Monday, August 31, 2009

Ramping Tension and GIVEAWAY!





Tangible example of ramping conflict:

The most important question you can ask that will enable you to ramp conflict and put tension on every page is:

How can I make things worse?

In A Soldier's Reunion, I opened the scene with a bridge collapse. That's pretty bad, huh? But guess what? I made it worse. LOL! I made it worse by:
--having the PJs called to it. Made that worse by having them called to it after just coming off another mission so they're tired. I made that worse by having the collapse happen in their beloved hometown so there's the fear there of someone they loved having been on the bridge. I made that worse by having word get to them en route that there are confirmed fatalities, but no ID yet. So the tension keeps getting ramped and ramped and ramped. How did I make it even more worse? LOL! By having the wife of one of the PJs realize his stepdaughter was on a field trip at school and would have been on the bridge on their way back at the exact time of the collapse. Then they get word that there is a school bus on the bridge between the gap, which is tilting at one inch per minute and will give way any second. Then I made it worse by adding a burning tanker, ready to explode any second.

That's ALL in the opening few paragraphs. The book continues this way. There are breaks to give the reader a breather. LOL! But I just wanted to give an example of how you can keep asking yourself, "It's already bad, but how can I make it worse?"

Camy Tang is a MASTER at ramping external tension, meaning something that is an external threat to the character. So are Mary Connealy and Debby Giusti. They do well with physical conflict and danger scenarios. So if you don't have copies of their books, pick them up asap to see great examples of authors who know how to keep a steady stream of conflict in their books. Excellent tension rampers, these gals!

Julie Lessman has tons of romantic tension in her books. I've read Audra's stuff and she's excellent at this too. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the romantic tension she puts in her books as well as the external tensions she works through even her settings and rough terrain and through her characters' pasts that haunt them. This counts! So does emotional tension, which Janet, Cara, Glynna and Missy do well.

There's also relational tension, tension between characters. Sandra, Tina, Pam, Myra and Ruthy (as you'll soon see!) do this very well.

Positive tension counts too. So go for it! Tension is tension. It can be external or internal, positive or negative. But mostly, keep upping the stakes, meaning make really bad things happen to your character. Make their worst fear come true. Give them two choices with equally bad consequences and make them have no other choice than to choose one. LOL! Make the reader love them then make the character's life completely miserable throughout the book until the resolution or black moment when everything comes to a head. Tension comes from giving the characters dreams and wishes and goals then throwing hurdles, wrenches and roadblocks into the mix.

Put some type of tension on every page. If your character is just driving and introspecting or conversing, make it be raining so there's that constant ping in the background. If your character is running late, make it her first day on the job. Then make her go outside to discover she has a flat tire. LOL! How could you make that worse? Make her boss be the type of person who doesn't dole out mercy and has a pet peeve for tardiness.

Proofreading galleys for A Soldier’s Devotion, I decided to jot down the external conflict and see how it ramped.

Opening scene disaster: Christian attorney Val Russo crashes into USAF PJ Vince.

Tension ramps:
• We discover hero has a thing against attorneys because his brother was wrongly convicted due to an attorney who didn’t rat out a false informant.
• We discover Vince was headed to a mission when heroine rammed him
• His beloved bike is toast
• Val is embarrassed about being an upholder of the law and given two citations and one warning for traffic infractions which she will have to go to the courthouse to pay. Same courthouse she uses to prosecute criminals
• It was the only tangible reminder he had left of his late brother, who custom built him the bike
• His brother passed away in prison
• Vince discovers Val is not only a Christian but an attorney and not just an attorney but a prosecutor which Vince thinks is the worst kind
• Val was on her way to court when she was talking on the phone (illegal) and hit Vince
.The first officer on the scene is a good friend of Vince's
• Val crashed because she’d received a phone call that her aunt toppled down stairs on her medical scooter
• The aunt takes a turn for the worst
• Val discovers Vince was headed to a rescue mission when she hit him
• Vince was unable to go on the mission, leaving his team one man short=dangerous
• Vince discovers his team let another team go in their place, a more novice team=livid
• The pilot is still missing after a week.
• Superiors notify them the pilot was found but not alive and Vince’s anger surges toward the woman who hit him. He hopes she steers clear because she wants nothing to do with him
• Vince verbally lashes out at Val when she comes to apologize
• Vince discovers about her aunt’s accident and feels terrible for accusing Val of driving under the influence of distraction
• Vince’s dad was an alcoholic and Vince realizes he (himself) may have a drinking problem
• Val determines to get Vince’s bike rebuilt after she discovers about his brother. She also determines to get his brother’s name officially cleared
• The only person who can help with the bike’s custom rebuilding is Vince’s sister
• Val determines Vince is estranged with his sister
• Vince determines to stay out of heroine’s path
• Val discovers the only person who knows the bike design is Vince’s sister
• Val discovers Vince and his sister have been estranged since their brother’s prison death

The kicker: THIS IS ALL IN CHAPTERS 1 & 2. And there's more tension/conflict than what's mentioned above but I’ll stop here but you see how I continually ramped tension by asking myself, “How can I make this worse?” Then keep asking that. “It’s already bad, but how can I make it worse?”

