Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Tension


Chatsworth House
We’re told tension in creative writing comes from conflict, and depending on the genre, it has different causes. With romance it’s all usually quirks locked away within the characters, only to emerge when one party meets the (potential) love of their life only to discover an opposing habit or quirk that means they cannot be together. Think kleptomaniac meets policewoman – bound to be problems there. Or man with alcohol problem meets Salvation Army woman; addictive personality meets iron-willed volunteer. How do you get those two together in a lasting relationship?
Battlefields, courtrooms, schools and hospitals all provide conflict without the author having to struggle too much, but seeking conflict in suburbia is more difficult. Suburbia is inherently safe, at first glance.  But think of the Bennet women, living under the threat of being turned out of their home once Papa died. Unless one of them married well, they were doomed to a life of drudgery and that sort of conflict rules lives and forces decisions that would otherwise not be taken. Fortunately houses are not usually entailed in suburbia these days, but sometimes it is damned difficult to keep on paying the mortgage. Pile on the agony by having the breadwinner die unexpectedly, and a teenager turn to drugs or run wild, or worse still, run away. The result is almost more tension than the writer can handle.


the drummer
Unfortunately, none of these examples are particularly original, and that’s what everyone’s looking for these days. But the basic idea holds good. The writer needs an original twist to an old problem, more than one plot layer and characters that will live in the mind of the reader after the book closes. How does a writer achieve that? Well, give the characters something difficult to achieve, problems to overcome, make them suffer and live dangerously close to disaster. That’s how – but exactly how is up to each writer. March to the sound of your own particular drummer.

This is just a reminder for me to sail Matho closer and closer to the wind…

1 comment:

Rebecca Leith said...

Interesting post, thank you, Jen.