Tag Archives: Sandra Wickham

Creating Suspense and Sustaining Tension, Part 1

At the wonderful Creative Ink writing festival I sat on panels on creating tension and suspense.  I have been thinking ever since about ways to accomplish these.  And, from the point of view of time management for writers, if we can create suspense and sustain tension as we plot and draft, then we save a crazy amount of hours on revisions.

First, it’s worth taking the time to develop a protagonist the reader will care deeply about. We’ve heard of the Monkeysphere — the theory that humans can only keep a certain number of people close to their hearts.  Along with family members and friends, we appear to have  room for fictional characters as well. Right, Netflix?

To develop engaging characters, it’s worth taking the time to list flaws and balancing strengths.  I see so many flawed protagonists in our subs box, but few of them achieve the balance that helps the reader take them to their hearts. Balance involves developing

  • inner and outer longings.
  • kindnesses and sacrifices.
  • falls and redemptions.

Look at the extraordinarily flawed and engaging Lisbeth Salander, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  She’s not all flaws; in fact, her ferocious loyalty, physical strength, and world-beating intellect balance all the imperfections that make us love her.  Looking at my submissions inbox, it seems that there’s a lot of great work on developing flaws in characters, but not much attention to the strengths, as if somehow strengths were old-fashioned.

Once we create that engaging character, half our work in sustaining tension is done for us as the readers bring their own anxiety for the protagonist to the page.  The stakes, depending on our genre, may be survival, love and belonging, power, or freedom. These same stakes resonate with us all, through a character readers can believe in and take for our own.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week.  Cheers, Mel.

Read more about Creative Ink

Creative Ink Festival

There’s an exciting new literary festival in town, and Pulp Literature is thrilled to be a part of it!

The Creative Ink Festival for Writers, Readers, and Artists is the brainchild of writer, fitness guru, and all around ball of energy Sandra Wickham.  This one day event on Saturday April 25th is a fabulous chance to see presentations, panels, and readings by dozens of authors, editors, artists and other creative folk, get your work-in-progress blue-pencilled for FREE, and get inspired for that next project, all for the WOW price of only $25.

This is a great way for new writers to get their toes wet at a fun and friendly conference.  It’s a chance to network, learn more about the business of writing, and come blinking out of the solitary writers’ caves in which so many of us tend to spend our working days.

What will the Pulp Lit team be up to?

Laura Kostur

Kimberleigh Roseblade

Visit us: Come by our booth where you will find Sue and Jen, as well as authors Laura Kostur, Kimberleigh Roseblade and Kris Sayer floating between our booth and Academie Duello’s.  We have free ebook issues for Creative Ink attendees only, as well as 20% off all subscriptions, print or ebook!

Kris Sayer

Blue Pencils: Free blue pencil sessions by a host of authors and editors are on offer.  Sue will have sessions between 10am – 11am, and Jen will be available 11am – noon.  Email Sandra to book a session now.

Susan PietersPanels: Sue will be chatting with Patrick Swenson, Silvia Garcia-Moreno, and Ian Alexander Martin in What Agents, Editors and Publishers are Looking For at 11am, and Jen will have her yea or nay thumb at the ready for Live Action Slush with Claude Lalumière, Patrick Swenson, Mark Teppo, and Alex C Renwick.

JM LandelsReadings: Join us at 4:30 for Pulp Lit readings by Sue, Jen, and special guest authors.

Workshop: Jen will present David vs Goliath: Writing the Mismatched Fight Scene at 6pm.  Come and learn how to write fight scenes that thrill and satisfy, in this interactive workshop involving swords, knives and office furniture.

There’s a full day of programming on offer for writers, readers, artists and publishing professionals, and member bags full of free books and other giveaways.  All for amazingly low price of $25.  Prices go up to $30 at the door, so register online this week.  Come out and support this fledgling festival and help it grow to a full three day weekend next year.

We look forward to seeing you there!