For the past seven posts, I've cover the topic of Tension and Conflict. This is a major part of writing fiction since it is emotion that captures the reader and keeps them hanging on to the pages even when dinner time rolls around.
We all want readers to love our work and good conflict triggers tension which is shown through emotion. Today the topic is Stretching Tension, and it will provide you with numerous ideas to enhance the emotion in your stories.
You know how a rubber band works. You can pull it very taut so it will snap across a room if you let
it go, or you can pull it only to stretch around an item. Tension in fiction is similar. It can be so taut the reader can’t stop reading, or it can be only tight enough to hold the plot together so it doesn’t fall apart. All types of tension are needed. Not every scene should be edge of the seat tension. Some scenes can only leave the reader asking questions or the character struggling with a dilemma.
Learning techniques that add various kinds of tension to your novel will help you keep the stress level high. Here are a few that you can use.
Accelerate and Decelerate Details
Think about an old John Wayne Western. The bad guy faces John Wayne. Each stands waiting for the first one to draw his weapon. The camera pans in on John Wayne’s hand posed close to his holster. The camera swings to the bad guy with a closeup of his evil eyes. The camera moves to John Wayne’s boot as it shifts a half inch, then to the muscle in his jaw that is jerking with tension. Back to the bad guy, his fingers twitching.
You get the point. To create tension provide second by second details showing the growing danger or growing action. Two guns snatched from the holster followed by gun shots shows conflict but lacks the power of the tension as the viewer watches the danger build.
This same technique can be used in a family saga as we watch the mourning widow touch her dead husband’s pipe, lift his sweater and buries her nose in it. We feel the emotion. It happens in a romance as we watch the camera move to the hero’s eyes, his fingers twitching to run his hand through the hero’s hair. Though it is more difficult to capture some of the emotion through writing rather than seeing it on the screen, you can bring these emotions to life by delving in the sight images as well as the introspection of the POV character.
Use various disruptions to stop a conversation or action. The serial killer hiding behind the drape is drawn back to hide when the light turns on and a group of people enter the room. The hero leans forward planning to kiss the heroine when the telephone or doorbell rings. Two people sharing confidential information halt when a third party enters a room. This kind of interruption can also delay the action totally. The killer slips back out the window, realizing this isn’t the right time to strangle the woman. The hero has lost the moment to kiss the heroine, and the conversation may have to wait for a more opportune time. These delays add to the tension of the reader and the characters.
In the same way interrupted action causes stress, a lesser technique can be used to give the characters time to pause and to even rethink what they are about to do or say. Use car headlights flashing on the wall. Someone might be passing or even pulling into the driveway. A barking dog can be a good distraction. It fuzzes the mind of the person talking or it makes them wonder what’s going on outside. Again could someone be coming. No matter why the dog is barking, it stops the action for a moment and in the process adds a small slice of tension.
When writing novels with multiple POVs, a great tension creating technique is to stop the scene at a place that leaves the reader hanging. The heroine hears the doorbell and opens the door. She grabs her heart and screams. Scene ends. The hero is driving along the highway, a truck swings into his lane, brakes squeal. The hero yells and veers his car to the left. Scene ends.
When you read thrillers and suspense novels, notice how chapters tend to end in this fashion. This is why it’s a thriller. But you can use this in other genres also, by cutting the scene following one character asking another a very pointed question that will make a plot difference. When she asks, have his jaw clamp and blood drain from his face. Scene ends.
Short Scenes or Chapters
In the same way as a cliffhanger, use shorter scenes that leave questions unanswered and then move on to a new scene with another POV character. This pulls the reader along anxious to find out what is happening in the previous scene.
One Step Forward, One Step Back
To add tension to your stories, allow your characters to make mistakes and misjudge situations. A husband sees his wife at lunch with a strange man. He draws the wrong conclusion. In suspense provide clues that lead to dead ends. When a criminal is about to be apprehended, turn the action around. Allow him to get away or to be proven innocent. This kind of tension is excellent in thrillers, mysteries or suspense novels. In all genre, try to develop plot situations that aren’t always perfect. Say no instead of yes. Bring on rain rather than sunshine. Miss the ride to an important appointment. Lose a phone number that is vital to the story’s plot. These conflicts add excitement and tension.
Word Choice and Sentence Structure
Words and sentence length contribute to the overall feel of a novel. Shorter sentences help create tension and thus provides a feel of action to the story’s pace. Longer sentences work in romance, some women’s fiction and literary novels because it provides a more lilting rhythm to the sentences. Keep this in mind when developing more tense scenes.
Word choice is affected by the sounds a word makes. In the English language we have alphabet sounds that are hard and some are softer. The hard sounds are p, t, b, g, k, c, d, q, and s while the softer sounds are found in m, n, l, w, f, h & in vowels. To create tension, use the hard sounds. “Shut up, and keep quiet.” He toppled the table to the floor as he trapped the woman in a death grip. In a romance, use the softer sounds. He wrapped his arm around her and eased her to him, mesmerized by her luscious lips longing to be kissed. Notice the use of softer sounds, the m, l and vowels. Keep this technique in mind when creating tension in your novels. It’s one more way to create emotion.
These techniques are among others that help to create tenson which is shown in emtion. I’m sure you will think of more. If you do, please add them to the comments for others to read as well. Until next time, blessings as you write.
Greetings from Jackie M. Johnson!
