Zikara, The Wordsmith
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Recent PostsWhat Makes A Good Story? on 7/10/2014 10:43:25 PM
A strange amount of stories on CYS are lacking this element. A reader needs to want and hope for something to happen. This keeps things interested.
Here are some good examples about suspense from a article by John D. Brown:
Man goes out and turns on his sprinklers. They hiss to life. He scratches his bum, looks at the rising sun, goes back inside, and nothing more happens.
You want to pay me money for that one? Want to make it into a movie? It’s a story.
Yeah, it’s a story alright, you may say, but who cares?
Okay, so maybe while he’s scratching his bum, a guy with a gun slips in the back. The intruder points the gun at the man’s daughter who is standing by the toaster buttering her bread. She’s a teenager, dressed in cutoffs and hiking boots. The intruder says, “Your father is going to be coming back through that door any time now. You’re going to call him into the kitchen. We’re going to have a chat. You two didn’t finish the business we talked about.”
The girl only has a butter knife, but she grips it tighter, considers that only 13% of shots fired by cops in gunfights hit home. This was drilled into her by her firearms instructor. The guys who are trained only hit 13% of the time. It’s that low even though most gunfights start with the opponents standing only six feet away from each other–the distance between her and Gideon with his gun. That’s what happens when the adrenaline takes over. But Gideon doesn’t look like he’s full of adrenaline. He looks like a man going to a BBQ. So maybe he has a 40% chance with each bullet. That still gives her 60.
The front door opens. It distracts Gideon for just a moment. The barrel of his gun moves slightly to the left. . . ."
When we talk about suspense, this is what I believe we’re talking about. And a key thing to remember is that the tension we’re after is NOT something that’s in the text. It’s something the text builds IN THE READER. So you may have massive explosions, deaths, chases, escapes, villains, and all the hordes of hell combine in your story, in the text, but that does not mean the story has dramatic tension. Because dramatic tension is a READER concept. You may have a relatively quite scene where a child is doing nothing more than swinging at a park, but because the reader knows the child molester has just arrived and the park is empty, the scene creates dramatic tension. The girl feels no tension. She’s just swinging away. But the reader’s tension goes through the roof. It’s all about what happens in the READER.
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