Emily's Foundation, Week Three: Dramatic Tension In Mystery Fiction
Understanding the difference between inner dramatic tension, which is character-driven, and outer dramatic tension, which is plot-driven, helps demystify the process of fiction writing. In writing your scene, create an interplay of both.
This picture has a clear dramatic tension built into it. It's outer dramatic tension, which is a great help in writing a scene where the dramatic tension is high. And if you are someone who shies away from high tension, then this prompt is for you!
But how do you continue to build the tension? You get inside the person who is looking at the bloody hand. Find out what she is feeling and thinking. Does she know who is on the other side? If so, what's their story? Is he an old boyfriend? Or maybe he's a complete stranger.
Either way, this mysterious picture immediately sets up visceral tension that you can now use as a jumping-off point to propel your scene forward. Which of your characters has this point of view? A killer? A detective? The unknown person behind the window?
What if the detective doesn't know if the person behind the window is the killer or the victim?
Or does the point of view belong to the terrified victim?
Now go beyond the picture and get inside the mind and gut of either the killer, the detective, or the person behind the window. This creates inner dramatic tension and deepens the page-turning quality of your scene.