|Photo credit: Anant Nath Sharma on Flickr|
It’s not that I don’t want my characters to ever get along, in fact, it’s important that those who are meant to work together learn to at the very least tolerate each other. But if you make the relationships between your main characters too easy, you’ll be missing out on major potential for tension and conflict.
One of the easiest ways to keep your story interesting, even between the more exciting, edge-of-your-seat scenes, is to administer a tension transfusion. A simple scene of two characters sharing the same space with nothing particularly interesting going on can become fascinating if one character is secretly angry at the other, of if they’re both openly angry, or if one character recently hurt the other, or if they’re irritated at each other, or…
I think you get the idea.
Tension between characters can be used in just about any situation and is a great way to add an underlying thread of conflict to be woven into your story.
Here’s a quick example from City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare. After an incident I’m not going to spoil, but I will say involves fighting and people getting hurt, Clary (the protagonist) is assessing the situation and calming down when Jace (the sort of love interest) and company come onto the scene. Jace and Clary, at this point, are not getting along, and so what would have been an otherwise relatively calm (in comparison, anyway) scene is rife with tension:
“‘What,’ [Jace] said, with a sharp and deliberate annoyance, ‘do you think you’re doing?’Very quick example, as I said, but the banter is significantly more interesting if only because Jace is furious with Clary to begin with, so when he arrives he brings with him a whole new wave of conflict.
Clary glanced down at herself. She was still perched on the coffee table, knife in hand. She fought the urge to hide it behind her back. ‘We had an incident. I took care of it.’
‘Really.’ Jace’s voice dripped sarcasm. ‘Do you even know how to use that knife, Clarissa? Without poking a hole in yourself or any innocent bystander?’” (City of Ashes, page 231)
Tension between characters, to me, is always fun to write, and it’s a quick, easy way to inject some conflict into any scene.
Have you used this method to include tension in your scenes?
Do your characters get along too well? You may be missing out on potential tension and conflict. (Click to tweet)
Looking for a way to add tension do your WIP? Writer @Ava_Jae shares a quick way to add conflict. (Click to tweet)