Rising Action – Tension and Release, more Secrets

28 June 2012, this blog is about writing in scenes.  I’ll leave up the parts of a novel because I think this is an important picture for any novelist.  I’m writing about the rising action.

1. The beginning
2. The rising action
3. The Climax
4. The falling action
5. The dénouement

Tension and release is the method of development of the rising action.  There are obviously degrees of tension and release–let’s look at them.

How to create tension and release.  Let’s start a list, off the cuff:

1. Fear
2. Love
3. Sex
4. Hate
5. Hunger or thirst
6. Jealousy
7. Danger
8. Drunkenness
9. Pain and suffering
10. Injury
11. Loss
12. Abuse
13. Torture
14. Nature
15. Sickness
16. Gender confusion
17.  Disfigurement
18.  Time
19.  Secrets
20. …

I’m beginning with the secrets of the protagonist (main character).  This is why I don’t like first person for novels.  In a first person novel, it is not impossible to keep the protagonist’s secrets from the reader, but most authors don’t.  In the third person, it is easy and reasonable for the author to keep the protagonist’s secrets.

The secrets of the protagonist are the best and most powerful secrets an author can use to build tension and release.  For example, in my unpublished novel, Warrior of Darkness, the protagonist, Klava, is blind.  The reader might guess (from my other novels and hints) that Klava is blind, but I don’t tell you and the other characters don’t know or don’t let on.  You only discover the main character is blind near the last half of the novel when the antagonist discovers Klava is blind.  This is how you keep secrets from your readers, and this is the reason you keep secrets from your readers.  Many readers, when they discover Klava is blind will note all the foreshadowing and smile at the revelation.  Some will be absolutely surprised.  And this isn’t Klava’s only secret.

I’ll write more about secrets as a tension builder, tomorrow.  I also want to leave myself a note.  I was asked by one of my blog readers to explain how I decide what to tell and what not to tell in my writing.  I’ll try to keep this in mind as I touch on the rest of the tension building topics.


About L.D. Alford

L. D. Alford is a novelist whose writing explores with originality those cultures and societies we think we already know. His writing distinctively develops the connections between present events and history—he combines them with threads of reality that bring the past alive. L. D. Alford is familiar with technology and cultures—he is widely traveled and earned a B.S. in Chemistry from Pacific Lutheran University, an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University, a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from The University of Dayton, and is a graduate of Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, and the USAF Test Pilot School. L. D. Alford is an author who combines intimate scientific and cultural knowledge into fiction worlds that breathe reality. He is the author of three historical fiction novels: Centurion, Aegypt, and The Second Mission, and three science fiction novels: The End of Honor, The Fox’s Honor, and A Season of Honor.
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