September had us ready to learn about page-turning tension and Molly O’Keefe was there to teach us during our annual Open House. But before we got started, the WCYR Board announced some changes. MJ Moores, Nanci Pattenden, and Kim McDougall will be leaving the board. Gary Mcgugan and Mit Gopaul have taken over from MJ as co-chairs of the board. Loni Cameron has taken over from Nanci as secretary. Allison Hannah and Agnes Jankiewicz have taken over as co-program coordinators from Kim. The new board members were welcomed, and founding WCYR member, Sue Reynolds said a few gracious words about MJ, Nanci, and Kim. Once the smiles, thankyous, and welcomes were over, it was time for tension!
Molly O’Keefe started by reminding us that tension belongs in all novels (and memoirs). It keeps the pages turning. Tension builds the reader up, leading them, and eventually giving them satisfaction. Tension should be applied to all aspects of your novel. All characters and plot points should have tension: what makes this person, this scenario, worse? Molly explained that “tension” is one of those “writer words,” but we all need to learn how to apply it. She described tension as “the distance between the reader asking a question and the writer answering it.” Regardless of genre, it’s all about the questions. Is this person the killer? Are they going to kiss? Writers need to twist and pull the rug out from under the reader. Molly reminded us that everyone bickering isn’t tension (conflict) if no one is asking a question.
Molly led us through an exercise to create a list of questions for the books we are currently writing. After the exercise, questions were asked about the questions. Are unanswered questions okay in a series? Yes, if the reader understands that another book is coming. Remember that you can’t please everyone. The reasons for the answers to the readers’ questions should be clear to them, even though we know the world is messy.
Surprise the reader!
The writer should control the questions the reader is asking. Molly stressed that the number one killer of tension is answering questions too soon. Don’t lose steam! If a question is answered, make sure there’s another one to take its place. Remember that a look between two characters is sometimes all we need to create tension. A look of anger? Anguish? Passion? Disgust? One line can make a reader race through a book to see if they are right or wrong.
Find Molly O’Keefe:
Subject Lines Save Bottom Lines with Holly Mortimer – October 18, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Querying, Twitter Pitches, and Contests with Farrah Heron – November 8, 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Writing Practice: How to Improve Your Writing and Your Creativity by Practicing Writing with Vicki Pinkerton – November 26, 7:00pm – 9:00pm