In a previous post I talked about types of tension and where you can find it. In this post I’d like to talk more about using it in your story in order to keep your readers turning pages. I’ve read books where, once the action starts, there is no stopping until the end. I’ve watched television shows and movies where the tension was like that, too.
What also works is what I call on again off again tension. This is when the tension is rising and has the reader/viewer on the edge of their seats, then the story does an abrupt change and goes to a different scene thus breaking the tension. Those are the moments when you, the reader, might stay, “Nooo. What happens next?” You might put the book down at this point because you’re frustrated or you might continue reading. But that’s up to you. Eventually, you will pick the book up again and continue reading. Although, I don’t see you waiting very long if you are wanting to know what happens next.
Either of these two ways of creating tension is effective. It all depends on the story you are writing and how you, the author, wants to create that tension. BUT…..however you present the tension in your story, it must build as the story moves along. Continue throwing conflict at your main character(s), and continue stepping up the “gas”.
Unanswered question or questions created by the situation or by other characters within the story and keeps readers asking more questions thereby raising their curiosity
Danger, fear, or conflict
Increased danger, fear, or conflict that ebbs and flows as the story moves along
Engaging characters with opposing goals
If you’re having difficulty coming up with specific ideas that will create tension/suspense, think of it this way, play on your main character’s fears. Make them as uncomfortable and fearful as possible. Throw the works at them. Just don’t forget to give them the courage to work through that fear and accomplish the story’s goals.
You’re running in a race. You’re ahead. But, in order to keep your lead you must keep going strong. If you let up even once, you risk losing or falling behind. Think of your villain as running in a type of race. It’s the kind of race where he/she is coming at your main character (MC) and not letting up (remember, this is their job). So much so, that your MC gets kicked back down before they get even half way back up. Your villain is on a roll. They can’t stop because, if they do, they run the risk of losing and the MC overtaking them.
Think of many different ways for your villain to trip up your MC. Think outside the box. I am currently reading a set of books by Jeff Carson. They’re David Wolf mysteries. OH MY GOSH!!! Talk about heart pounding suspense. The villain(s) never let up. Often times, while in the middle of one of these books, I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer, so I went to Amazon and read the summary of the next book. Doing this reassured me things would turn out ok in the current book I was reading. Then I would start the next book right after the one I finished and go through the cycle all over again.
What caused this mind blowing suspense? The villain(s). AND, in most cases there were more than one. All from multiple subplots and all out to get the MC. If you want a great example of a true villain(s), read those books. You can find them on Amazon. See the link below for book 1: