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Tension in Writing

Updated on October 28, 2011

Tension is one of the most important elements in writing. Without it, there would be no conflict, no movement, and no point in writing or reading the piece. Even in poetry, there is usually some form of tension, whether it is an internal conflict or the representation of an external argument or problem.

The Four Elements of Tension

  1. The Person: Usually the main character. The person needs to have some sort of problem. This is where the tension initially starts. They have a problem and they need to solve it.
  2. Desire: Usually the desire to solve the problem, but it can also be that someone wants something.
  3. Stakes: What the person wants is important, but what is at stake if they solve it or do not solve it?
  4. Obstacles: What is standing in that person’s way? Usually the bad guy, the opponent forces have to be meaningful and play a roll. If there are no consequences for losing against the opposing forces then the obstacles are meaningless.

Tension Killer

Leaving your character alone with their thoughts is the biggest tensions killer. It is a lull in the action and movement that can usually be taken out or incorporated in a different way within the story. If you find a section like this in your work while editing, work to remove it or change it into an action scene to keep the tension going.


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    • fancifulashley profile image

      fancifulashley 6 years ago

      Thank you very much, both of you. I am glad the tips help!

    • Winaiva profile image

      Jen Christopherson 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thank you! Great tips! Cannot wait for you to write more! I voted it up!!!

    • Faceless39 profile image

      Faceless39 6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      Great tips--after reading this I now understand all of Jane Austen's tricks! Rated up, useful, and interesting! Thanks! :)