Saturday, May 02, 2009

What Is The Question? Keeping Tension in the story

By Keith Fisher

I once saw a demonstration of keeping tension in a story. The teacher had two people push against opposite ends of a baseball bat. They were asked to keep the bat from falling using only their fingertips. It wasn't easy, but the participants kept tension on the ends of the bat, and between them, they kept it from falling.

As a writer, I'm learning to keep tension in my stories. "But," you ask. "Why does a story need tension? I'm writing a feel good, religious story. I don't want a lot arguing and negative feelings in there."Tension in a story is what keeps you turning pages. If a character is in peril, and there is no clear way for them to get out of it, that's tension—it'll keep you reading. Of course our character can't stand on the edge of a danger throughout the book. He must take a breath.

We can write edge of your seat tension into a story by introducing a question that doesn't get answered until the end. Will Frank get over his toothpaste phobia and brush his teeth so Mary will want to kiss him? Will John Walton make it home for Christmas or will his family have to make do without him. Will Betty come to her senses and realize her parents love her, and the reasons she left home just aren't that important?

Will the psychotic killer make Henrietta his next victim? Will James stop the train before it gets to dead man's turn and save everyone aboard?

The questions don't have to be major, but they do need to hold the reader's interest. You can even weave in several questions. Just remember to tie up all the loose ends before the story is

finished. Good luck with your writing—see you next week.


LexiconLuvr said...

Ah...I love Saturdays!

This is a great post, Keith. Tension is so important to a story. My only problem with it is that I end up abandoning life and reading for 7 hours straight when a writer does it well!

Keith Fisher said...

Life can be good too! I think. anyway thanks Lexi.