“Read with a tension-sensitive eye,” writes Donald Maass in his book, Writing the Breakout Novel. You will find the words and explanation in the accompanying workbook by the same title. Maass says you can’t have too much tension, a.k.a. conflict.
Romance author Shirley Jump advises her online writing group when things get slow, throw another elephant into the room. She refers to conflict.
Think about what captures you when you read. Can you see the tension in the scenes? Detect it in the dialogue? Is it the specific words the author uses? Does the writer say it or show it? How? How tightly woven are the threads of the tapestry to make a neat, orderly story that carries the reader along for the adventure?
Think about a tense moment in your life. Can you put it into words? Do the words you use describe the conflict (i.e. tension) you felt? No? Rewrite it. Let yourself experience the moment. Immerse yourself in the situation. Put yourself smack dab in the middle of the scene. What do you feel? Do you sense danger in the air or something else? What about the body language of the characters? The scents in the air? The environment/surroundings? The emotions? The passions within each character?
At the moment I am struggling with my characters because too much autobiographical stuff is getting into the story. I have created plenty of tension, but do I know my characters as well as I need to know them to write this story? Is it their story or is it my story?
Writers have shared that there is a certain amount of autobiography in everything we write. I will say that means that writers have to write about what they know, so a certain amount of our lives will be in each of our works because we are writing what we know. So, it’s back to the drawing board—er, excuse me, the pen and paper—and to work.