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Friday, November 13, 2009

Tension With Every Step

If this tightrope slackens, the person walking on it could lose balance and fall. She may regain that balance and make it across, but why risk it? Why not ensure it by keeping the rope tight? This is the same for our stories. If we don't keep the line taut, our readers could fall and never make it to the end. So what keeps a reader intent on making it to the end? Well, in The Fire In Fiction, Donald Maass says that it's micro-tension that keeps a reader reading. It's not the major conflict in the story, although we need that too, but it's the constant tension. It's making the reader anticipate what's going to happen in the next few seconds, not just what's going to happen at the end of the book, or even the end of the chapter. Maass gives great suggestions for adding micro-tension into even the most ho-hum scenes, but it all comes down to conflicting emotions. Dialogue, exposition, and even action scenes often lack the punch they could have because they lack the micro-tension, they lack the emotional conflict, they lack the fire. Over the past three weeks, I've been discussing what I've learned from Mr. Maass. I saved this for last because I think it is the most important. Micro-tension can bring any scene to life, and it's what makes a reader not want to put a book down. After reading The Fire In Fiction, I not only have a whole new outlook on writing, but I also have a new zest for writing. I hope you feel it too. Have a great weekend free of micro-tension, unless, of course you're writing. And in that case, I hope it's filled with it.

44 comments:

Tamika: said...

Susan, thanks for sharing this Donald Maas series with us. I have gleaned so much helpful information.

I have a lot of writing coming up this weekend and I plan to drip oodles of micro tension in every scene. This should be fun.

I can feel your fire and it exudes through to us surrounding coals.

Anne Lyken-Garner said...

Thanks for this helpful post. You're right, micro tension does build your writing up tremendously. Some writers can do it oh so naturally. I wish I had that ability.

Lily Robinson said...

Oh, it is the best! That's what I need to tweak in my middle. I can't wait to read this book. Thank you so much for sharing a bit of it. I hope he appreciates the sales you generated!

Patti said...

I definitely agree with this is the most important. You need an edge of tension in every scene. Great posts. I've learned a lot.

Sherry Dale Rogers said...

I will have plenty of Micro-tension this weekend as I will be spending it writing. Staying up late, drinking coffee...lets just hope the caffine helps me create some amazing Micro-tension as scenes are my main focuse for this weekend.

Thanks for always sharing wonderful information with us.

Happy Weekend!

Matthew Delman said...

This is why I'm so glad that my story only has three storylines to deal with. I can focus that microtension into each scene and still further the goals of all three.

I really need to get this book.

Diane said...

Can tell you've gotten so much out of this book. I'm sure your writing is going to improve dramatically and that contract will soon be in your hands. Hugs, :O)

strugglingwriter said...

Micro tension makes sense. I would say, in my reading experiences, this is true. Need to work it into my writing.

Have a nice weekend :)

Robyn Campbell said...

Susan, wonderful post. If it wasn't for you I never would have read my copy. I'm with you. I got so much out of reading Maass I'm starting the one he wrote before this one.

Jody Hedlund said...

Ok, Susan, you've totally convinced me that I NEED to get this book! I actually just wrote it down on my Christmas Wish list! I heard of micro-tension and love the concept! Thanks for sharing so much from the book!

Renee Pinner said...

I've really appreciated your posts on The Fire in Fiction. Thank you.

Jill Kemerer said...

Oh yes! Nothing should come easily to our characters! Even the minor scenes can have tension. Great reminder. Have a super weekend!

Tess said...

I agree with the line 'it's the emotion'. So true. Tiny conflicts can fill in between actual action. This is something I am just really coming to better understand. Easier said than done in the actual writing, but worth the effort.

happy weekend!

Carolyn V. said...

I can totally feel the vib from you! It's been really nice to hear someone so excited for writing. Thanks for sharing. =)

Tere Kirkland said...

Good point, Susan. And a necessary part of keeping up the pacing.

I say, never underestimate the importance of a romantic subplot to add tension where you feel it's slacking!

L. T. Host said...

Thanks for writing these up for us :)

I like to think I have microtension. Or at least, I put it in there. I just hope it's not so micro that no one cares, haha. Something else great to think about!

