Tension heightens the reader's anticipation. As the reader flips through a book or peruses through an article, she eagerly looks for the climactic scene or the ultimate tip that will change her life. As a writer, you can create tension by developing your article or book and teasing the reader by providing them a taste of what will come later in your writing. There are three distinct ways that you can create tension within your prose. All three methods are excellent ways for pulling the reader into your world.
Add Complexity to Your Story Line or Theme
If you are working on a book and developing your characters, you can increase the tension within your narrative by adding compelling details that don't add up to much in the moment but lead the reader to believe that the plot is going to get more interesting. You can add additional secondary characters or develop the situation by describing its emotional intensity.
If you are writing a simple "How To" article or essay that is dry and factual, you still heighten tension and anticipation by letting the leader know that the best way to accomplish something is yet to come. A dry essay can be made compelling by linking factual details to causes and effects that may impact the reader.
Prevent Your Characters from Reaching Their Goals For As Long as Possible
If you've been a fan of the Harry Potter series, you know that Harry is thrown in peril's way over and over as he tries to accomplish different things. His friends stand strong with him and help him find different ways to surmount obstacles. J.K Rowling is excellent at creating tension through obstacles of all sorts and the reader keeps flipping pages to make sure that Harry gets out of each mess intact.
Make it hard for your characters to reach their goals. Are they seeking the "happily ever after?" Well, make it difficult for them to get there. Always leave hope on the table. If your reader feels that it is just impossible for the character, he may give up on the character and the book.
Add Conflict Between Your Characters
If you watch a lot of movies, you are quite familiar with the hero and heroine that dislike each other intensely at the outset and then develop feelings. You have also seen numerous fights between foes in action films where the conflict, feelings of resentment and injustice keep the hero going until he saves the day at the very end.
Develop your story line with an eye for how you will add conflict between different characters. You can create conflict between seemingly benign characters to heighten the tension in your story. Draw from your own life and develop the storyline based on conflict and tension you've seen in your own life.
Creating tension in writing can be fun and compelling for the writer and the reader, both of whom wonder what will happen next!