Adding Tension and Danger: Keeping Readers Turning the Pages

This is a section from my upcoming workshop for Savvy Authors, Characterization and Plotting.

It begins October 24 and ends November 13.

If you know a writer who would be interested send them to Savvy Authors.


I hope enjoy this blog post.





Adding Tension and Danger: Keeping Readers Turning the Pages


Writing successful fiction requires you understand why your reader reads the type of books they do and know what makes a satisfying story.


A writer’s goal is to create a story for the reader. It is the function of the story. The purpose is to elicit a reaction, making the reader feel a certain way.  By making the reader feel this specific way is the function of your story.


Your story won’t appeal to everyone’s reading taste. This is where knowing who your target audience is and then how to reach them.


What keeps the reader turning the pages?  Tension and if you’re writing romance, sexual tension. These elements are critical to learn if you want readers to remember your work.

This is one of the many threads woven into the fabric of the story.


Tension is elicited by fear. This emotional reaction is from the unknown of what will or won’t happen. This is physically something the main character feels: the tightening of the muscles, the increase in heartbeat and the short puffs of breath. Tension is needed in all areas of fiction writing.


Fear creates danger.

And with danger comes change. This pushes the character to take action to return his/her world back to normal. Consider extreme sports-some people live for the thrill of the danger while other people watch in awe.


Learning to write sexual tension is vital for romance writers of all heat levels. Without mastering this the relationship between the hero and the heroine falls flat and it isn’t believable.


With both of these areas of tension if written correctly, the reader will vicariously experience the difficulties the author has plotted for the main characters . As writers, it’s our job to expertly adjust the tension levels for maximum effect for the reader who’s come along for the ride.


The beginning of the story is where the change to the character’s status quo creates the tension. You must continue with the anxiety until the end of the story when the character is rewarded for all the trials and learning their lesson. Think internal GMC when the character discovers that finding and fighting for true love is what has made his/her life complete.


When the hero and heroine reach the end of the book the tension is finally released with the climax.  The resolving of the story problem the character must actively take part, not be acted upon. This will leave the reader feeling dissatisfied and cheated.


Learning how to regulate the thread of tension will keep the reader turning the pages.

©Tambra Kendall 2007-2011


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Comment by Lia Keyes on October 8, 2011 at 7:49pm
I would join this in a heartbeat except it conflicts with NaNoWriMo and I have limited writing time! Hope you offer it again soon!
Comment by Tambra Nicole Kendall on October 8, 2011 at 7:51pm

Hi Lia,

I'm doing NaNoWriMo too and taking a class from the RWA FF&P chapter on Steampunk writing.

Be sure to buddy me for NaNo.

I'll offer the course next year. Thanks for the interest!






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