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How to Create Tension in Your Writing

There is nothing better than reading a book that you just can’t put down. The pages are filled with intrigue, tension, and you absolutely have to find out what happens next. Creating tension in your writing is important because you want your reader to be engaged, involved, and excited to keep turning those pages.

So, how can we create tension in writing? Let’s dig in.

Conflict 

This is the act of creating a problem for your characters. It can be broken down into two categories:

Internal conflict

Your character shouldn’t be given what they want just because they demand it. Internal conflict looks like a character battling with their thought process, desires, or a fundamental part of who they are. It might be that they are haunted by a memory and cannot move past it. The internal conflict might drive your character forward on their journey or try and hinder their progress. However it is formed, internal conflict can change our actions, the way we look at a situation, and can create a tension that leaps from the page.

External conflict 

Your poor character, not only do they have all these internal battles, but now they have an external one too! External conflict is exactly that, something that the character needs to overcome in the real world. Perhaps they are being hunted down by the local werewolf, for example, and every day it gets a bit closer…

Cliffhangers

Often offered at the end of a chapter, cliffhangers are a great way to build tension on the page. It could be that you surprise the reader with a piece of information they didn’t know, reveal something shocking, or even stop the action halfway through so that the reader has to read on to get the goods!

Turn the tension dial up and down

If your novel is pure tension through and through, it can be a stressful read, and not in a good way. In some cases, it can desensitise your reader to the tension, meaning they are no longer on the edge of their seats. Instead, turn it up and down as though on a dial. The calmer moments will provide a type of respite for your reader and give those times of tension a bit of extra pizzaz!

Time

A time limit is an extremely useful tool as a writer. It doesn’t have to be a literal clock ticking either, but a deadline on the horizon can really give your reader a taste of that tension your characters are experiencing.

What are your tips for creating tension in your writing? Please share them with me today! 

Want a hand with building tension? Get in touch. 

If you found this useful and want to read something similar, check out the following craft blog posts:

5 Things to Avoid When Writing Dialogue 
Which Story Outline Method is Best For You?
5 Books on Writing That Will Improve Your Craft

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