Adding Tension to your Manuscript
by Ana Siqueira
I want to tell you how to add tension to your manuscript. Oh, no! I can’t tell you that.
It’s against the rules.
I must show you, right?
Let’s start with a sweet and silly story about a carrot-eating bunny. (This is not my WIP! hahaha)
Bunny Jeo gobbles up sweet carrots.
When the floor shakes.
And he hears…
It’s a Monster Carrott!!!
Now let’s investigate some techniques used in these spreads.
Technique 1: Page-turner
TV shows often end with a cliffhanger, to reel you in and keep you coming back for more. Will the bad guy catch the good guy? Will the princess fall in love with the prince? Will the rabbit gobble up the monster?
So you must hook your readers with a question.
Ending a spread with but, when, then, or even ellipsis will pique the readers’ curiosity.
They won’t be able to stand it. They must…
TURN THE PAGE!!!
Now that the reader is hooked, let’s keep them curious and a little nervous too.
Technique 2 - Short sentences
Short sentences full of tension will hook your readers and engage them in the story.
The bunny gags.
The bunny hides.
Long sentences are good to slow down the pace. Short, snappy sentences add tension and mystery. But don’t forget to use the page-turner to heighten things even more.
On spread 2, readers will feel the need to TURN THE PAGE because they must find out who is doing all that stomping.
Technique 3 - Onomatopoeia and Senses
If you’ve read comic books, you’ll have seen lots of sound effects, right? Pow, Kaboom, Zap, Crash! Words like these immediately grab your attention. Sound effects, onomatopoeias, smells, visions, or any senses can involve readers. And if readers can hear, smell, taste, see, or touch but they don’t know what…Ta-Da! They will…
TURN THE PAGE.
Technique 4 - Show, Don’t tell
Of course, we all have heard and been annoyed by this message - Show, Don’t Tell, but…
Technique 5 - Why do they Care?
These are a few techniques you can use to add tension to your manuscript. But remember, the most important way to get your readers hooked is to make them feel. If we really feel for this bunny and cheer for him, that will keep us hooked. So, make sure your character is likable and readers care about them. And also, one more annoying question…
What is at STAKE?
Will the Monster Carrot say he wants to be his best friend and they go play in the garden? - Probably not that tension-packed, right?
But maybe the Monster Carrot does want to be the bunny’s best friend, but the bunny is really scared of the monster. - Higher stakes
What if the Monster Carrot tries to gobble up the rabbit? - Huge stakes.
Choose what is at stake.
Make your readers care.
And force them to…
Turn the page!
And if they
Pound, pound! Feel.
You got them HOOKED…
FOREVER! (just an exaggeration for tension purposes, of course!)
Find more about her and her books at https://anafiction.com/
You can follow Ana on
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12/6/2021 12:13:37 pm
Technique 5 - Why do they Care?
12/6/2021 12:18:34 pm
Yes, for sure, this is a must.
12/6/2021 12:54:05 pm
Great post! Thank you!
12/8/2021 05:28:49 am
I like the technique about making shorter sentences. Thank you for sharing all your other techniques for tension.
12/10/2021 03:39:54 pm
I think technique 5 is where you can grasp the reader by the heart strings or by fear, angst, worry and all the other emotions by making them CARE enough to turn that page
12/11/2021 02:51:49 am
Thank you for sharing!
Jodelle A Brohard
12/11/2021 04:11:18 am
My favorite technique here that you mentioned was adding suspense by using page turns. I think that's very important.
12/11/2021 04:51:14 am
One technique I like to use in my stories is writing short, choppy sentence with one syllable words and alliteration using hard letter sounds. Thank you for SHOWING us how to add tension!
alicia m. minor
12/11/2021 05:06:07 am
I like using onomatopoeias because children are fascinated with sounds especially the boys. They loved action! I also go for stakes. This is how we come up with characters of strength, conviction etc.
12/11/2021 05:13:00 am
I like shorter sentences to make the story snap, move forward and ...page turn.
12/11/2021 05:29:01 am
Ana, funny & brilliant as always! Thx for these essential reminders
12/11/2021 05:52:47 am
Hi Ana, I really enjoyed your sense of humor! I like the short sentences…quick, snappy! I also like the kaboom, pow approach! Makes me think of Batman! I wish you tremendous success in your endeavors!
12/11/2021 06:06:45 am
Great post, Ana! My favorite technique is to use those short, punchy sentences. Sometimes I forget, but when I remember, they're effective!
12/11/2021 06:54:31 am
Melissa, what event is this? I don't know about it.
12/11/2021 06:34:52 am
Thanks for a short and snappy summary! I often forget about #3.
12/11/2021 07:10:26 am
While I loved all the suggestions, number 5 resonated with me. If you don't give your main character a strong problem to solve n one will keep reading. Terrific post!
12/11/2021 07:11:20 am
Thanks for the tips/reminders. It’s way too easy for me to get caught up in my story and forget the basics. I love creating page turns using tension and foreshadowing.
12/11/2021 07:54:03 am
I liked the onomatopoeia technique and the reminder to show, don't tell. You made it look so simple and it was a reminder for me to explain literally what someone is feeling in the moment and show that. Or to literally use the sound of something to my advantage to hook the reader in. Loved this article! Can't wait to read your books. Thank you for the tips.
12/11/2021 07:58:02 am
Thank you for the wonderful tips! Heightening the stakes is something I’m always working on. Thanks for sharing! -Erin
12/11/2021 08:02:57 am
I love all of these techniques, but short sentences are my fave. Using language techniques to sculpt a story fascinates me.
12/11/2021 01:23:07 pm
Thanks so much! #1 is most helpful right now as I am establishing page breaks for my current children’s picture book manuscript. But they are all good, and I will revisit my manuscript with these in mind.
12/11/2021 02:25:06 pm
Why do they care?
12/11/2021 07:12:20 pm
I am enjoying following and reading your techniques so much.....I'm interested in writing a book specific to Children with Autism as my beautiful 5 year old daughter was diagnosed with Autism at age 3, Due to the fact that Autism is more common in boys [1 in 4] the books I've found are the main character being a little boy. My goal is to write a short sentence and page turning book.... I'm excited to keep learning from you......
12/11/2021 08:15:34 pm
This was a great, quick read! Thank you, Ana Siqueira! I like the short, snappy sentences. This is perfect for the kid voices in my stories.This technique helps make a read-aloud easy and compelling. Also, short sentences are great for beginning readers memorizing the story to 'read' by themselves over and over again. I hope I win your
12/12/2021 12:08:19 am
I loved the Show don't tell tip and examples.
12/12/2021 07:25:13 pm
This is really helpful. Thanks so much for posting it.
12/13/2021 04:00:31 pm
I think all 5 techniques are important.
12/14/2021 08:56:17 am
Short Sentences! I've never seen this explicitly noted as a tension-building technique - thank you!
12/14/2021 10:24:46 pm
Great blog post! Very relevant to a story I am working on right now. A nice reminder to raise the stakes. The advice in shorter sentences to build suspense while longer sentences can slow down the pace was great. Thank you!
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