Friday, October 19, 2018

Developing Tension in Your Book


How do you develop the tension every story needs to keep the reader involved? I’d say it’s conflict - conflict with exterior obstacles, setting, weather, the villain, financial, etc.
The dictionary defines tension as a strained relationship between individuals. Conflict, which can cause the tension, is defined as to come into direct disagreement, a battle or struggle or antagonism or opposition.


Since I write romantic suspense – the conflict and tension are very important to the plot. I’m trying to figure out exactly how I do it. When I first started writing I remember learning there was internal and external conflict. External was the villain, the situation, the setting, the outside stuff. Internal was personal goals and the reason the hero and heroine, or any other main characters, couldn’t get together.
External is the easiest. What are the H/H goals? Why can’t they reach them? What stands in their way? How can they circumvent the barriers? Can they circumvent the barriers? This creates the external conflict.

The internal conflict is a little trickier.  Now I tend to be more of a pantser but for the conflict and tension I used to draw a diagram, Hero on one side, Heroine on the other side. I’d list three conflicts on each side – what the hero thought he wanted. Example - No relationships, no children or pets, and a condo near all the action.  I’d draw a line down the middle and on the heroine side opposite the hero’s goals. I’d write what she thought she wanted. Example – a relationship like her parents, at least three children and a dog, and a Cape Cod style home in the suburbs.
There’s the conflict which will cause the tension between the H/H and prevent a romantic relationship. Then I go through each one and develop a sub plot for how he decides he does want a relationship. Or maybe the heroine is forced to stay with him in an apartment downtown and finds she likes it, at least for awhile.

In my latest book – to be released November 1st, The Foundation series– The Fourth Victim, Sara’s story. Sara is a survivor of an emotionally abusive relationship. She’s recovering and determined to become strong and help other women in abusive situations. She will never to be dependent on any man ever again. She meets Mac and sparks fly, but Mac is a macho type and trains women to protect themselves and help save others. He wants to protect Sara, stop her from helping other women and being at risk. He wants to keep her safe. That sets up the tension between them.
Do you have any hints on how to add tension? Please share them.

Now I’m off to learn what everyone else has to say. Don’t forget to check out these authors.
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Skye Taylor
http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
A.J. Maguire 
http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Dr. Bob Rich
https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1oh
Helena Fairfax
http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Diane Bator
http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Judith Copek
http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Rhobin L Courtright
http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

13 comments:

  1. Hi Beverley, I agree with what you wrote, it is similar to what I stated. I think it is also different for every character, too, which is the hardest part of writing for me, but is why I enjoy reading.

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    1. I agree that tension is different with each character - so a list of the difference in goals for each h/h to start with and working out how they solve the individual challenges help me.

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  2. Hi Beverley, you demonstrate the difference between external and internal conflict so well. Beginning writers do find it difficult to understand sometimes that conflict doesn't equal shouting. anne

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    1. Thanks, Anne. And yes shouting really isn't tension.

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  3. We're on the same wave-length - I'm a pantser too and yet, I always do a Goal/Motivation/Conflict chart for inner and outer conflict for my hero and heroine and sometimes even for a secondary character who is going to introduce more tension.

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    1. Good point, Skye. I have done them for a secondary character, if it will add more tension.

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  4. Beverley, I like your classification of tension, but there is a third type: tension within a person. For various reasons, she takes on a task, but it what she has to do there violates her principles...

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    1. You're right, Bob. I think that's one that many writers forget about.

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    2. I like that one. When the character struggles within their own heart/mind between right and wrong.

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  5. Great cover for your new book. Good luck with it!!

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  6. You make excellent points between external and internal tension/conflict, and I like you example. Very important for Romantic Suspense.

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