Things I Learned While Attending My First Writing Conference: Part 2

So, back in October I attended my first writer’s conference. It was amazing! For the first time in my short writing career I got to spend a whole weekend focused on writing with no real-life obligations getting in the way. I’ll be breaking down my experience into a series of posts.

This week’s post focuses on creating tension and intrigue. So without wasting anymore words, let’s get right to it:

  1. In the opening scene of your book, work in some kind of mystery that will intrigue your writers right off. One of the examples they used at the conference was starting the opening scene at the tail-end of an action sequence. This will leave your readers wondering what just happened. How your character responds to these mysterious elements is a good way to show and not tell about the MC’s character.
    1. Don’t begin your opening scene with weather or scenery. It’s boring. Jump right into whatever is important to propel your story.
  2. Don’t info drop. (Duh!)
    1. Know your protagonist’s backstory without necessarily going into it (ie: job, family).
    2. Make your characters complex. Almost no one in real life is all good or all bad, give your characters realistic qualities.
  3. End your chapters with cliffhangers. Leave your readers desperate to know what’ll happen next. What works for me is writing out a scene in its entirety, introduce a snippet from the next chapter, then end the current chapter.
  4. Make sure your characters grow. How a person reacts to or remembers something will affect how they react to other elements in the story. Show how this could change with age and experience.
  5. Every sentence should include these three elements: character, setting, foreshadowing.
    1. Make the subject of your sentences something other than the MC (ie: coffee table, floor, wind). Varying the subject will keep your writing intriguing.
  6. Be willing to kill your characters. That’s not to say you should go all George R.R. Martin on your book, but if killing a character will move the plot along, do it.
  7. Avoid cliches!!!
    1. Limit flashbacks and flash forwards. Just tell us what we need to know to move the story along.

And there you have it folks, Creating Tension (in a nutshell).

What works for you? How do you keep your readers begging for more?

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