Today’s reblog comes from Angela Ackerman, guest-posting on Jane Friedman’s blog. She discusses how to use the push and pull of tension to draw the reader in and keep them wondering what will happen next.
We can make good use of the reader’s need to know by building scenes that cater to it. For example, imagine a jerk character in our story who is dating two women, Alice and Shai. Neither is aware of the other, which is just how Logan wants to keep it. But in an epic goof, he asks them both to meet him for dinner at the same restaurant on the same night.
When the women arrive (at the same time, of course), that’s conflict. When they both cross the room, unaware they’re meeting the same man, that’s tension.
Tension draws readers in by causing them to mentally ask questions:
Will the women find out Logan’s dating them both?
Will he worm his way out of it somehow?
What will the women do?
Will there be a big blowout?
Strong tension follows a pattern of pull-and-release—meaning, you let the tension build until it reaches its peak then resolve it by answering some of those unspoken questions.