Creating tension in fiction | 2 tips for revision

Creating tension in fiction is something that can happen when you write the outline, or the first draft. In revision, you need to ensure that your tension is right and tight.

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What is tension?

When you are creating tension in fiction, it’s important to remember that tension isn’t just for thrillers. Tension in a story is what makes the reader turn the page.

In a romance, it’s what makes us read until the happily ever after ending even though we know it’s coming. In literary fiction, it’s why the reader follows the character journey. And in thrillers, mysteries, and action stories, it’s the need to know if the hero solves the mystery, catches the bad guys or saves the world.

Tip #1 for creating tension in fiction

Know the meaning of tension in your genre. If you haven’t read books in your genre for a while, read a few and look for the tension. If you have a favorite book in the genre, one not too dated, analyze the way the author builds scenes.

Now that you are an author, you will find your reading changes. You can still read for pleasure, but you’ll find that you notice the story craft in any book you read. Take advantage of that and learn from other successful authors.

Tip #2

The mistake that many new authors make when creating tension in fiction is to think tension lives only in the plot and only at the climax.  This tip is to look for the tension in your story on every page.

When you are in the revision stage, look at each scene. A scene is a reflection of a story. Each scene needs to have tension and conflict and a hero and a villain. The conflict is about the hero not getting what they want. The tension is about the reader not knowing if the hero will succeed.

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