All Kinds of Tension

Katherine Longshore 4 Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Just a short post from me today because my latest revision is causing all kinds of tension in the Longshore household.  As each revision brings me closer to the publication of Book 2, I get more tense and nervous because it means I will eventually come to the day when I can't revise anymore.  It will be set in stone (or ink as the case may be).

I've learned a lot about tension from Book 2.  It's not an action-packed book.  There are no super-villains, no car chases, and only a faintly ticking clock.  For the first half.  I was neck-deep in my first revision when I realized this.  And I thought, "Oh, crap, nothing happens.  No one will read this, because nothing will drive the reader forward."  I had no MacGuffin (thanks, Kristen, for posting about this yesterday!), breathing fire and growling in the background.  I had nothing.

Or so I thought.

However, my editor hadn't told me to give up.  To trash it.  To put it in a drawer and write something with some kind of plot.  I figured there must be something there.  Something other than action.  So I took a closer look.  And I revised.  And revised again.

There are other kinds of tension.  Emotional tension.  Sexual tension.  The tension that comes with foresight - when you know of impending doom, but the characters don't. (which, in a sense, is kind of a MacGuffin).  The tension of internal conflict.  Microtension.

I tried to explore all of these with Book 2.  I still am now.  Tension doesn't have to come from a big bad wolf.  Or a briefcase.  It can come from wanting so badly for two people to kiss that you have to go out and do it yourself.  It can come from knowing if your character says something - the right thing, at just the right moment - that everything will be OK.  And from knowing that he won't say it.  It can come from an ending you can see approaching like a train wreck, and not being able to avert your eyes.

Go explore tension, dear friends.  Once more into the breach go we.  Find me one more kind of tension.  One more feeling.  One more situation that makes your eyes water and your fingers itch.  And tell me.  Because the thing about tension is - at least in reading - you always want more.

Yeah.  But I can give it up anytime....


Something I'm still learning is pulling out true conflict and not just inventing tension. You kind of hinted at this, but tension for tension's sake doesn't necessarily make for a compelling story. The stakes, the risk, need to be there as well. I hope I can eventually get better at crafting true conflict. I have this tendency to throw a safety net to my character to pull them out of trouble.

What is it about reading, that we're actually happier the more uncomfortable we are?

It must be in that resolution thing I keep hearing about...the flip side of tension.

Once more into the microtension! Such a great, guiding word. So glad you included it in today's post. Will now go and hunt for it in my ms.

Excellent points, ladies!

@Stephsco you're absolutely right - no gratuitous tension!

@PB, good luck playing with microtension!

@Beth - suggestion for another week's theme perhaps?

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