Hi gang, Craig with you again today. We’re going to talk about something that could really help in your stories. I’m going to use the analogy of two sisters.
We all know Suspense. She’s pretty, gets invited to parties, and can carry a story all by herself. Readers are drawn to her like bees to honey. “Any more at home like her?” Funny you should ask. She has a sister.
This sister can really fill in the gaps in your tale, but she’s hard to get close to. She takes a bit of practice. Her name is Tension.
Your first attempts to talk with her might feel clumsy and forced, but it’s worth struggling through. She’s a powerful friend if you take the time.
She works like this: Things shouldn’t be comfortable for your main characters. Suspense can make them flip the pages, but if everything between the turning points is sunny and fluffy, it can get boring. Tension keeps things interesting.
It’s time for a couple of examples. Suspense buries someone alive and sets a timer for when they run out of air. (And she looks good doing it. “Selfie!”) Your main character could go from Plot Point A to B and Suspense will keep people interested.
Driving to the rescue is boring. However, Tension provides that flat tire at the creepiest part of the highway. Tension provides the darkness that’s setting fast. Tension makes sure the AAA guy can’t get there for hours, so she ramps up the ticking clock to whatever Suspense had planned. (In this case, rescuing the victim.)
Maybe your character fussed over an outfit for weeks, got her hair and nails done, then went to the wedding reception. There’s a cute guy chatting with the groom. Tension provides the marinara sauce she got on her dress. She provided the photographer your character wants to avoid now that her dress is stained. Oh, and just for laughs, Tension decided the caterer is an old flame that wants to get back together. Tension interferes with your character getting to the new hunk that is Plot Point B.
Tension is the master of broken GPS systems, shorebirds who dive-bomb your hair, service of a lawsuit, and many things that seem beneath Suspense’s notice. Suspense is wonderful, but Tension can make her even more wonderful.
Sprained ankles, lipstick on your teeth, or Apartment 12C who partied all night, aren’t plot points. They don’t exactly drive the story, but they can add so much between those plot points. You can thank Tension for them.
Suspense gets all the glory, her Instagram page has a million fans, while Tension goes relatively unnoticed. She likes it that way and you should keep that in mind when writing. This is where it might feel clunky and forced, so you have to work through the first awkward dates. After that, she becomes a strong ally.
Do you have a relationship with Tension? Did I just put off all the female readers of this blog by making Tension a young woman? (You can make him a guy and date him, too.) Let me hear from you.