Deb@RGRamblings said...

Thanks for sharing the book with us! Have a great weekend :)

Paul said...

Thanks Susan. I've been working on micro-tension. Trying to breathe some life into places that seem a little too flat. I love the tightrope analogy!

Angie Muresan said...

You have a wonderful weekend yourself, Susan. And thank you so much for all the info you share. I am learning a lot about writing from it.

Corey Schwartz said...

I read The Other Boleyn Girl (it came highly recommended to me) and I almost didn't get through it because for me there wasn't enough tension (till around page 400 when the narrator FINALLY had something at stake!)

Rae said...

Hope you have a great weekend too Susan and a lucky day today on Friday the 13th.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Thanks for the reminder! The microtension is something I'll keep in mind during my last two sets of revisions.

Tara McClendon said...

I love the idea of the tightrope. It's great. Thanks for sharing this with us. Have a wonderful weekend.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

We spent a lot of time in the early bird session with Maass on micro tension. It's amazing how we can turn each line of a manuscript into a piece that builds tension or at least supports tension. But, oye, is it time consuming!!!

B.J. Anderson said...

Great series! Thanks for doing it for us!

Anita Saxena said...

I've learned so much from you lately! Thanks for sharing :)

Lori said...

Micro-tension? Well, that's something to think about.

Amy De Trempe said...

I've enjoyed your references to this book and what you have learned. I think I am going to need to buy it for myself.

Nancy said...

Sometimes the tension is very strong in a book and I can't put it down, but sometimes I feel there is a bit too much and I just nead a peacful oasis to rest before going on to more tension. Does anyone else ever feel this way?

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Ooh... ::rubs hands together craftily:: So many ideas!

Have a great weekend!

Kristi Faith said...

Again, I thank you for the wealth of information you provide. Always, you leave me with something to think about as I write through my rough draft. I think I have starred all of your posts this past week. I'm going to have to break down and buy the book. :0)
Great job!

Tabitha Bird said...

Thanks for this series of posts Susan. I have learnt a lot and I am convinced I need a copy of this book for myself :)

staceyjwarner said...

This is great. I'm going to pick up this book!

much love

storyqueen said...

So probably I am going to have to read this book. You make it sound sooooo good.

Shelley

~Ellie Kings~ said...

I think this definitely tops it off! There is much conflict in my story, but hmmm ...micro-tension... well I guess I'll have to buy Donald's book to learn more on how to work it out! Hope next week is just as insightful as these past few weeks. I need all the tips I can get mamacita! :) Enjoy your weekend! Big Hugs!

Gaia said...

Thanks for sharing, will take a look at this book too.

Kathy said...

I used the tightrope analogy in a short, non-fiction piece entered in a contest on a writer's web site. Only it was about life--going forward on the tightrope, as opposed to ending a life by falling off. The narrator decided to keep going.

Life is filled with tension and frustrations. We all need to walk carefully and hang on to get safely to the end.

Shelli said...

your posts are so profound - how do you think of this stuff.

Heather Sunseri said...

I've truly enjoyed your series of posts on Maass's Fire in Fiction. The topics have been perfect for me as I'm rewriting.

Melanie's Randomness said...

Hi Hi just wanted to let you know I gave you an award over at my blog. Your posts have been such a great help lately & your comments. Thank you <3.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I never thought of the term "micro-tension" - great post about an interesting subject. I supppose I did my job okay in TG, since people say they have a hard time putting down my book... yay!

(Rober De Niro is up as my forehead butter this morning - thank you for the suggestion!)

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

First time visitor, I came from job hunter. Loved your post, a good one to get me back on the nanowrimo horse I fell off of this weekend.

MG Higgins said...

Read Maass's book last week and I absolutely agree, this was the best advice I got from Fire in Fiction. Since I was working on a revision, I tried to include more tension in every scene. I think it really makes a difference in interest level. Thanks again for recommending this book!

Erica said...

Thanks for sharing what you've learned through Mr. Maass. I'm happy to say, I've just ordered my copy and can't wait to read it, after NaNo of course...LOL.

I'm so glad this book helped you with your outlook. Let's hope it does the same for me and others :)

So what book are we reading next?