Emily's Foundation, Week Three: Dramatic Tension In Women's Fiction
Every story needs dramatic tension — a sense of mystery — to create "What Happens Next?" Your employing the difference between inner dramatic tension, which is character-driven, and outer dramatic tension, which is plot-driven, makes the reader want to turn the page!
The picture above has a clear dramatic tension built into it, and it's outer dramatic tension, which is good. It's easier to write a scene where the outer dramatic tension is high. And if you are someone who shies away from high tension, then this prompt is for you!
How do you continue to build this dramatic tension? You move to inner dramatic tension and get inside the woman. Find out what she is feeling and thinking! Does she know the man who is following her? If so, what's their story? An old boyfriend? Maybe her ex-husband? A drug dealer to whom she owes money?
What's their history? Get inside her to find out. Go for high tension. Try something you haven't tried before. Let the woman guide you.
If you're not making any headway, then switch, and write from the point of view of the man following her. Is he stalking her? Don't shy away from the apparent "bad guy's" point of view. You'll be surprised what you find out when you don't judge your characters, but instead open yourself to whichever one of them speaks most clearly to you.
These three pictures below are excellent examples of the difference between inner and outer dramatic tension.
If you're having any problems writing this week's scene, you can call Emily at (914) 962-4432 to talk about what is slowing you down.
The Truth Comes Out: This prompt can be seen from either character's Point of View. Don't be afraid to look at both sides of the story to find the source of your main character's inner dramatic tension. We often believe our main character must be "good" to be sympathetic, but complex characters often have really compelling dark sides. What is the secret that is being revealed here? What is the dynamic between these two: Boyfriend and girlfriend? Sister and brother? Maybe she has tracked him down, suspecting that he is the man who hurt someone close to her.
In Danger or Being Saved? The outer dramatic tension seems clear; she's a child in danger of being kidnapped. Outer dramatic tension is the ingredient that drives the plot. But always be willing to take a step back from your initial impression of a prompt; perhaps the man with his hand over the young girl's mouth is actually saving her, and their safety depends on her not screaming. Immediately, you have a great source for outer dramatic tension to drive this scene.
Heartbreaking News: Clearly, the dramatic tension of this scene is driven by the woman's inner turmoil. If she's just heard heartbreaking news, is it grief over an event that has already happened? Or has she heard news about an event that is about to take place, one over which she has no control? Has her husband been hit by a car and she is overcome with grief? Or perhaps she just heard that her son has been taken hostage in a bank robbery that's all over the news. In either case, the dramatic tension here is swirling inside her, threatening to overwhelm her. And that is indeed a powerful way to establish her character, even as an opening to a book that throws the reader into the heart of the story with no hesitation.
There are so many options when you use inner dramatic tension in a way that is as powerful as outer dramatic tension! In some cases, the outer tension — plot oriented — is filled with great energy and that’s what you go for. But other times it's the inner tension — character oriented — that meets the demands of the scene.
To begin this week's scene, just choose your favorite prompt from above and start writing!