Why Do Authors Use Tension in a Story?

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As a stakeholder in the writing niche, I’ve discovered that the art of writing requires quite a number of techniques, that may not be visible to the average reader. Whether it’s an article or a novel; whatever the written piece is, certain techniques are used to keep the reader glued to the piece. These techniques are psychological ways by which the writer connects to the reader. This thus explains the use of tension in a story.

Why do Authors Use Tension in a Story? Tension is used by an Author to create an emotional connection between the characters and the reader. The intention is to keep the reader passionate about the story and to make them develop empathy for the main character in the story. To have a reader glued to the story and feel the emotions of the characters is the end to which Authors use Tension in a story.

More on, Why do Authors Use Tension in a Story?

The reason why you’d pick up a book and want to get done with it as soon as possible is so you can feed your curiosity. Starting a book and seeing conflict all over the place might keep you tensed (the intention of the author). And wondering what would be the turn of events, you keep flipping through the pages till you get to satisfy your curiosity.

By then, you’re at the end of the book. The same reason goes for any well-written piece, no matter its form or the theme on which it speaks.

Authors use Tension to make you connect to the characters of their story. An average human is emotional, though we vary in the way we express it. When you read a story in which tension is infused, the emotional connection comes in when the author describes the challenges faced by the characters and you understand how it feels.

You do not only stop at the feeling, but you also begin to imagine possible ways in which that challenge could cause the character discomfort. You’d think about how it could be dealt with and how you’d deal with it if it was you. This infuses tension in you, as you don’t know for sure how the character would react to the situation, thus you keep reading.

It makes more sense when you think of movies you’ve seen; think about how you got excited at the turn of events, how you took a character’s attitude personal and the pain you felt when the movie ended. Because you’ve been so attached, you just want to keep watching.

All this explains why Authors use Tension in their story. It is also important to recall that movies are acted written scripts.  So, now you see who originates the tension after all – the writer.

How Do Authors Apply Tension in their Story?

There are several ways authors can apply tension to their story. Tension could exist in the overall story, from the narrator (if there is), from the major character, and other characters within the story.

An author could create tension by creating flashbacks of their characters, thereby increasing anticipation. An author could also create tension, by complicating the overall turn out of the situation. Let’s take a look at each instance individually;

  • Overall tension within the story: The author uses this to create continuous anticipation within the reader until the story reaches its climax. This is the psychological factor that determines if you’ll keep reading or get bored. This can create dissatisfaction in the reader if absent.
  • Tension from Narrator: In the case where the element of a ‘narrator’ is used to tell the story, the author might use the narrator to create tension. The author creates tension, where the narrator tells the story in rhythmic patterns, leaving out details for the imagination of the reader. Ultimately leaving the reader at the mercy of the narrator.
  • Tension from the characters: The author might use the major character and other characters to create tension. In the situation where several unexpected events keep occurring ranging from chaos to calm, the reader is also left at the mercy of the characters. The reader could also find himself taking sides with one or more characters in the story.
  • Flashbacks: An author could also use flashbacks to create tension. When the author uses flashbacks to explain the present occurrence, the reader is equally left to anticipate a positive or negative outcome of the story, based on the picture the flashback portrays.
  • Twist in the storyline: An author could create tension by creating a twist in the storyline. This often happens when the story takes an unexpected turn and continues towards an unpredictable end. This affects the tension in the reader that keeps him on edge and turning the pages until the end of the story.

Is Conflict and Tension the same?

Conflict is often mistaken for Tension in writing. The intention of an author in creating conflict, however, is to generate a steady tension in the story. Conflict occurs, when an author creates several challenges, opposition or obstacles for the characters in the story; while Tension is what keeps the reader connected to the character, through the conflicts it faces.

However the conflict may be subtle or pronounced within a story, but either way, tension must be constant through every page and scene.

What Other Techniques do Authors Use?

Aside Tension and Conflict, authors apply the use of other writing techniques. These techniques include Similes, Personification, Metaphor, Foreshadowing, Alliteration and Assonance, Imagery, Hyperbole amongst others.

Whatever writing technique an author may use, the overall intention is to gain the reader’s attention. This is the same reason tension is applied in any story. Gaining the reader’s confidence is of utmost importance to an author, as that is the aim of his writing.