Writing Prompt: Escalating Tension

Time for another writing prompt.

When you think of an acrobat on a high wire do your shoulders immediately tense? Do you sit forward in your seat, breath held, wondering if she will fall a hairsbreadth from the platform?

Or do you slouch contentedly, knowing it doesn’t matter if the acrobat falls because the whole act is a fake anyway?

Tension is built…or lost…in the details.

Today’s assignment is to use what you’ve learned so far and keep the tension not only building in your story but thrumming.

Start small, escalate in a natural progression, and end a hairsbreadth from the platform (ie. get out early).

Most importantly, make me care what happens to your acrobat.

Now, you’re not writing about an acrobat. The acrobat is a metaphor for your main character. But keep the visual in your mind–your main character teetering on a high wire, suspended between two platforms high in the air, and without a net. Tilt him this way and then that way when the audience least expects it, but, and this is key, the escalations must make sense within the context of the plot.

For example, if our acrobat slips, loses her footing, slides from the wire only to catch herself with one hand at the last possible second and then a shark-infested tornado flies in from nowhere, all that delicious tension is lost.

See what I mean?

Don’t try to be clever and surprise the audience with a twist so insane they’ll never see it coming. The twist should be one that makes perfect sense within the context of the story, but not one they saw coming.

Sounds tricky, huh? It is.

But hey, I never said this was easy.

If inspiration strikes, feel free to write a new story. Or rewrite and tighten the tension in an existing story you wrote for this course. Either way, post your finished product in the forum.

Good luck and happy writing!

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