Original Fic Tip: A good way to create more tension in your story is to include a goal, a conflict, and a disaster.
I was actually going to post a different writing tip, but then Romance University posted this tip/ and it forced me to have some thinkee thoughts about my own current WIP. I try to make sure most of my scenes contribute to both the plot and the character arc, but I've never thought about ratcheting up the tension by adding MORE conflict and disaster to each scene!
SCENES are comprised of three parts:
Let’s discuss them one at a time.
Goal: A goal is what the character hopes to accomplish in the SCENE. Don’t be nebulous here. We’re not talking about the overarching goal of the novel; we mean the short-term goal of this segment. Be very specific here. This isn’t “stop the bad guy” stuff. This is (to borrow from the cherry pie example of the last post) small, detail-oriented, “get to Grandma’s house and eat pie” stuff. It’s explicit, precise. Unambiguous. This character has taken charge and proactively done something to reach the SCENE’s goal. Seems simple enough, right?
Well, no. That’s only the first part. There has to be a conflict.
Conflict: Without a conflict, there’s no excitement for the reader. The character wanted pie and got it. Big deal.
No, there needs to be a challenge. This can be in any form. Construction on the road. An environmental condition that might cause a blight on the cherry crop. Grandma’s angry and refusing visitors. There’s poison or rot in the pie.
Whatever the conflict is, it also must be present in the SCENE.
Okay, that’s two parts. Is that enough? Still not quite. Readers know the goal and they know the roadblock. That’s building tension. But we need one more element. Disaster.
Disaster: If you really want readers to be riveted by your SCENE, you can’t stop at raising the stakes. You have to actually drop the bomb. If the character set out to achieve a goal, overcame the conflict, and succeeded, you’d be at the end of the novel. Either that, or you’d be in the middle of your novel but your reader would be bored and see no reason to read on. No, you have to make the character experience failure at this point. In our cherry pie example, the character ate it but got sick from it. Horribly sick. That’s an epic fail. Okay, not so epic. We’re talking food poisoning, not the end of all humanity.
But that’s the point. SCENES aren’t big-picture. These are little chunks of story that advance the plot in small increments. In our hypothetical novel, the end-all be-all goal might be for the couple to get together and operate a successful cherry orchard.
Now go forth and write!