Everyone understands how emotions can cause tension. How a character feels is often how the reader begins to relate to the story. Certainly, relationships between characters can cause stress. Other circumstances factor in, too, like finances, toxic work or family environments, abuse, loss of a friend or loved one, failure at an assigned or desired achievement, all of which can lead to feelings of unworthiness, worthlessness, anger, frustration, hopelessness, and more. Plus these feelings can develop unhealthy ways of coping with them. All these situations can create tension for the reader, so starting with characters with problems is one way I try to create tension.
A character's self-concept also plays into emotions. That character's self-image can include their mental image that affects their self-image, their status, strengths, and beliefs. If a character's self-image is confronted in a story, it will affect them mentally and emotionally, and situational or emotional tension will also be involved.
Situational tension is a huge aspect of how the plot leads the character into the story's purpose. People react differently to each other which often leads to opposition, dislike, hostility, and even personal danger.
Environmental factors that give tension to a story include locational dangers and hazards both nature and human-made. The world has many locations that are dangerous such as trying to climb Mount Everest (or any other mountain) to even an avalanche while skiing in a resort, or being stranded far from any help. People have developed their own dangerous situations from work sites like buildings under construction, chemical plants, or even events like Texans suffered in February--unusually bad, freezing weather leading to no electricity, no heat, and broken water pipes all during an epidemic.
So, developing tension isn't difficult but not repeating similar situations in other books sometimes becomes a problem.
I focused on the larger picture, you got right down to the nitty gritty. Great post.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Skye. I enjoyed your larger picture.Delete
And the character's background and "life" experiences affect the way they respond to a situation. When you write stories that are very different from each other with disparate characters in those stories, even similar situations will result in different outcomes. As long as the characters have different self-talk. A perfect, real-life example would be two siblings. Both have the same upbringing, parents, socioeconomic background, but one might go on to be a successful engineer while the other gets into drugs, spirals out of control, ends up homeless, and ODs in a hotel room. (True story. This is one of my best friends.) It comes down to how each individual reacts to any given situation. The challenge becomes creating those characters, right?ReplyDelete
Rhobin, that's an excellent theoretical analysis. Anyone would think you teach writing in college or something.ReplyDelete
If I didn't know how to create tension in writing, reading your post would go a long way to getting me started.
All I can say, Bob, is academic writing is quite different from fiction writing. Thanks for the comments.ReplyDelete
Hi Rhobin, I'm not participating this month as I've been conferring through the Scottish Association of Writers all w/e. However, have enjoyed the posts I've caught up with. I always think character is key. anneReplyDelete
It's funny how we are all alike but also we are also very different. I think it true of characters, too.Delete
I particularly liked your comment on environmental factors. They can really ratch up tension for your characters if they are caught in hurricane or a gunshot has started an avalanche, or a tsunami is sweeping towards them. Or, or, or, leads to and then, and then, and then.ReplyDelete
Exactly, the world can be a dangerous place.Delete
Rhobin environmental factors can ratchet-up the tension. I agree. I can still recall my first hurricane while living in Charleston (I was 3); my first Texas tornado; my first earthquake and last year's wild fires here in California. And then there is the wildlife...ReplyDelete
I've endured a small earthquake in Missouri, and many severe snowstorms, but no hurricanes or tornados. Just thinking about them scares me.Delete