Most of you know that my husband, dachshund and I recently moved from Florida to Boise, Idaho. So, when I recently saw a headline in the paper and on Yahoo news about a search being on for a mountain lion, I couldn’t help smiling. In Florida, a search might be on for an alligator—on a golf course or even in an unsuspecting neighbor’s swimming pool. And in either case, we’d have to keep an eye on our adventurous dachshund, who would make a nice meal for either of them.
This got me to thinking about the dangers or threats our characters experience in our books. In order to keep tension high, our characters need to face their challenges, be they internal or external. I grew up in a peaceful, loving family that didn’t like conflict, so one of my many writing challenges has been to keep my characters in danger or conflict for extended periods of time.
I write fantasy for children and I love creating a challenging world for them. In one of my stories, the hero is confronted by a huge, hairy spider, guarding the cave of the mystical Man of the Mountain. Because I, myself, freak over spiders, it was difficult to write the scene where the spider entraps the hero’s companion and how the hero must save him. But by using danger to create tension, I was able (I hope) to bring out the hero’s character and his growth. (Other scenes were easier!)
Creating tension increases pacing, keeping the reader involved. Sounds simple, but many stories aren’t by nature suspenseful. That’s where inner and outer conflict comes into play. Not always easy to write effectively. What tricks have you used to create tension in your stories?