There is only one thing wrong with the above description: and that is the word simply. There is nothing simple about writing a story, for it is nothing short of creating a whole, wide world where just a blank page used to be.
All stories have a basic foundation in common. They begin with an introduction and a bit of backstory, usually thrusting the reader "in medias res:" into the middle of the action. We discover as the character moves towards and into the conflict that he/she is flawed--often terribly--but it is up to the artful skill of the writer to connect us to him/her so that it is somehow because of these flaws that these connections happen. We can forgive and even embrace them because they are relatable.
Next, a decision is made to face and endure the conflict, whether inner or outer, and our plucky protagonist is forced through what is often referenced as "the door of no return," that leads up the slope of rising action towards the climactic moment that will determine the ultimate fate of not only our hero, but possibly, the very world in which he/she resides.
It is what happens along this journey that keeps us, the reader, deeply engaged as we are urged along by the hand of a skillful writer. How does the author create this so-called rising action that is so brilliantly fraught with the electrical currents of tension, suspense and uncertainty? What are the conditions and situations laid forth on the page that will push our protagonist (and subsequently us, the readers) through that door of no return?
If the author has wielded his/her magic well, the reader, right along with the protagonist, will feel the frustration and enmity towards the antagonist external, and the struggle and vexation against the antagonist internal. We will often, as I have indicated in class, wish to hurl our book--the world of the story, itself--against the wall and curse the author for ever hauling us into this convolution of complex contention in the first place. Of course, shortly thereafter, the deeper connections we have for our protagonist will win, and we will pick up the book once again. Why? because the frustrating ingredients of these twisty, turny works of fiction are often quite real: they mirror the struggles and denials we, ourselves face in our own, real worlds.
YOUR POST DIRECTIONS:
1. First, read the article, and identify three key skills involved in creating and tightening tension and suspense.
2. Then, choose one of the three scenes, read it, and explain how it sets up romantic tension, suspense and uncertainty. It may be something as expansive as a sweeping description of setting or an inner monologue, or something as small in detail as diction: the selection of a single word that pushes it right up to the cliff's edge. Find it and explain.
3. Finally, it's your turn. Find a sample of text OR share one YOU have created which tightens the tone of tension, raises the stakes, and creates suspense or twists our guts with uncertainty. I cannot WAIT to read these!
This blog will help get your creative juices flowing in preparation for our Socratic Seminar next week in which we will discuss how writers hold us captive--willingly, delightfully, and frustratingly so--and keep us agonizing along with the protagonist, no matter how flawed, until the bitter (or beautiful) end.
Batten down the hatches, and let us bravely acquiesce through the doors of no return...here, and everywhere!