Writing seems simple until you’re faced with creating a juicy conflict–and sometimes, the process of doing so can leave you seriously stumped. Before you know it, you’re bored, the reader’s bored, your characters are bored, and everyone is just straight up not having a good time.
To help you avoid this party pooper scenario, I want to share three simple tips that will help you increase tension in your story!
1.) Don’t Let Your Characters Get What They Want!
You might have heard this tip before, but it’s a good one! Not to mention that I see a lot of new writers making this mistake.
Here’s the thing: you might grow attached to your characters. You want them to succeed. You don’t want to put them through suffering and pain.
Or maybe, you know the process of creating all that drama is a lot of work and you’d rather just not.
I totally get this–every writer has been here.
But you gotta if you want the story to be good!
I know it’s so easy to just let them have that sword that’s going to kill the dragon, or have your characters fall in love instantly because they’re going to end up together in the end.
But that’s so boring. The story progresses way too quickly, it’s not at all engaging, and your reader will lose interest.
So, if something seems too simple, try throwing a spanner in the works and see what comes of it. Why not have a bit of fun with it along the way?
2.) Develop A Meaningful Conflict
Mindblowing tip: there’s a difference between ‘conflict’ and ‘meaningful conflict’.
The first type is the kind I once read in a fanfiction where everything seemed to be happening for the sake of conflict happening. It went a little like this:
“[Character A] did this but then [Villian] shot her down. Luckily, the bullet only scraped her and she got up, but then she tripped and fell down a flight of stairs. And then she landed in a pit of lava. But suddenly [Character B] came out of nowhere and tackled [Villian] to the ground, only to be stabbed in the gut!”
Are you on the edge of your seat? Because I’m not. 🙄
‘Meaningful conflict’ looks a little different. It’s not just conflict– there are deeply rooted character motivations and emotions behind every action and outcome. It hooks the reader on a level where they can resonate with what’s going on, which is what results in them being on the edge of their seat while reading.
Your character won’t be just trying to take down a villian–they’ll be doing it on a time crunch with the fate of their best friend at stake if they fail–and the reader is going to care because they really love that character.
3.) Have Down Time In Your Story
This may seem counterproductive, but having balance in your story actually makes a huge difference!
If your story is constant tension, action, and conflict, your reader is going to become bored and confused at the endless stream of events they have to follow.
But, if there are both tense periods and down periods, your reader has a chance to take a breather, get to know your characters a bit better, and feel more impacted when shit does hit the fan.
Written by Pagan Malcolm
Pagan is a copywriter and coach helping fiction authors tell & sell their story.