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.