Have you ever tried writing a story and hit a point where you think ‘I need some extra conflict and drama’? Assuming you’re not writing slice of life where conflict isn’t much of a thing, you should have been asking yourself this question virtually non-stop. But depending on where in the story you are, the type of conflict can change dramatically.
Let’s say you’re two thirds through the story and everything’s gone to hell for your guys. At least one main character has died, you’ve pushed the rest to the edge of sanity by having disaster after disaster befall them, and the bad guys are on the verge of completing their Doomsday Weapon. But your good guys still have their home base, a place of safety from which to launch operations and provide resistance. That’s good.
Or is it? In general, when writing a story the stakes should be gradually going up to introduce tension and uncertainty at every turn. Even when the characters are at their lowest point, another disaster can still be introduced into proceedings. Especially when they’re at their lowest.
The secret ingredient here is known as tension and release, or the Rollercoaster Effect. Build up the tension slowly and surely, let the reader feel the stakes as the protagonist stumbles through the darkened house being startled by every little creak or thump. Then BAM! The protagonist gets out of the house and runs into the night. Tension is released as you realise they’re not about to be eaten by a scary monster… but now the tension creeps back up again as the reader speculates on where the monster might be… (more…)