What Did You Learn?

December 8, 2009

General Writing: That Got A Little Tense There For A Moment

Good, it should have gotten tense. Dramatic tension is the heart of every good story. The form of that tension, what the character’s struggle is, will vary by character, but the tension must always be there.

For example:
A girl grows up in an ultra orthodox household. She runs away to pursue an acting career and winds up Go Go dancing at a skeevy bar to pay her rent. She’s also worked for an escort service (that requires sex as part of the escort, not just a a date). She dresses in very tight, revealing clothes. She sleeps with lots of men right after meeting them. She moves on to dancing topless, gets breast enhancements. Well, you get my drift. Now where do you think the tension in her story lies?

Things to consider when writing her story:
-Are her parents supportive or have they disowned her? Do they support her or do they support her endeavors? Does she feel like she is being judged when around them?
-Is she a scandal in the community? And whether she is or not, does she feel like she is?
-Are there any parts of religion and her life growing up that she misses and wants to return to? If yes does she pursue this or want to pursue this in any way. If yes how, if not why?

Each of these questions, provides tension in some form or another. If she wants her parents to support her and they don’t, if she feels judged even if she isn’t, if she’s in conflict with the aspects of religion that she related to.

So long as details like this are explored and examined throughout the book (as well as perhaps why she chose this alternate life and how she was exposed to it), then it can be really interesting as family dynamics, religion, and self-discovery are complex issues that everyone can relate to. But if you simply state all the things she did over her life, you leave the reader wondering where it all came from and without the tension, you don’t keep them interested. Even if it’s a true story, it shouldn’t read like a history text book. (Imagine reading a history text book of that woman’s life: Sexual Conquests of 1982…)

That idea applies to all types of stories. There must be conflict (and it doesn’t have to be two people literally yelling at each other though that’s okay too).


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