Most first time authors seem to focus on the fundamentals: What is a query letter? How can I improve my book proposal? Is my manuscript well-written? When your goal is to get published, all of these questions are important and timely. Both new and advanced authors need to hone their skills and produce exceptional content.
But that is just the start.
Once you’ve signed your book contract you enter the next stage of the book publishing process—working with your publisher and the editors they assign to you. Since you will be working with these men and women for the next few months or years, it’s a good idea to know the essentials of building a good working relationship with them. Here are six key ideas:
1. Learn what your publisher prefers. I’ve worked with a variety of CBA publishers, and I’ve discovered that the process of getting an original manuscript to a print (or digital) book can vary from publisher to publisher. Certainly, the basic steps may be similar (acquire the manuscript, sign the contract, edit the book, print the book, and coordinate with sales, marketing and publicity to get the book to market) but how they like to work, their preferences and management style, can vary greatly—from the publishers preferred style to the number of revisions you get to review and more. That’s why it’s important to ask questions and learn the process and preferences for your publisher.
2. Learn about your developmental editor. Depending upon the publisher, either your acquisitions editor will edit your manuscript or you will be assigned a developmental editor. He or she may be an in-house employee or a contract editor who works off-site. Either way, you will most likely work with this person by phone, email, text, Skype or some combination. Ask about your editor's background. Ask what type of contact your editor prefers and how often. Knowing this ahead of time can save confusion and angst later on.
3. Communicate clearly. From the start of your working relationship with the publisher it is essential to know and agree on expectations—at least, as much as possible. e sure you know when your book will be published, when your final manuscript is due, how they will handle marketing and publicity, and the like. Most of this information should be covered in your contract (which you have read and signed). If not, be sure you have the information you need up front and articulate your questions and needs in a professional manner.
4. Meet your deadlines. This is vitally important if you want to be an author that publishers want to work with again and again. When I turned in the final manuscript for my second book, the developmental editor was surprised that I gave it to her on the due date. A bit miffed, I said, “That’s what I thought I was supposed to do.” To which she gratefully replied, “Yes, thank you! It’s just that so many of our authors are late with their manucripts.” Bottom line: Get your initial manuscript in on time. Review your edits promptly. If you can’t meet your deadline, alert your editor as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the last minute.
5. Meet your word count (or at least be in the ballpark). If your contract says the publisher wants 55,000 words, don’t give them 80,000 works. Your final word count does not need to be exact, but in an approximate range (like 55,000 to 60,000). Meeting deadlines and word counts are important. Remember, you want to be an author that your publisher wants to work with again and again, if possible. Show them you are a professional who can deliver.
6. Finish strong. When you get the the end of writing your manuscript (and throughout the editing process), make sure the content is as strong at the end as it is at the beginning. You may be tired, but aim to deliver excellent writing throughout the entire manucript.
In the end, any good working relationship is about mutual respect. When you respect your editor’s time and talent, and they respect yours, amazing things can happen in the book publishing arena.
Please go to www.christianauthorsnetwork.com/blog/ and follow our blog in its new location. It is now more closely tied to our new website. We are also creating new features and pages on the website. If you are a retailer or librarian, please check out our new resources created just for you.
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Greetings from Jackie M. Johnson!
Are you working with a literary agent for the first time? Or, are you looking for ways to improve the working relationship you have with your current agent? If so, here are six essential things you need to know.
As an author, it is vital to know what your agent does—and what he or she does not do. Knowing this information can help alleviate misunderstandings and create a sense of realistic expectations.
There’s an old story that a beginning writer once asked a veteran author how he kept coming up with writing ideas. The veteran grabbed the young man by the shoulders, shook him fervently, and said with a tone of desperation, “How do you stop coming up with ideas?!”
Greetings from almost-fall Ohio! I’m visiting here for a few weeks as I help my mom clean out and pack up in preparation for her move to a retirement community. So in the midst of not-so-normal days, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to introduce someone who’s one of those friends I’ve never met. Becky Harling and I have traded prayers, reviews, support and encouragement online for a few years now without yet meeting in person. I read and loved her 30 Day Praise Challenge and am thrilled to re-introduce Becky to our CAN readers.
Praise and celebration seem to happen wherever ky goes, so let’s get this party started.
And what are a few of your latest titles?
The 30 Day Praise Challenge
The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents
It's football season in Texas -- Friday Nights Lights for real! And here in Waco, the big news has been Baylor University's new McLane Stadium, and the nationally ranked Baylor Bears. As Baylor alumnae, my husband and I are enthusiastically following our beloved Bears, even though the first game saw temperatures of over 100 degrees. But then the next Saturday we shivered in a brisk wind on a 58 degree Saturday morning watching our great-grandson make a touchdown in Little League Football. The result of hard workouts and practices.
It's also the season for booking retreats and speaking engagements, and the sticky issue of quoting fees for your speaking engagements. How do you make a touchdown, so to speak, in negotiating a fee for your speaking engagement?
Happy Friday from Gail Gaymer Martin @gailgaymermartin.com
Each post from me these past weeks has been focused on Tension and Conflict. Today you'll hear about ways to create tension
Earlier I described the difference between conflict and tension. Conflict is the action of two opposing forces. It is the butting of heads between ideas, needs, desires and wants, or it can be a single individual wanting two opposing things. What makes conflict important is the tension it creates. Tension creates the emotional response to the conflict. Without it, the conflict would not have much impact on the reader.