Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Writer’s Wednesday—Pondering Tension… aka An Excuse to Watch TV!


It's Wednesday at The Pink Heart Society, so we'll be writerly and talk about, you know, writing. Thankfully, Steeple Hill author Missy Tippens stopped by to make it fun!


Missy Tippens, here. I’ve recently discovered yet another reason to watch TV. :) To study tension in a story.

Have you ever watched a show week after week and been totally hooked. But then bam!, they do something that defuses the tension, and you find you’ve lost interest? Think of the classic example of this…Moonlighting.

I was pondering this the other night after watching the movie Tristan and Isolde. Man, what conflict there: loyalty vs loyalty. In Tristan’s case, it was loyalty to the man who saved him and took him in as a son (and also to country) versus loyalty to his true love (and thus self).Painful to watch. And it made me realize the proposal I’m working on doesn't have that kind of tension. It reminded me that we have to be sure come up with book-length conflict, and we can’t give our characters a break! The readers have to want to keep reading to the end of the book before they get the big payoff.

So what am I doing to add that tension to my proposal? I pulled out one of my favorite how-to workbooks, Alicia Rasley’s The Story Within Guidebook. In her books, she talks about heroic conflicts such as loyalty vs loyalty and gives a helpful list of some common heroic conflicts/issues. So I’m in the process of figuring out the type conflict my characters will be facing.

In my new release from Steeple Hill Love Inspired, A Forever Christmas, I planned these conflicts in the early stages of writing. For my heroine, Sarah, her conflict is betrayal versus trust (the hero, Gregory, had betrayed her in their past and she has to learn to trust him again). For Gregory, it is guilt versus expiation (he needs forgiveness for past mistakes to be able to move on and love again). And neither of these conflicts could be resolved until the end! I have to admit, this is one weakness of mine. I have a hard time creating conflict (torturing my characters) because I don’t like conflict in real life. But I’m learning to stick it to ‘em. And if I ease up on that tension in the least, my editor lets me know! :)

What about you? What do you do to make sure to keep that tension running through the whole story?

Missy Tippens’ third book for Steeple Hill Love Inspired, A Forever Christmas, has just released. Read an excerpt at e-harlequin.com. It’s also available at Amazon.com or on the shelves wherever you buy Harlequin books.



20 comments:

  1. I love watching my favourite shows or movies to work out what makes them so good. It's doubly great that I can call this research. Great post,
    Sami

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  2. Films do it for me - in terms of transporting me to another world. If the film is good, then I'm lost in it - and I want to know why! Theatre is even better. The version I saw of Tristan and Isolde at London's National completely blew me away in terms of emotional tension and intensity.

    TV only rarely inspires me. It's too small. To homely. To open to distractions like the phone or the rain hammering against the window (we've had storms here recently!).

    Great post.

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  3. Sami, my family hates watching movies with me, because I'm always trying to figure out where the plot is going and yell out what I think is going to happen next. And they get so mad when it actually happens!! :) Of course, they tease me like crazy when I'm wrong.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Sharon, there really is something special about being in a dark theater with surround sound or with a live orchestra, and to have the story unfold on a giant screen or well-lit stage. Ahhh, I'm craving an outing, now! :)

    Thanks for stopping by.

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  5. I love Alica Rasley's The Story Within Guidebook, Missy. Great information for writers.

    I also love the cover of A Forever Christmas. Can't wait to read it!

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  6. I watch TV so differently than I used to. I watch for plot twists and black moments. Way to analytical to really exactly enjoy it. I also though, delight in great lines, great reactions. So there's an upside.

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  7. Thanks, Janet! I appreciate you getting it!

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  8. Mary, I imagine you drive your household crazy, too. :)

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  9. Oh Missy, you know how I hate conflict. Yet I am getting better at it, especially as I realize how you have to have it to drive the story. Sigh. I guess if you can't beat 'em, you may as well join them.

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  10. I bought A Forever Christmas last weekend and I can't wait to dive into it!

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  11. I'd never heard of The Story Within and am going to order it. Thank you! I agree on the tension. It's tension that grips us and keeps us reading. In fact, I've lost interest in Grey's Anatomy. Not because they've resolved anything, but because the tension doesn't feel real anymore. They're so busy making it melodramatic that they've lost the believability in the conflict. It's no longer tension, but dramatics and preachy activism.

    I loved the show Moonlighting. ;-)
    Angie

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  12. Missy, I love the Story Within Guidebook. I'm only sorry I didn't discover it way earlier. Great, great resource. Everyone should own a copy...or two!

    And, you brought up my favorite series--Moonlighting. I never missed an episode until they got quirky. Great tension and the best comic relief. Oh to write like that : )

    I'm a fan of learning from movies, too. I'll watch a movie over and over again just to drink in the emotional action/reactions. My latest marathon has been The Wedding Date with Debra Messing. It seemed like so little effort went into creating a relationship I bought from the get-go.

    Great post, Missy.

    Moonlighting. Haven't thought about it in years : )

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  13. Missy ... grin ... you love "learning to stick it to ‘em"??? Sweet Missy Tippens, a pastor's wife? I'm shocked ... but tickled, too, because it is just SO darn fun to torture our characters, isn't it? I have never read The Story Within Guidebook, but it sounds like I need to -- too many people have mentioned it for me to ignore it any longer. But, sigh, I have to admit -- I am such a "fiction" nut, that it's like prepping for a colonscopy for me to consider reading a nonfiction. :)

    Fun blog, Missy!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  14. My internet is finally working again!

    Mindy, yep. We've gotta bite the bullet and quit being nice to our characters. :)

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  15. Angie, thanks for stopping by!

    I have to say Grey's lost me for a couple of seasons. But this season I'm in it's grip once again. I DVR all the shows.

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  16. Audra, I haven't seen The Wedding Date! I'll have to do that asap.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  17. Julie! LOL! You always crack me up. Thanks for starting my morning with a laugh. :)

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  18. Missy, I ordered a copy of The Story Within awhile back on your recommendation, and it's a very handy guidebook!

    As for keeping up the tension in my stories, since I'm a "pantser," I try to work some kind of twist, confrontation, or setback into every scene--something that makes it that much harder for the protagonist to meet his/her ultimate goal. Actually, I enjoy making trouble for my characters!

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  19. Myra, that's great advice--you character torturer you. :)

    Thanks for stopping by!

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