Wednesday, January 12, 2011


 No, this is not a reference to what I feel at any given moment (macro-tension may be more accurate).  It's also not a microwave recipe.  It's actually a term coined by Donald Maass in The Fire In Fiction.  He uses it to describe the technique authors must use to hold their readers' attention through every word.  It is "the moment-by-moment tension that keeps the reader in a constant state of suspense over what will happen, not in the story but in the next few seconds."
Ever skimmed a paragraph of internal monologue?  So have I.  Sometimes when we're writing our character's thoughts and feelings, we use 100 words to say something that could have easily been said with ten.  Or we restate.  Or we say the same things again, just using different words (did I already say that?)
So how do we avoid these flaws and keep our internal dialogue (also called exposition) interesting and full of micro-tension?  Here are some of his tips- again in bullet points:

  • Find a passage of exposition in your manuscript.
  • Identify the primary emotion in the passage, then write down its opposite.
  • Look for what the character is thinking, summarize the main idea in her mind, and then find a conflicting idea.
  • If the passage involved mulling over something that happened earlier, find something about the prior occurrence that your character failed to notice or realize, raise an unasked question, or answer what new reasons your character has to feel uneasy, anxious, or in danger.
  • Without looking at your original draft, rewrite the exposition using conflicting emotions or warring ideas.  Make the contrast strong and add fresh questions and worries.
All right, that's about all the blog space I think I should take up for one day.  But before I finish, I have to acknowledge that I did very little (okay, none) of the research about micro-tension.  I took it almost verbatim from the lesson taught last night at our ANWA meeting (thanks Sandra).  Just one reason, among many, why I love ANWA.


  1. Looking for your dreaming of books giveaway post. If you do get a post up email me and I'll readd you to the linky list.

  2. New follower! Stop by and say hi if you get a chance! If you haven't already,
    enter to win Rot & Ruin and Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry!

  3. You have won an award!
    We chose you because you have a great blog, and we love reading your posts. :-)
    Please stop by The Lit Express to find out the award you have won!