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Useful writing blogs you visit or have heard. (1 Viewer)

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Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
https://mythcreants.com/blog/category/podcast/

After receiving good praise and a rejection saying that my manuscript lacked tension. He referred me to this website. That was the most honest and probably one of the best rejections I received. The publication required I write about a dyslexic character. The editor believed in giving me a chance. It seemed I was close but this topic below is what I lacked to attain in the whole manuscript.

https://mythcreants.com/?s=Tension


What are your personal favorite blogs and or writing websites?

My favorite topic on the blog is now tension.

I am subscribed to recieve updates from the editor since I told him that was one of the best critiques I got.


When we create tension in our narration, these are the questions we’re answering for our audience.

  • What is the problem? Your protagonist needs to face a nontrivial problem. If you’ve got one, you’re ready to go. If not, you’d better think about that.
  • What bad things could happen as a result? This tells the audience why they should care whether or not the protagonist succeeds in dealing with the issue. It’s often referred to as the stakes of the conflict.
  • Why will it be tough to avoid those bad things? Tension is created by a feeling of uncertainty about avoiding consequences. That means fixing the problem can’t look like a walk in the park.
  • Why must the protagonist act soon? Problems require some level of urgency to create tension, but depending on the problem, you might not need to add anything extra for this.
Why tension is missing? ( There is more at the website)
1. The Consequences of Failure Are Unknown

[FONT=&Verdana]Tension is created by the possibility that something bad might happen. For that to work, your audience must know about the bad thing. Storytellers often take it for granted that if they put their protagonist in a fight or another standard conflict, then the stakes of that conflict are known. But the audience might not realize that a fight is to the death or that an argument will determine whether the protagonist is imprisoned. To create tension, you need to actively inform your audience of what will happen if everything goes wrong.
[/FONT]

Even if your audience does know what’s at stake, describing it can help you increase tension. When the consequence of failure goes unmentioned, it doesn’t feel very important. However, if you remind them about what could happen, you’re also creating an opportunity to emphasize what a big deal the failure is and how hard it will be for the protagonist to avoid it.
Working this information into the narration is usually simple, particularly if you’re writing from the point of view of your protagonist. They’ll have plenty of reason to think over the obstacles they’re facing and worry about what could happen to them.
Example

Mitch McHero looked at the scared faces of his warriors, and then back at the lines of spears held by their enemy. His forces were outnumbered three to one. The only chance they had to escape the slavers was if he challenged their leader to single combat. But even if she accepted, she was known far and wide for her skill in combat. When she was done with him, he’d be no more than a bloody smear.

If you aren’t working in a narrated medium, you’ll want someone to say something like, “But you can’t challenge her to single combat! She’s the greatest warrior in the land. Once she’s done with you, you’ll be nothing but a bloody smear.”

https://mythcreants.com/blog/five-common-reasons-tension-is-missing/
 
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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I Like this point:

"To create tension, you need to actively inform your audience of what will happen if everything goes wrong."

And there are so many ways to inform them. For me I like to do it with conversations. For example, if the character is struggling at work, instead of saying the character is struggling and she may get fired, I prefer to have conversations between colleagues sharing their work frustrations at coffee, or having a boss looming around watching them when they have a laugh together when they are supposed to be working.

But this statement seems a bit overstated:

"When the consequence of failure goes unmentioned, it doesn’t feel very important."

I'm not 100% certain you need to be so specific. For example, everyone knows if you mess up at work, or fail to live up to expectations, you can get fired. But do you really have to mention that...or is it just a given? So I think for some tensions, you should be able to just let the reader use their own imagination. I think. :-k
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
I agree that the imagination can be used in your example to omit the missing piece of information. But I think of it as a decent way of constructing a story one piece of information at a time which can be edited out in a later draft. Say for instance you don't want to spoil the audience and you want to surprise them (Then the dialogue's subtext becomes better for your purpose). Then of course you could. Going by the website it seems like a useful way to think about the stakes. To make you feel the character's plight. For me the point seems to be if you lack tension to describe it seems a useful way as you said in dialogue. The writer who penned it said you could use it in dialogue and narration. He analyzes the Sword of Shannara. When reading a fictional work I find these guidelines useful in case you want to imitate some aspect of a certain work. The guidelines for me anyways are more questions readers would expect. For my manuscript it tapered in spots or was lacking. I consider this a good technique. A reminder of what the reader needs to worry about.

For your job example I sort of agree because it sounds as if applicable. But I think you can extend the scene to increase the tension of losing a job. Maybe the goal of the character could be to get a job but is opposed by someone who does not want to buy a house where there is a body that is hidden ( a murder mystery/thriller/detective mystery). That could be the plot development or source of conflict developed in dialogue. There is an increase in the stakes for my example. Maybe they don't want to sell the house. Maybe the body is of a missing family member ( stakes increased).

The goal must be opposed by some force and must have a motivation. I find this advice easy to understand unlike what I have been reading in the past.

So if you read their website they do mention dialogue as a way to present tension and there are more than 4 articles on tension. The whole website has a search engine. Type in tension and you will see many articles and maybe a podcast.

I still think it depends on what you are trying to do. As evidenced by my example and your example. So there is no right or wrong answer.
 
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VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
I used to browse through Grammar Girl's site from time to time. (quickanddirtytips.com) Unfortunately, she "upgraded" her site to an organizational format that's almost impossible to browse, or find older content. However, you can still Google something like "grammar girl affect vs effect" or "grammar girl semicolons" and get to a useful article.

It always amused me that the discussion of affect vs effect boils down to: affect is a verb and effect is a noun, except when affect is a noun and effect is a verb. ;-)
 
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