Tag Archives | Tension

Writing Conflict: How to Ruin (Fictional) Lives

Sometimes, terrible things happen to characters. It’s just a fact of fiction. But as authors, sometimes we want pull back before things get too awful for our sweet, precious characters. Sometimes we want to make things easy because we love them. My dear writer friends, that is not how our characters grow. Like mama birds shoving their chicks out of the nest to make them fly, we must make everything just awful so their true […]


How Losing Your Purse Can Improve Your Writing

If you’ve ever visited the DEPARTURES area of the airport, you probably know that it is not exactly an oasis of tranquility. There are cars trying to park; cars trying to double park, cars trying to squeeze out of where they’ve double-parked, orange cones, orange vests, whistles, and general chaos. I was being dropped off at Burbank Bob Hope Airport by my mom and dad, 74 and 80 respectively, and wanted to debark as efficiently as possible […]


The Secret to Writing a Commercial Hit

Here’s the answer to the question nearly every aspiring author has asked (whether they admit it or not): How do you write a bestseller? Well, I’m going to tell you how. Ready? The answer is: You can’t. Well, duh, JJ, you might say. Keep your head down and write your own book, that’s what everyone says. That’s all true, of course. But it doesn’t stop all of us (agents and editors included!) from trying to find/write The Next Big Thing. […]


A Quick Tip to Keep Your Scenes Moving

I’m deep in revisions right now, and one trick I use to test my plot and make sure my story is, well, going somewhere, is to ask three simple questions in every scene: Question One: What is the protagonist trying to do? This shows me the goal of every scene. If I can’t answer this, then I know the scene goal is either nonexistent or needs work. This allows me to make sure my protagonist […]


Walking the High Wire: The Art of Writing Tension

What is it that makes a “page-turner”? What indefinable, shivery quality does a book possess that makes you unable to put it down?  On a personal, subjective level, that “it” quality differs from reader to reader. But I would argue that on an objective, craft-oriented level, all page-turners have one quality in common: narrative tension. What is narrative tension? I personally define it as the unbearable need to know what happens next. Some of the best […]