When we think about our favorite books, the ones that left us breathless and turning pages at 3 in the morning, we need to talk about tension. Tension is what kept us up waiting to see what happened next. Tension is the anticipation a reader feels waiting for each outcome of the story. So how do we add tension to our stories? Let’s take a look.
The first step to storytelling is the hero has to have a goal. They must want something and move towards accomplishing that. Then conflict occurs, obstacles to the hero getting what she wants are introduced. These stumbling blocks make the story. And these two combine to add tension to the story. The first thing you want to keep in mind is not to give the reader too much information that leads to spilling the beans on the outcome and therefore killing your tension. Let bad things happen to your hero and let your hero fail. If your hero always wins there’s no tension. The reader knows the hero will win against anything that happens to them so what’s the point of reading on? Easy wins equal a boring read.
Have your characters fight. Nothing is more boring than everyone getting along. Add tension to the relationships between your characters. Make the story world imperfect. Flaws in society will cause even more conflict for your characters, which equals tension. Up the ante. Raise the stakes for the character and double the tension. Make your hero struggle to obtain his goal. Struggle makes for suspense which feeds your tension. And finally, don’t wrap things up early. Leave resolutions for the very last moment, if not the end. If one conflict must be resolved, introduce a new conflict first, before you wrap things up.
Adding tension to your story will help make it one of those page turners we all love so keep these tips in mind as you work on your WiP. What tips do you have for creating tension in your stories? Comment below and happy writing.