Nancy's Books

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Guest author Cassandra Jade/Building Tension/Contests

Publisher: Lyrical Press

Today, I have Cassandra Jade, author of the fantasy novel, Death’s Daughter, visiting my blog. Cassandra is discussing how to build tension in stories.

Nancy: Welcome, Cassandra. Building tension in stories is the key to creating interest, and interest keeps readers reading. So what can writers do to build tension as we craft our stories?

Cassandra: There is virtually no end to the list of different ways you can add tension to a story. Sometimes those seemingly simplistic moments can become very tense (and not in an overly dramatic way when handled well). As a reader, these are my five favorite ways that authors introduce tension for their characters:

1. A secret is uncovered and the character is trying to prevent the knowledge from spreading. I always like intrigues and character dilemmas. You always wonder just how far is this character going to go to keep this a secret. And when the secret is revealed, how will they react? Admittedly, as a reader I like to be in on the secret and then the fun is seeing if the other characters in the story catch on.

2. Forced waits. I'm going to confess that I love this as a plot device because in real life this is what causes the most tension. You know what is coming, you know what you need to do, everything is progressing and then it all just stalls. You can really relate to the characters as they get frustrated and impatient and desperate to act while others use the time for further preparations and others still simply work themselves into a bundle of nerves.

3. Rivalry. It may be a cliché but I do love rivals when they are both well established characters and their both given a fair showing. The play between the two as they try to one-up the other, while not admitting that they care what the other thinks, can make for an intriguing and interesting story and can also create some really interesting tensions between the other characters as they realize what is happening.

4. RAS (Random Acts of Stupidity). Everybody is stupid at one point or another and when a character has clearly done something incredibly dumb, I like that to be addressed by the other characters, rather than simply ignored because it is convenient to the story. This can create really interesting group dynamics and the tension in the scene where someone confronts the character about their action can be excellently executed.

5. Anticipation. I remember reading a book in high-school (don't remember which one) where a girl was having her thumb chopped off (various political reasons leading up to it). But they announced this at the beginning of the chapter. Guy has hold of the girl, blade drawn. She's crying. Then someone else comes in and there is discussion and another speech and they keep coming back to this girl who has tears streaming down her face. The whole chapter you're wondering - are they actually going to do this? Is she going to get away or be released? If they had made me wait to the next chapter to find out I probably would have given up reading the book because essentially nothing would have happened in the chapter, but this book was brilliantly executed. Just when you couldn't take any more and you had to know, the answer is revealed and then the chapter ended.

Nancy: Thanks, Cassandra. You’ve given me lots of ideas today, and I will be using some of these to up the tension in my own stories. I wish you the best with your book, Death’s Daughter.


Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest - No Fee
Winning Writers invites you to enter the tenth annual Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. We'll award $3,600, including a top prize of $1,500. Submit one poem online. No length limit. Both published and unpublished poems are welcome.
Deadline: Entries accepted August 15, 2010-April 1, 2011
Details at

For students:

The purpose of our essay contest is to bring recognition to
student writers. Winners share thousands in cash and prizes.
In addition to the winning entries, other entries of high merit
are accepted to be published in our hard-bound anthology. With
the publication being regionally based, students are competing
against their peers in both age and location. Within the guidelines
of accepting less than 50% of the poems and essays that are entered
in each contest, the contest is selective so that it is an honor
to be accepted, yet not so exclusive that it is discouraging to
enter. Unlike many other organizations who sponsor writing contests,
there is no entry fee and no required purchase in order to become
published. We take pride in the fact that our staff is comprised
of teachers, professors and writers.

Fall: October 19, 2010
Spring: Feb 17, 2011
Summer: July 14, 2011
Students: For each contest deadline, the top ten entries in each
grade division (3-6; 7-9; 10-12 for essay) will receive a $50
savings bond, special recognition in the book, and a free copy
of the anthology that is created from the contest.
Teachers: Teachers with 5 or more students who give permission
for publication will receive a free copy of the anthology that
includes their student writers. Teachers also can qualify to
apply for one of fifty $250 grants we award each year.

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