Tension is crucial to the way a scene unfolds. Different types of tension and conflict build up a story. Whether it’s within oneself, with another person, a circumstance, or any other element, tension adds flavor to a novel.

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Building tension

There are specific ways you build tension organically in a scene. It doesn’t have to be directly seen or talked through within the story. It has to be experienced by the character. So when you’re trying to cultivate tension, write in terms of reaction, facial expressions, lack of space, and body language. It’s also imperative to realize there is both good and bad tension, both are useful and move the story forward, but they often have negative or positive connotations.

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The feud that exists between your heroine and her potential love interest, when they rarely get along, is a specific type of tension. Their tension doesn’t necessarily exist in what they bicker about or even what they say.  But how they hold their bodies, the way their eyes light up, their smiles and sarcasm when the other gets flustered or frustrated. Always write out the non-verbal moments in a scene where you want tension to live.

Always write out the non-verbal moments in a scene where you want tension to live. Click To Tweet

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The frenemy tension

A different type of tension exists between frenemies and arch nemesis. It’s the look on the face of Moniece or Jackie when someone says something slick or tries them one too many times. It’s evident before they even open their mouths. Sometimes you have the history of the beef or issue between the two as context. But most often you may see the tell from the way they’re holding their mouths, their lack of eye contact, or how they’re calmly removing their jacket. Write that!

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The tension within conflict is delicious. It’s one of the reasons reality TV fights are some of the most watched on YouTube. It’s boundlessly entertaining and feels rapidly unfolding!

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A little disharmony won’t hurt anyone

Tension is nuance. It’s something that has to be explicitly felt in a scene. Focus on writing in the little details that make a scene powerful and this will intensify the experience of the reader. Write tension in a way that you allow it to crackle and simmer, don’t immediately give it a resolution, a blow-up or an end. Highlight it while allowing it to remain unresolved, at least for a few moments. Then you can disarm the disharmony.

Focus on writing in the little details that make a scene powerful to intensify the reader's experience. Click To Tweet

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Tension is a type of suspense that makes the situation, characters, and overall arc of the narrative that and much more. How do you make sure you have enough tension in your scenes? Share any tips in the comments below.

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