We solve all sorts of problems on the first or second try in real life. We keep tension down. But with stories we don’t want to eliminate tension. We want to build it.
Archive for the ‘The Craft of Writing’ Category
Let’s say water starts dripping out of the light fixture right above your kitchen table. Maybe the wiring in the light starts to spark. What do you do?
I’m usually a bit reluctant about using writing prompts that are offered to a group because of the danger of similarity in stories and because a given prompt may or may not interest me personally. The Wikipedia Prompt Trails approach appeals to me because it offers individually-tailored prompts instead, avoiding both problems.
Key Conditions for Suspense:
Part 13 – Make the problem hard to solve
with growing troubles & surprise
The moment you solve all the problems in the story, the story is over because the readers have nothing more to worry about. Troubles allow the story to progress and grow.
I’m surprised quite often how little or ill thought-out the political and economic infrastructure of secondary worlds can be. How the hell do people get food to eat? How do they earn their money? What are their voting rights and what stops people from rising up against their governments?
Remember, the better the opposition, the more tension the reader will feel because a formidable opponent increases the chances in the reader’s mind that the hero will fail.
Display your command of language. It’s worthwhile for a writer to think about poetry, and all its devices like assonance and alliteration, metaphor and allusion, internal rhythm, even meter.
Readers want to hope and fear for a character. To feel this, they must not know what WILL happen, but do need to suspect or know what MIGHT happen and feel tension about the possibilities.
Character and problem by themselves don’t go anywhere. You still have to build reader tension to a sharp point. So how do you do that?
Writing is a risky career choice and one that doesn’t always yield a lot of concrete reward or social approval. But if one pretends it’s not a choice, then one doesn’t have to worry about those things, or at least not in the same way.