When I was learning to write, someone made a comment about tension in a story. Well, I recognized tension when I saw it, but wasn't really sure how to go about creating it. I had one clue, though, from my husband. When he tells a story, he always gets to the good part, the part where you just have to know more and he stops. So you either have to ask a question and look a little bit dumb, or be patient and wait. I hate waiting.

So I went looking through all the writing books for an explanation of tension. The best I found was in Sol Stein's book "Stein on Writing". He has two chapters, one dedicated to suspense, one dedicated to tension. That's where I learned that you really want to wind your character up to a pitch of emotion waiting for what everyone know is going to happen. The tension is all in the character's reaction to that awful event that is coming.

Does this mean I can do it every time? Not so easy, but I try.

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Comment by Jack Getze on July 16, 2007 at 8:57am
Carolyn Wheat has a book out called How to Write Killer Fiction, I think. It's half about mysteries, half about suspense. Building tension is the key to suspense, she says, and recommends multiple viewpoints so that the reader can know more than the protagonist. You want the reader screaming, "No, no. Don't go in that house!" because we know what's inside, the protag doesn't. I'd recommend the book even if I made no sense here. :)

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