What is Tension in a Novel?

Check out Nancy Curteman’s Blog about Tension!

Global Mysteries

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What is Tension in a mystery novel? Tension is that element in a novel that evokes emotions such as worry, anxiety, fear and stress on the part of both the reader and the characters in a novel. Bill Johnson provides a great analogy that emphasizes the importance of tension: “…tension can be compared to an electrical current that runs through a story. The weaker the current, the less a story transmits to an audience. The greater the current, the greater the involvement of an audience.”

At first the idea of tension seems a bit abstract. We all know it when we experience it, but putting the definition of tension into words requires some thought. Let’s look at a few of the attributes of tension. Tension is

anticipation of conflict. The reader and the characters know a problem is on the horizon.

changes that impact the novel’s characters.

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