One of the things I found hard to get to grips with when I first started writing thrillers was the idea of tension or conflict on almost every page. ‘What, every page,’ I asked myself? Surely not…
But then I realised that the kind of reader I was aiming for wanted and expected a thriller to be a fast-paced page turning epic that took them on a roller coaster of a ride until they came to the satisfying ending. Okay, perhaps not always that fast, but it is definitely a different kind of read from a literary, Jane Austen - type story.
One reason for this is that nowadays readers are also used to watching movies and TV that fast cut to the action and leave little in – between. When I am writing I visualise every scene as if I am watching a film and I cut in and out as if I’m a film director.
I am not saying that all types of fiction should be like that – far from it - but if you are going to go with a genre you’d better give it due thought. As to veer away from it, is bound to disappoint readers who expect a certain kind of read with a certain kind of genre.
Seeing my story as a film may not always work out well but it gives me a way forward, at least. I also try to infuse each scene with some degree of tension even if it is only a character’s inner thoughts which may be in turmoil. There are of course, other things that can add to tension such as setting, weather and bigger picture happenings (e.g. war, plague or world events).
Scene and chapter endings are also places where tension should be enough to ensure a reader continues to read - in other words, the cliff hanger ending. Not always easy, but one way is to leave a scene early in the middle of conflict (and sometimes switching to another point in the story) so that the reader must continue to read to find what happens.
All if, buts and maybe’s you say… But that’s how I do it…
So what about you? Do you cope well with tension and conflict in your writing?