Sunday, August 29, 2021

Add some Tension to your Novel


Writing the Killer Mystery Series

I have wrestled where to go with this blog. The obvious answer, at least to me, is to talk about Writing the Killer Mystery series. If you are a wannabe mystery writer or established one, he may find this interesting. If you know all this stuff I don’t want to waste your time, but if you want to go along for the ride, hop on.

One other thing I wanted to mention much of the stuff in the WTKM series can be applied to general writing. So if you are in another genre, writing the all-American novel, or penning short stories, you may find this helpful. If nothing else, you may find my take a bit different and offers a different twist on some old subject matter


Not the tension from watching your sister’s kids or getting a call at work to come up to the VPs office or that moment when someone cuts you off in traffic. This is Tension in you plot. It is the UPS and DOWNS in your story plot. When they say your story was a rollercoaster ride, it is the Tension you’ve added.

Stories need rising Tension followed by brief moments of rest. Get their hearts pounding. Make their hair stand on end. Get them turning pages. Then offer a moment in your story to take a breather. Not too long now. Then grab them by the throats and take them for another gut wrenching, heart palpitating moment.

Okay, all Tension does not have to be that physical and emotional, but it must keep them wanting more and moving ahead to see what comes next.

Tension=creating emotion in the reader of anxiety, stress, fear, and worry.

It's funny that we spend most of our life seeking calm, peace, and tranquility but when we read a story we want excitement for just a moment, to live someone else's life vicariously. Don’t forget to let them rest from time to time.

Here are some types of Tension






Unrequited love


Fear of the Unknown

I bet you have some thought of your own on how to do this.

Let me offer here an example from Writing the Killer Mystery: Plotting the Murder.

Act I

The detective comes back to the office and finds it ransacked. The intruder is hiding. They scuffle. A gun goes off.

Tension = Intruder, scuffle, the sleuth may be shot.

This is otherwise known as a cliffhanger. Note that relief comes in Act II.

 Act II

The detective survives the shooting from the first act, but the intruder gets away.

Relief = Detective survives.

Later his star witness vanishes. He follows leads and finds the kidnappers hideout. Only, they are gone, and she is dead.

Tension = Witness vanishes.

Relief = Kidnappers escape and witness is dead.

Take note, the relief is not always good or positive. Only, it has eliminated the tension.

 Act III

A clue leads the detective to a warehouse on the docks. He believes he has trapped the killer, but then the tables are turned. He finds himself tied up with a ticking bomb next to him. The killer explains how he is going to leave the sleuth to die and then . . .

Tension = the detective’s darkest hour. He may die if he cannot escape the dilemma.

Relief = what happens next.


Here is a Video I did to describe Tension



If you want check out Writng the Killer Mystery: Plotting the Murder, Book 1 on Amazon.