Kacie Cunningham's picture
Kacie Cunningham from Indiana is reading too much to keep this updated August 18, 2015 - 11:09am

So, who's familiar with Donald Maass and his books? I'm reading Fire in Fiction right now, and I'm struggling with the idea of micro-tension. Was hoping some of you might be more familiar with it and can provide concrete examples, or even exercises.


JeffreyGrantBarr's picture
JeffreyGrantBarr from Oregon is reading https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/10268733-jeff-barr?shelf=currently-reading August 24, 2015 - 12:00am

I've read "Writing the Breakout Novel" and "The Fire in Fiction" and found both to be good reads.

When I think of micro-tension, I think of the final act/s of Stephen King's Misery*, where Paul is re-writing the last Misery novel. Somewhere in there, he talks about 'the gotta' as in 'I've gotta know what happens next!'. For me, that explains, on a larger scale, the concept of micro-tension -- every act, every word, every mark of punctuation should DRIVE the reader to where you want her. Make her WANT to know what happens next in your story, and keep her hooked.


* Please note, I am a sycophantic King fanboy, and ergo, is not to be trusted. YMMV.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 24, 2015 - 3:11pm

I'm thinking the same thing regarding the HAVE to know what happens, DRIVING the reader on.

For me, the Unwind series did this spectacularly. Another great example, in my opinion, was the second Batman with Heath Ledger's Joker. Things just kept escalating and escalating, everything kept getting worse, with very little break...

Another way I was thinking about it, if you use the yes-but/no-and method, have two or three (or more?) no-ands for every yes-but. Did you stop the mob? No, and the Joker's causing problems. Did you catch the joker? No and, he's killing judges and cops. Did you catch the joker now? No and, he blew up a hospital. Did you solve ANYTHING? No and, he's after Rachel. How about now? No and, he has Harvey. Did you catch the Joker? Yes but, it was all part of his scheme so he has the Chinese banker guy... 

Keep piling the problems on, keep making it worse and more dire, and so long as the reader loves your characters and understands the stakes, the tension will grow.

Jimothy Scott's picture
Jimothy Scott from Canada is reading The Anatomy of Story by John Truby August 24, 2015 - 11:16pm

I found this podcast on tension building very helpful