Do you have any tips for keeping tension in a scene? I'm stuck in this one part where a village has been set on fire and the hero is trying to help put it out.
There are many things you can do to keep the tension, and I’m sure I won’t be able to list them all, but here are a few good ones I found.
Time: If your character has a time limit to complete a task, then that can hold the reader’s attention. It’s like that music in the Sonic games when you were underwater and the music went faster the less time you had. The less time you have, the more of a panic you feel, and the more tension you create.
Panic: Not just general panic of everybody around, but the panic of the protagonist creates some great tension. If the protagonist has no idea what’s going on, then neither do the readers. If there are people screaming, monsters running around, and buildings crumbling, then it’s only natural to panic.
Something to lose: It’s one thing for a single building to be on fire and the protagonist is using a fire hose to put it out with everybody safely behind them. It’s another thing if the entire village is on fire, people are scattered, and your character is rushing into the building because they heard a scream from inside. Personally, I’ve always found the later more tense. Maybe your protagonist’s best friend or parent or love interest was in the village and nobody’s seen them. Maybe they hear their scream from inside the building. Maybe it’s their elderly family member who can’t walk fast or their sick sibling who can’t get out of bed. If the protagonist has something important to lose by failing, then the situation instantly becomes more stressful.
High chance of failure: Nobody’s going to be worried if saving the world revolves around Hercules lifting a cart off of a person. But if it’s your average person trying to life a 200 pound cart off of somebody, then it’s a bit more suspenseful. Because the chances of success are smaller, the victory is that much greater for the character. If the reader doesn’t know whether or not the protagonist can do it, then they’re more likely to find themselves on the edge of their seats as they read.
And there are many other ways of course! Finding which one suits your story is something you’ll have to figure out for yourself, although we are happy to help if you find yourself with more questions! Hope this helps!
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