Saturday, October 20, 2018

Developing Tension in Stories

While make-believe stories are meant to entertain, I think they have more important purposes. I believe fiction helps readers grapple with their own dilemmas and grow as individuals even when they are not aware of it. I believe the tension of 'what if' helps give readers knowledge of themselves and others. I think overall, fiction helps readers relieve the stresses of their daily lives and understand them better. Even fairy tails, folktales, and mythology have strong doses of tension because it keeps the reader reading and wondering about what happens next.
Vladimir Propp and Dr. Carl Jung have already described how the psychological aspects of fiction hold true in folktales, and I think the process goes on in all fiction writing.

When I read it is the tension within a story that keeps me reading, although I do not like a top-level constant dose of violence and endangerment. Sometimes it feels like I have, and have had, enough of that, thank you. (Not cliff hangers, just life's daily dose.)

Tension can also be of the contemplative type, of making an important choice and then having to live with the results. And it is not just about a character's goal and how they accomplish or fail to achieve their heart's desire or the violence or danger they fall into. Tension can develop from a character's weaknesses and how they test themselves, or two or more characters head-butting one another until they come to an agreement or part ways. Mostly it’s about emotion, plans that go amuck, and a character overcoming their failures and falls from grace. The joy is that there are millions of stories with more coming every day, and all with their own interesting tension.

From my own reading experiences, I know that the more visceral the description of a character's emotions and their physical reactions, or their relationship interactions or integration with their environmental as shown in a story, the more my mind and body react to the reading. These tensions also help me identify with the character. 

I think readers nearly always identify with these and feel what the character feels. This does not necessarily mean trauma or extreme violence, although as previously discussed in Danger and Sometimes Violence in Writing, these can come into developing a story's tension. I think most readers identify the characters when these reactions are well described and this draws them into the story.

Please visit the following authors and see their opinions on tension in stories. 
Beverley Bateman
Anne Stenhouse  
Skye Taylor
A.J. Maguire 
Dr. Bob Rich
Helena Fairfax
Diane Bator
Judith Copek

Saturday, October 13, 2018

A Fourth Excerpt from Home World - Reax

Falcon House Leader on Reax isn't the only one facing turmoil.

Weeks later, back at Celeste, Maera’s superior requested she come to his office as some allegations had come to his desk concerning her last assignment. Maera clarified the issues and told of the events that took place on the ground at Salvation Colony, information already available in her report.

Her superior nodded after viewing verification videos from Nemil’s suit vid. He remained unhappy but finally signed off on the file and sent it to legal.

She briefly wondered why his report remained uncompleted before he called her into the office.

“I wanted to see you, that’s why you’re here,” he said, almost as if he’d read her mind. He gave her what she called his ‘assessing’ gaze. “I have another unusual mission for you.”

“That’s a rather quick turn-around,” Maera responded as the new orders appeared on the wall screen.

“I know, but this shouldn’t be too hard. We have a request for help from Reax. They want our help in picking up some stranded citizens and delivering them back to Reax, a most unusual request from such a reclusive colony. They have their own fleet, don’t they?” He gazed at her with his assessing gaze in full force.  

From her records, he knew where she came from, so why the sly look? “They do.”

“Not now, it seems.”

Long practice let her control her own expression. “What happened?”

“Our intelligence says they’ve had an inter-colony civil war over the last four or five years that has decimated their fleet. The population also suffered from a devastating plague—of their own making.” He huffed a laugh, shaking his head in disbelief. “Enough of their fleet remains to protect the colony, but not to return those tourists. It doesn’t sound like too extensive or difficult a mission.”

“May I ask why I’m getting this assignment? Shouldn’t a carrier undertake the mission? My crew expected some leave time after this last mission.”
He gave her a calculating but dismissive look, not knowing how much experience she had in recognizing such contemptuous expressions.

“Leave’s not going to happen; it’s been canceled. Since the war, our own fleet’s number of transport ships took a hit even while they remain in great demand. All the other ships currently work on extended missions. Those transports with you at Sovereign Colony won’t arrive for weeks and even then, need downtime before embarking on another mission.”

He gave her a gruff look as if she should know this information. She did but knew he played a game with her. Other UPA transport crews could have handled this, and she knew several of them currently docked at this station. If he noticed her skepticism, he ignored it, continuing with his orders.

“This assignment lists three colonies in that sector with approximately twelve Reaxans the colony’s government has requested need transport to Reax. Your ship can handle the number of citizens requested for pick up. However, higher-level offices request you not go groundside on Reax, which they thought might create diplomatic problems.

“While we want to increase the Reaxan obligation and goodwill toward the United Planets Alliance, they have strange customs, and we don’t want to engender trouble. Matter of fact, many in power want the colony to align with the Alliance. We’re hoping this mission will create goodwill, which might lead to negotiations. The head office will send the mission parameters and pick-up locations to your ship. You’re dismissed.” He waved his hand toward the door. He dismissed her like a Ranger, except her superior officers never used such a disrespectful shooing-away manner.

Once outside the office, Maera took stiff, swift steps down the corridor before finally uttering her visceral reaction in a sotto voice. Knowing the interior hallways recorded, she kept control of her business demeanor. 

Once outside the headquarters office complex, she let the speed of her walk diminish her anger while she vented. She earned a few stares but continued moving. 

“Strange customs—no shit—don’t want trouble, ha! Reax means trouble.” Why assign me? Her files clearly stated where she came from. Did they plan to use her? Reax’s position made it both an Alliance and a Khajari problem, and both wanted to cement an Alliance and have free access to that sector of space. What did the Alliance want, or does my boss think he’s found a good way to get rid of me? Taking a deep breath, she smiled. I’ve faced worse assignments than this. On my previous returns to Reax no one except Sareen ever noticed me. If they have as much turmoil as mentioned, they have more problems than discovering escapees. No one will look for runaways. The problems her home planet faced somehow failed to surprise her.

Twenty-five government employees, thirty-two visitors, seven hatches, three hallways, awareness of her habit sank in as she started counting tiles. She forced herself to stop and take a deep breath. Once controlled, she headed back to the port side of the station and her shuttle, wanting back on her ship.

Once inside the Endurance, she calmed herself and her counting fixation in the usual manner, playing with numbers. Pulling up market reports, she adjusted her sells and buys, far easier and a more regular habit than when she was in the Rangers.