Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tension in our writing

Don't forget to enter the title contest to win a Barnes & Noble gift card + a goodies basket from my local coffee shop, Village Coffee. Only two more weeks to enter. 

The horse show was super fantastic. We had such a great time and Ivy made all of her jumps and patterns. She did an outstanding job. Ans she vows to go back next year, too. =)

Tension! We all face it in life. It's a given. Some of us daily. (If you have teenagers.) Especially girls.

Think of old movies. Every second of tension in a old horror movie is captured for our viewing pleasure. Even in old romance movies there is a lot of tension. Tension makes us watch on. Tension holds us to our seats. We can't wait to see what will happen next.

The same goes for our writing. Tension! Showing every second of the danger and action. Let your scene unfold in your head like a movie. Play it out. What made you grip your seat? Write it! 

I once read that interrupted action adds to the tension for the reader as much as the actual cliffhanger does. It causes stress and that's exactly what we want. =)

Distraction. It stops the action and adds even more tension, because now the reader must wait to see what will happen. More stress for the reader. Lovely isn't it?

Help the character to make mistakes. Now that can really add to the tension. A mistake can be as simple as saying no instead of yes. Or loosing an important email, that gives the oh so important phone number. Plot situations that boggle the mind. And make the reader read on.

Do shorter sentences help create tension. You betcha! What about word choice? Uhhuh. Words with harsh sounds in them, "shut up!", create tension. While words with a more softer feel and sound bring the reader into their happy place.  She longed to be kissed by him as he draped his arms around her. Okay bad example, I'm not a romance writer. =) But you get the message. I hope.

There a lots of ways to bring tension into your scenes. And add stress to your reader. And that's what we all want.   Thanks for reading. :)


  1. Agreed, Robyn. I find that short snappy sentences, sometiems even one word, helps a lot with the build up of tension. I always read my work out loud and if it sounds 'tense' and quick paced when i read it, then i know i'm on the right track!

  2. Great points Robyn! Tension is the arch that every story is built on.

    I love to read it and I love to create it.

  3. I'm working hard on creating more tension in my stories, so this is a great post to prompt me to do more. I like that you mention distraction. I never really think about it, but it always creates more suspense. It always makes me want to read more to see what will happen. Thanks for this great post!

  4. Such a timely post! I'm doing the "final" edits (save for the galley proofs) on "The Rhythm of Secrets" and am adding a bit of tension here and there.

  5. Excellent and useful and new to me!

    Thanks a bunch!

  6. Glad to hear Ivy made her jumps and you had a great time. There's plenty of tension in competition, for sure. Nicely done--both of you.

  7. Great post, my friend. Another way is to end chapters with a cliffhanger. The reader has to turn the page to find out what's going to happen next. Delayed satisfaction. Or, as one author writing from multiple perspectives did: had 1st perspective get hit by a car at the end of the 1st 1/3 of the book. The author then switched to a different perspective for the next 1/3 of the book. Talk about tension. Geesh.

    I much prefer the cliffhanger chapter thingy, but I'm just brilliant that way. Ha!

  8. Lou, I agree, girl. One word is all it takes. I discovered that in my MG novel. I used one word that really picked up the pace and tension. It worked great. =)

  9. Tamika, Exactly! I love to read it and I want my readers to read it too. =)

  10. Hey Cindy girl. Distraction distracts and always makes the reader worry. I love making the reader worry. Tension is something that all writers need to work on. Not just you. =)

  11. Patti, the galley proofs. I can't wait until I can say that. It has a certain 'ring' to it. =)

  12. Sandi, it is exciting, isn't it? This writing thing. I know you will bring the words to life. I'm very excited that you have decided to do this. =)

  13. Pat, thanks girl. She is very excited and so am I. She's made an excellent horseback rider. And I hope one day I will make an excellent writer.

  14. Scott, YIKES! I actually meant to put something down about cliffhangers. But you are right, pal -o- mine. I prefer the cliffhanger chapter thang too. =) How'd you get so smart? Shhh, don't tell anyone I said that.

  15. Tension is an oh so wonderful thing in our writing. With our teenage girls, not so much. I hear ya! Glad the horse show went well.

  16. Excellent post, Robyn! Tension is such a powerful tool in our writing. I think shorter sentences - and even some fragments - go a long way toward adding to tension. Good stuff here today, girl! :-)

  17. Agree with all your points! Great post, it makes you think. Also glad to hear Ivy had so much fun and did so well! Good for her!

  18. Wow this is a FANTASTIC post! Tension is a toughy. I'm tense by nature, though:/

  19. This is really a great post Robyn! The human experience is full of tension, anticipation, release, and engagement. Writers can add so much pull to their prose by keeping these ideas in mind.

  20. Good post! Tension is so important, but so is the right balance. Sometimes there's so much tension that there's no room for the reader to relax and there's no room for character growth. Then if there's too little, it can become boring.

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