Friday, 30 September 2011

Everybody Needs Tension

Tension is an important aspect of writing, and tension amongst characters is vital. The tension gives the characters the ability to fight with each other, which in turn raises the tension and suspense in the story.

While, as writers, we may want our characters to be happy and have great lives, for the story to be gripping, we need lots of tension. There’s nothing better than having a character fighting for his life, chasing bad guys, and getting shot at, and on top of all that, be having an argument with his girlfriend back at home. Perfect characters that everyone likes are boring to read about, because they have no one to fight with.

The tension between characters can even be little things. In my WIP, the IT nerd is a messy character, and he’s irritating the housekeeper, who is spending her days cleaning after him. (As the IT guy is finding out, it’s not a good idea to anger the woman who can vacuum while she watches the sun rise!) This tension is enough to enjoy writing their scenes, and hopefully is enjoyable to read!

What are your thoughts on this? What tensions do your characters have? Let me know in the comments!


  1. Tension's a fun one. I agree with you that it's pretty much vital to a story.

    I like to play with emotional/relational tensions: irritation, romanic tension, unforgiveness tension, etc. I will usually place one person in my MC's lives that they either don't like or don't get along with... that kinda thing. I like to have my MC's in some kind of tension relationship-wise, whether that's with their mother or their ex-best friend, because it just -- like you said -- adds depth and a certain touch of realism. *shrugs*

    And of course violence and threats and tense chase scenes in the dark. All that jazz. Love that stuff too!

    Great post!

  2. Why is it important that she can vacuum while watching the sun rise? *confused*

    Oooh, my MC doesn't get along with her sister, or her mom, or her captors (well, sometimes)... There is lots of inter-character tension. xD

  3. Maggie: You're right that tension adds realism, because let's face it: IRL no one's perfect and we all have tension with at least one other person.

    Constance: The IT guy is staying in the same house as the housekeeper, so as payback for not cleaning up after himself, she's been vacuuming the house at dawn to wake him up :P

    Also, captors? You've hooked me already!

  4. @Matt Oh, that makes so much more sense. xD
    *^_^* Yes, captors. They're Irish mob.

    @Amanda Heheh. I knew I liked you for a reason. *loves making things awkward for characters*

  5. I don't know where my ghost comment went,'s gone, so I'm reposting it.

    "I definitely agree. Tension is important. ^_^ I hear a lot of authors saying 'it was so hard to do this to my characters, but I had to, for the story', i.e. adding in strife. I don't know if I'm just a bad person, but...I really enjoy adding in complications, especially awkwardness, & all other sorts of tension. I love having my characters say awkward things--there's lots of articulate people in fiction, but in reality, people say awkward things all the time. And I love coming up with things that make them uncomfortable. XD"


  6. Constance: Ooh, I have Irish mob in my story too! (Well, their IRA, but that's kind of the same, I think)

    Amanda: Blogger sent your comment to spam... I'm not sure why. Now you have the honor of being my first spammy commenter! :P

    I've never thought about making my characters say awkward things! Good idea!

  7. @Matt--SPAM? I see, Blogger. I see how it is. I think Blogger & I may need to have words about our relationship. *ahem* Anyway. XD

    Yes! Saying awkward things can be an entertaining way to break up a moment that's too heavy in other elements, with humor or uncomfortableness. I love it. ^_^