Monday, July 31, 2006

Lesson 25: Low Tension III

Good Monday...I trust you all had a great weekend, especially those of you in California. Sorry to those of you in Chicago. The heat too shall pass!

Today we continue with Donald Maass' Writing a Breakout Novel. This is a fabulous book and I encourage each of you to buy it. What I'm presenting here is by no means a full lesson and there is a wealth of insight and additional info that will help you.

In case your just joining us...What I am attempting to do here is present truncated versions of each of the lessons in the workbook. We're done with Character Development, now we're moving on to Plot Development! Today's lesson is in Section TWO: Low Tension: Part 3.

Tension on every page is the secret of great storytelling. Everyone knows that. Practically no one does it! The dialogue of the how are you would you like a cup of coffee variety can put you to sleep. Mere talk does not keep us glued to the pages. Disagreement does.

Friction in dialogue arrests our attention. It begs the unspoken question: Will these people be able to resolve their differences? We slow down to read the next line to find out.

Dialogue, backstory, slack moments...these are just a few of the many low-tension danger spots that breakout novelists can make riviting. It's so simple, really! Tension on every page works. Low tension does not.

Make that your mantra!

Step 1: Turn to any page in your manuscript at random. Put your finger on any line at random.

Step 2: find a way to add tension at this moment. If there is already tension, skip to the next line, and heighten the tension there.

Note: Tension can be many things. it can be as obvious as a gun to the temple or as subtle as forlorn hope. Even the mere anticipation of change is a kind of tension. Without tension we have no reason to wonder how things will turn out. We might at first, but soon we start to skim

Follow-up: Pick another page at random, the pick another line. Heighten the tension at this point.

Follow-up 2: Continue picking pages at random, until you've gone through the whole novel!

Conclusion: Go back to your favorite novels and read them with an eye for tension. you will find that your favorite novelists always have tension on the page!

Here's some more things to annoy people with...use them at your own risk...LOL!

26. Finish all your sentences with the words "in accordance with the prophesy."

27. Wear a special hip holster for your remote control.

28. Do not add any inflection to the end of your sentences, producing awkward silences with the impression that you'll be saying more any moment.

29. Signal that a conversation is over by clamping your hands over your ears.

30. Disassemble your pen and "accidentally" flip the ink cartridge across the room.

31. Give a play-by-play account of a persons every action in a nasal Howard Cosell voice.

32. Holler random numbers while someone is counting.

33. Adjust the tint on your TV so that all the people are green, and insist to others that you "like it that way."

34. Drum on every available surface.

35. Staple papers in the middle of the page.

36. Ask 1-800 operators for dates.

37. Produce a rental video consisting entirely of dire FBI copyright warnings.

38. Sew anti-theft detector strips into peoples backpacks.

39. Hide dairy products in inaccessible places.

40. Write the surprise ending to a novel on its first page.


  1. Bernita said...
    These tips are so practical, Bonnie.
    Mega thanks!
    M. C. Pearson said...
    "According to the prophecy," this is good stuff. Imps lurking in the shadows...LOL

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