Writing Tips & Tools

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Lesson 25: Low Tension - Part 3

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today we continue with Donald Maass' Writing a Breakout Novel.

What I am going to endeavor to do here is present truncated versions of each of the lessons in the workbook. This will by no means suffice as an alternative to reading the book...or the workbook. I hope it piques your appetite to buy the books. They are invaluable reading and reference!

Today's lesson is in Section TWO: Low Tension: Part 3.

Tension on every page is the secret of great storytelling. Everyone knows that. Practically no one does it! The dialogue of the how are you would you like a cup of coffee variety can put you to sleep. Mere talk does not keep us glued to the pages. Disagreement does.

Friction in dialogue arrests our attention. It begs the unspoken question: Will these people be able to resolve their differences? We slow down to read the next line to find out.

Dialogue, backstory, slack moments...these are just a few of the many low-tension danger spots that breakout novelists can make riviting. It's so simple, really! Tension on every page works. Low tension does not.

Make that your mantra!

Step 1: Turn to any page in your manuscript at random. Put your finger on any line at random.

Step 2: find a way to add tension at this moment. If there is already tension, skip to the next line, and heighten the tension there.

Note: Tension can be many things. it can be as obvious as a gun to the temple or as subtle as forlorn hope. Even the mere anticipation of change is a kind of tension. Without tension we have no reason to wonder how things will turn out. We might at first, but soon we start to skim

Follow-up: Pick another page at random, the pick another line. Heighten the tension at this point.

Follow-up 2: Continue picking pages at random, until you've gone through the whole novel!

Conclusion: Go back to your favorite novels and read them with an eye for tension. you will find that your favorite novelists always have tension on the page!


Post a Comment