stressful and increase the tension of your story if the conditions are right.
Have you ever been in a car with someone who was mad at you or walked into a room where someone was crying? Awkward! How about doing your taxes, mailing them in two days before they’re due, and then realizing that you did them incorrectly? (Yeah, that one might be somewhat autobiographical, and I still have the second set of Certified Mail receipts to prove it.)
Choose one or more of the activities below and write a tense scene. If it has potential, try developing the story beyond just that scene. In order to achieve the desired level of tension, you will have to do some character development.
- Eating cereal
- Getting the mail
- Grocery shopping
- Going to the dentist (Okay, this is an easy one.)
- Returning a phone call