Wherefore Art Thou Tension?


I have just realised why I’ve been unhappy with the last third of my wip and why the black moment feels like it comes out of the blue – there is no tension. My characters are having a lovely time now they’ve fallen into bed but where is the ‘OMG it’s all going to end in tears I just know it!’ feeling? Where is the dark cloud that is rapidly lowering on the horizon? Gone, that’s what.
Michelle Styles’ comment on my last post about kitchens was incredibly prescient as it turns out because yes, I have lost the tension. With every scene the tension should wind tighter not release like a tightrope snapping under a heavy weight!

The good thing is that I know why my tension has snapped. It’s because I’ve lost focus of the essential conflict – again! I got sidetracked by the reasons they were falling for each other and though that’s important, it’s not as important as the all reasons they shouldn’t! And not just the ‘I must not fall in love’ but the ‘why I must not fall in love’.
Not to mention the fact that I haven’t dug as deeply into my conflict as I need to. My hero has been bringing up his much younger sister for the last ten years and though she’s now at university, he is still finding it difficult to let her go. Why? What’s he afraid of? And what does this mean for my heroine? And speaking of her, she is still trying to escape her over-protective parents. Why? What’s she really afraid of and what does this mean for the hero?

So, have hauled the sorry mess back into line again by putting their essential conflict back into their scenes together. Building up that tension so that when the black moment arrives, it’ll be so dark that they will be absolutely unable to see their way out of it.

I just hope to God I can! 🙂

17 thoughts on “Wherefore Art Thou Tension?”

  1. I know what you mean again. 🙂 In one of my WIPs, the dark moment is just there. it’s neither dark nor either of the characters seem to care they might lose everything.

    But like Lacey said, I think where you’ve gone wrong is half the battle.

    Have you noticed how I start every comment on your blog with ‘I know what you mean’?

  2. Go for it, be as mean as you possibly can. Unfortunately, it’s the only way to get those characters in the mindset you need them to be.

    Don’t worry, they’ll forgive you…eventually 🙂

  3. Cheers Janette and Suzanne. Am hoping to do it!

    Sri – yep, too true re going wrong. The black moment I wrote just felt blah, not really what I wanted at all!

    Hetal – usually I have no problems with being mean to my characters so it was a shock to realise that I hadn’t! Time to get out the mean stick. 🙂

  4. Snap! I’ve hit a sagging middle – with no tension whatsoever. Need to get out of the kitchen asap. How? Dunno. Need to sleep on it overnight – a night thinking about it, and I will hopefully come up with something! Fingers crossed. Take care. Caroline x

  5. Caroline, yep, it’s a problem eh? Bringing it back to the conflict is the answer I suspect. What’s keeping them apart? What can you do to make it worse for them? I made my heroine talk about something that my hero doesn’t want to talk about. That certainly upped the tension in that particular scene.

  6. Ah! Tension!

    Kudos to you for seeing right away what needed to be done though! I hate that feeling, you want this big black moment and instead it’s just all kinda…gray.

    The good thing is, the conflict is there, and you know it.

    Best of luck on the tweaking!

  7. I think sometimes we get caught up in the path to their happiness (at least I know I do) that we forget about the fact that they need to fight for it and want it above everything else despite the barriers. I had the same issue with my current ms. I guess I’m always eager to get them there as quickly as possible. The beauty though is that you recognize it and at such an early state!

  8. Kaily – too true. Or we leave their barriers conveniently by the door too much, when in fact those barriers should be there the whole way.

    Lorraine – oh yes indeed. Not enough character torture going on here. 😉

  9. Jackie, thanks, I’m really enjoying your blog.
    When you mentioned torture, my gaze immediately lifted to a sign above my desk-
    Make them WANT
    Make them WORRY
    Make them WAIT
    Don’t know where it came from, but it’s great ‘torturing’ advice! ms

  10. Margie – that’s fantastic advice. And incredibly appropriate for my ms at the moment. Think I might write that down. Thanks for your comment, really appreciate the input!

  11. Hmm, I failed in my very first chapter to have enough tension in there! Just hoping I have edited it to show the conflict that there’s under the surface otherwise I will be getting a swift ‘no thanks’ in the MH comp 🙁

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