Story Tension

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How do you create tension in a story? I’ve been talking with a friend and his gut instinct is to withhold certain information, for example, the exact location of the scene.

Story Tension

In How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy, Orson Scott Card says that tension is created by withholding “what happens next.” You give the reader specific, interesting information about what is happening at this specific moment and the reader will turn the page to find out what happens next.

My friend, though, says that as a reader, he likes to know more than the characters in the story. So, for example, in a mystery, he doesn’t mind knowing up front who the killer/criminal is. Then, when the killer interacts with another character, as a reader, he enjoys the thrill of knowing something the character doesn’t know. To him, that’s great tension.

Or, he likes to withhold information, such as the location of a scene, to keep the reader guessing for a time about where exactly the story is taking place.

I tend to agree with Card; however, I see my friend’s points for special situations.

How do you see tension played out in a story?

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