Once upon a time, a smart, talented, beautiful woman met a smart, talented, handsome man. They were perfect together, so they got married, got their dream jobs, and bought their dream house. Everything was perfect. The end.
Yuck. Who can relate to that? No one. What about this?
A smart, average woman meets a smart, average man. She likes him, but there’s no chemistry. He pursues her anyway while she keeps her options open. But then she loses her job, has to move, and discovers who her real friends are. Did he make list?
Hmmm. Definitely more interesting. Why?
You need tension in your story because it reveals the true nature of your characters. It’s easy to be nice and charming when everything is going well, but what happens when life gets ugly? Picture this – your character wins a million dollars. Anyone would celebrate that. But then take that money away. Now what does your character do? That is the true measure of your character.
All of the greatest stories have tension. Can you imagine this?
- Gone with the Wind: Ashley leaves Melanie for Scarlett. End of story.
- Lord of the Rings: Everyone recognizes the evil potential of the ring of power, so Frodo walks into Mordor unopposed. The end.
- Smokey and the Bandit: The Bandit is hired to pick up a load of beer. He gets the beer and comes home. Good night.
But that’s not what happens:
- Scarlett wants Ashley, who is in love with Melanie. Now what?
- Most of Middle Earth wants to destroy the ring, but Sauron wants it for himself and will stop anyone who tries to destroy it. Who will win?
- Smokey and the Bandit: The Bandit needs to pick up Coors be, which is illegal to take out of Texas and into Georgia. How will he do it?
Adding tension drives the plot forward. It keeps the reader wondering what will happen and how the characters will respond. Stop back in two weeks to see how you can add tension to your manuscript!