Okay, I just read a blog post by James Scott Bell, and he explained very well what I’ve always felt, but in a vague–somewhat nonverbal–way. And he made it SO clear. Every book has to have tension, or no one would turn the pages. It’s easy to point to the tension in a thriller or suspense novel. The bad guy might kill someone or lots of someones if the hero doesn’t stop him. Same for horror, only who knows who or what the villain might be. In a mystery, a hero is trying to solve a crime and restore justice. But what’s the tension in a romance? Or a literary novel?
Bell says that conflict is best if there are “death stakes” for the protagonist/s. But he divides death stakes into physical death, professional death, or psychological. That makes so much sense! In a romance, every time the hero and heroine can’t work things out, it builds tension. If they can’t get together at the end of the book, they suffer psychological death–the death of happiness: http://writershelpingwriters.net/2017/03/conflict-and-suspense-belong-in-every-kind-of-novel/?utm_content=buffer7ce91&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
Conflict drives a story, moves it forward. And the stakes have to keep getting higher every time the reader turns a page. That’s why there’s the old adage: Things can always get worse. They have to, or your story stalls. During the set up, the author says what the protagonist wants, and he spends the rest of the book making sure he has to work harder and harder to get it. Here’s a good link by Samantha Stone to build conflict: http://www.creativewritingsoftware101.com/articles/how-to-create-conflict-in-your-story.php
I used different types of tension in my romances than I’ll need for my cozy mystery, but I still want a romance subplot, and I want to work hard at developing characters readers will care about. I enjoyed writing Babet and Prosper so much for urban fantasy that I’d like to do something similar for my River Bluffs novels. I want my characters and setting to be as fully formed as the mystery. We’ll see how that goes:)
At my writers’ group last week, one of our members tried to decide what each of us needed to do to write a bestseller. I give him credit. He believes in all of us, bless him. And I think we’re all good writers, too, but I have less faith in finding the “secret” that makes a book sell. Lots of advice says that you need to write a “big” book. The higher the stakes, the more readers you’ll attract. That might be true. I don’t know. I think the heavens have to align and there’s a lot of luck involved. And I found this article that sort of agrees with me. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-winkler/how-to-write-a-bestseller-formula_b_1542587.html
In the meantime, happy writing!
My webpage: (a free snippet from SPICING THINGS UP–our March 21–and a free short mystery): http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/
3 thoughts on “Tension”
I tend to agree with you, the heavens, the planets and all the luck out there, but that’s not going to stop any of us from trying. Happy writing, Judi! 🙂
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I write because I love it. I think most of us do.
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Writers do what they do for different reasons. I think it’s important to know why, just like the old writing rule of what does the protagonist want, why does he/she want it and what will he/she do to get it.
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