When I wrote my books, the first one I had the temptation to really go hog wild on the tension. Since I was writing it in Ywriter, I had tunnel vision and was concentrating on one scene at a time, Clancy style. However, it really didn’t have a way for me to concentrate on the entire story. But lets contrast the beginning of my story, with the beginning of a movie I really liked.
Hero begins to suspect the world around him is not exactly what it seems. What he’s been led to believe is not what it actually is. By the time he realizes it, chaos is reigning around him, and now he has to find out exactly what’s going on.
Interesting, right? Try this.
Hero begins to suspect that a series of books, published in an odd groupings of languages, means something. He contacts CIA Headquarters and asks if there’s an operation going on. The next day, as he waits for a response, he takes his turn to go pick up lunch. While he’s out of the office, the Postman enters and kills everyone in the office with a machine gun. Hero now has to run for his life, and figure out why the CIA is trying to kill him, how to stay alive, and how to stop what’s happening.
What’s the difference, tension wise?
You’re interested in my hero, but… you’re not involved. Why?
His life’s not in danger. Danger is looming, looming, getting closer… but never quite hits him.
But the Robert Redford character – yeah, you’re invested in him, because someone’s hunting him, you’ve got a puzzle to solve, and if he doesn’t figure out the two answers right away, he’s a dead man.
It was “Three Days of the Condor”, by the way.
So, the answer? Ramp up the tension rapidly. Tension, tension… there’s nothing like someone trying to kill you that gets tension going.
So, right now, I’m going to get a cup of coffee. And maybe dispatch someone to kill my hero.