We all like our lives to run smoothly, but emotional tension is what motivates readers to flip the pages of a novel. Part of the craft of writing fiction is knowing how to keep that tension taut. For genres such as suspense, mystery or thrillers, this is particularly important.
During the revision stage, authors usually need to increase the level of tension in their scenes and chapters. Make sure you have an “emotional hook” to lead your reader into the scene.
Tips on increasing tension in your scene/chapter:
an emotional connection
with your character. Reader sympathy and identification are crucial. Even if
your reader has never been in a plane crash, your character’s fear is a
universal emotion that a reader will identify with. Uncommon situations still
evoke everyday emotions.
Never exaggerate a character’s emotion but do show how an experience is felt through bodily reactions and thoughts.
It will help if your protagonist has a strong desire for something and is thwarted in getting it. Everyone can relate to this.
vital situations … if events
are inconsequential, the writing becomes flat and uninteresting. Why is this
experience significant to your character?
an expectation of something happening and then an unexpected reversal (“twist”) that takes the story in a new
direction, usually at the end of a scene or chapter. Readers love surprises but it still must make sense.
your character into deciding
between two bad choices. Provide disastrous results.
conflict into every scene.
And as much as possible, make dialogue adversarial.
time constraints to
create more suspense.
villains or antagonists) also evoke reader emotion (anger or repulsion) and
this creates tension.
- Leave your reader with questions and unsolved dilemmas.
Good luck with your rewrite. I know you can do it!