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Tension

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Feb. 2nd, 2010 | 05:24 pm

As an addendum to the previous question, Gnome left this second scroll outside the lair:

Also, but it is tension-related, but how do you supply interesting action when most of the story is people talking?
Gnome


ORION
Dear Gnome, I have ruminated on the question of your second scroll.

*sharpening claws, I mean quills* Who says talk is cheap! Dialogue is ideal for tension. Here, then, is a crudely quilled example of how a dialogue can convey tension between two or more characters.

The Prince looked at me and smiled sardonically, but then he turned and addressed the Duchess, "I'm sorry, but Princess Rosalyn will not be able to attend your luncheon. She must finish organizing this year's ball." He gave a lecherous glance to the chambermaid, who hovered near him to take his cloak. She giggled behind her fist. When I glared at her, she stalked off with the Prince's cloak.

"Oh, dear," said the Duchess, her shapely lips curling into a gloating smile. "I'm sorry, Rosalyn. We're certainly going to miss you, and I'm sure that the Welsh Bard will be disappointed by your absence."

"My dear Prince," I said, controlling my anger behind a tight-lipped smile. "I finished the preparation for the ball three days ago. The plans now await your approval."

I hope this is helpful. Go forth and scheme.
Ravenously Yours, Orion


OLD B&G
Dear Gnome,
Ah yes. I remember you. You left the first part of your scroll last time. I promised not to devour you then.

I wasn’t hungry then.

I am hungry now.

Come closer, Gnome. I see that you took my advice last time, and left behind your fireproof suit.

You stirred up the Lair, little Gnome. Did you know that? Moonchild accused me of messing up her scrolls. While I was sleeping. I don’t like being falsely accused, little Gnome.

Come closer, little Gnome. I can smell your sweat. Sweat is mostly salt, you know. Natural seasoning. And you’re not wearing your fireproof suit now. Let’s see; am I hungering for legs or thighs?

Were you actually sweating? Then my quick claw-sketch worked, creating tension with just (one-sided) dialogue.

If it didn’t, I’m overdue for a fang-sharpening. For soft fangless creatures like yourself, I advise short sentences and gradually increasing stakes to increase tension in dialogue.

Now go write, before I really do get hungry.



IN-PATIENCE
"How do you supply interesting action when most of the story is people talking," you ask?

Action should flow naturally from the characters' goals and story goal. What the other dragons said. Mix it up with exposition, action and dialog. It can't just be people talking. If you are still stuck my little Gnome, I will be glad to guard your treasures. Look at your milieu as another character in the story and find ways to supply action to your story through naturally evolving conflict.



MOONCHILD
Remember our politicians who wanted to make war and peace, but couldn't agree which countries to do which with? (If you don't, scroll down to Moonchild's answer to the previous question.)

Narrative tension in stories that are mostly conversation is even more difficult. You need to convince us that what the character wants is a Good Thing, and that we want it too, that Terrible Things will happen if the character does not achieve this goal. This is where it gets tricky, because if you have characters with conflicting goals, the reader needs to understand why each character wants that goal. Which, in turn, means getting inside each head. Not necessarily in POV, which is difficult to change in short stories, but you, the writer, need to know why each character wants it. As with the Real World, understanding doesn't mean agreement. Just that you know where the character's coming from. You've been inside his head, then used Mental Floss to clean up, but you remember what it felt like. Write as if war with Country X was the best possible option, even though you, the writer, want the trade agreement with Country Y.

If you feel the story is lagging, try stepping away for a short while, but not too long. Grit your teeth and write on. Ask a (good) beta reader to look it over and give suggestions.

It also helps, even if it's conversation, to blow things up. Or at least have a fight break out.

Or blow things up…

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Comments {1}

kara_gnome

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from: kara_gnome
date: Feb. 3rd, 2010 05:19 pm (UTC)
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I promise, I'm a nasty-flavored gnome; completely un*nom*able, I assure you!

Wonderful suggestions, and make so much sense; thank you!

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