Whenever I get stuck in my work-in-progress and I ask my husband what I should do next, his go-to answer is “put some aliens in there.” Or his other favorite, “have a dinosaur chase them.” (Yeah, he’s just full of helpful ideas.)
So what do you do to add tension when your book isn’t about characters on the run or aliens or dinosaurs? You have to make all the nothing things, which really aren’t nothing, of course, something. Amp up the chemistry between your hero and heroine. Make their goals more important. Put more obstacles in the way of their accomplishing their goals. Do whatever it is you have to do to make your readers care; make them need to find out what happens next.
At one critique group, one of my writing partners said, “I think you just let all the tension out of your scene.” But there was an apology and happiness and everything was right with the world. When I re-read it, though, I realized she was right. I tend to want to resolve everything and make everyone happy—give people their closure at the end of a chapter. But once you let the tension go, the pacing slows, and your reader could end up bored, or worse yet, putting the book down.
So as I write and revise, I’m working to make all the little things bigger. The past, personality traits, goals, obstacles, and body language can all add to the scene so that whatever’s going on, there’s going to be a whole lot of ado about it. So let’s get out there, grab those readers, and never let them go. (Er, not, you know, in the stalkery, they're-going-to-get-a-restraining-order way.) Just remember, while drama in real life equals sucky, drama in books equals awesomeness. Good luck!
(Originally posted at the author’s blog, http://cindimadsen.blogspot.com/ on January 27, 2012.)
About the Writer: Cindi Madsen sits at her computer every chance she gets, plotting, revising, and falling in love with her characters. Sometimes it makes her a crazy person. Without it, she’d be even crazier. She has way too many shoes, but can always find a reason to buy a new pretty pair, especially if they’re sparkly, colorful, or super tall. She loves music, dancing, and wishes summer lasted all year long. Look for her YA novels, All the Broken Pieces with Entangled Publishing and Demons of the Sun with Crescent Moon Press out fall 2012. More information on her website: cindimadsen.blogspot.com.