Monday, October 11, 2010

Writer's Weights: Tension Challenge (WW6)

Want to exercise your writing chops? This week's Writing's Weights challenge focuses on plot. Answers to the challenge will be posted on Friday. If you use this exercise, post a link in the comments, and I'll update the post with your link. Everyone is welcome to participate.

The goal of this week's challenge is to create tension. My dictionary defines tension as: mental or emotional strain; a strained political, social, or personal relationship; a relationship between ideas or qualities with conflicting demands or implications. In writing, I see tension as being one of the forces that drives the reader to read what happens next. One way of looking at this is that tension is the act of creating questions and uncertainty.

The questions in the writing can take a variety of different forms. And some of this will be different types of tensions and including more than one tension can help to contrast and play amongst them in different ways so that the writing feels less episodic and more like it is moving overall to the climax. Types of questions can include:
  • Why does a particular character act in a certain way? This is potentially because of something in that character's history that drives that trait and will build tension until we understand that part of the character's history.
  • Will the main character achieve their goal? It is important that the antagonist appears strong. An additional aspect of tension may be to add time constraints to the goal said not only does the character have to do a particular activity but zie has to do it in a limited amount of time.
  • How will two characters resolve their misunderstanding? Instead of immediately addressing a conflict and resolving the conflict two characters may hide their conflict and therefore build tension as their misunderstandings continue to linger and create worse problems.
  • Can they avoid situation X? This is often used in suspense where the reader sees a logical progression and is left wondering how this will resolve. For example, Jimmy might enter a warded house and break the wards, which may put the occupants in danger.
One danger when creating tension is that it must be done in a way that does not feel manipulative of the reader. The questions that are created needs to be done in such a way that it doesn't feel like the author unfairly withholds information.

The challenge: write a scene of 1000 words or less that uses two or more methods to create tension. The theme for this week is: silk.

This week's participants:


  1. Here's my story:

    This is probably the last one I can do in a while, but I'll see if I can still try occasionally to join in.

  2. I'm glad you joined today. Hope the novel and other things are going well!

  3. Yes :) Novel is occupying most of my free time lately. I need to be done with revisions as soon as possible, and it's shaping up to be a bit of a marathon hehe.

  4. If you decide you want another beta reader, let me know.