Making Tension Clear

Bookmarked Narration Makeover: Creating Tension by Chris Winkle (Mythcreants)

We’ve discussed creating tension at a big-picture level many times. However, it’s not enough to have a big-picture plan; tension must also be brought out in the narration.

  • What is the problem? Your protagonist needs to face a nontrivial problem. If you’ve got one, you’re ready to go. If not, you’d better think about that.
  • What bad things could happen as a result? This tells the audience why they should care whether or not the protagonist succeeds in dealing with the issue. It’s often referred to as the stakes of the conflict.
  • Why will it be tough to avoid those bad things? Tension is created by a feeling of uncertainty about avoiding consequences. That means fixing the problem can’t look like a walk in the park.
  • Why must the protagonist act soon? Problems require some level of urgency to create tension, but depending on the problem, you might not need to add anything extra for this.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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