Writers, I’d love to hear examples from your own work.
Readers, I’d love to hear examples from books you’ve read where the author did a great job of continually upping the stakes.

How can you make things worse and worse and worse for your character?


For the photos up there (two of them are from the inland hurricane I went through in Southern Illinois recently) think of the scenario. Write a small scene if you want and think how you could ramp the tension in those scenes. For instance, maybe a car is trying to get past the tree in the road. Maybe the person is late for work. Or maybe it's a pregnant woman in hard labor. Maybe the pregnant woman isn't due for three more months. See how you can continually ask, "How can I make this worse?"


Talk away!.

Oh, and everyone who leaves a comment with your e-mail address included (include spaces or brackets around the "@" sign so Net spiders, etc can't phish your address) in a drawing for a free, autographed copy of A Soldier's Reunion. Deadline for entry via the comment section of this post is Sept 3 at Midnight CST.

79 comments :

  1. Oh, I get to be first! You're really ramping the tension here!

    mzzlily[@]live.com

    Do I feel lucky?

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  2. LOL! Hi Lily! Got you down. Thanks for coming by. a

    I'm cooking up some scrambled eggs and sausage right now and will be serving virtual breakfast burritos with onions and bell peppers plus shredded, melted cheddar cheese for breakfast.

    Be sure to stop back by and eat with us. We have a coffee truck coming too. All the way from India. Well, they got detained as you see from the picture.

    Indian coffee is THE BEST! The milk is boiled before being added making the rich coffee oh-so-good.

    Come back and dig in. Best part about a virtual breakfast is NO CALORIES OR SATURATED FATS OR CHOLESTEROL!!!!

    Cheryl

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  3. Cheryl, I pity your children when they were grounded. LOL!

    I wasn't hungry till I smelled the sausage and onions.
    Thanks.

    Because of your willingness to expose yourself like this, I admit I have no qualms about making life miserable for my characters either.

    debraemarvin(at)yahoo

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  4. Cheryl,

    I need to amp up the tension some in my current work. It's obvious.

    And I was going to bring deviled eggs, but their tame compared to your breakfast burritos (just like my tension).

    wmussell[@]hotmail.com

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  5. Thanks for the opportunity! I need a little more tension in my life. :O)

    estrella8888(at)roadrunner(dot)com

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  6. Cheryl-kins, good morning!

    And you've totally hit on one of my weaknesses. In true mommy-fashion, I want to fix things too soon.

    Bridge collapse?

    Give me a pole, I'll hold it up 'til everyone's safe.

    Coffee cart tipping???

    I've got a character there waiting to miraculously catch every falling bean thereby preventing disaster or monetary discomfort.

    It took a long time for me to learn to make them suffer, wicked old witch style.

    And now I enjoy it. Perversely, of course. ;)

    This is so true and your action-packed scenes are a solid reason readers flock to your work. Totally understandable.

    And breakfast smells two-thumbs-up yummy.

    Loving it.

    :)

    But since the Indian coffee is delayed, I've got some good ol' 8 o'clock coffee here with the NEW world's best creamer.

    Vanilla Caramel Brownie by International Delight.

    Oh mylanta, I didn't think anything could ride roughshod over Italian Sweet Cream, but this does.

    :)

    Ruthy

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  7. Good morning, Cheryl! Great post. It reminds me not to make life so easy and placid for my characters. Even though they're not in any physical danger, there's a lot of emotional danger.

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  8. Tension on every page is very important, Cheryl. I judge a contest here and there, and I critique for people, and that seems to be the most common mistake for newbies. I'll read a scene and there's no tension. The scene is bland. Nothing exciting is happening and nobody's mad at anybody. It's BOR-RING! I gently remind them that every scene MUST have tension and should also either move the plot forward or deepen characterization.

    I do think it's possible to go overboard with making the worst-case scenario happen--in a straight romance, especially. But in a suspense, you definitely need to make things BAD BAD BAD for those poor heroines and heroes.

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  9. Cheryl ... YIKES, girl, there's so much tension in those first few chapters, I need a chiropracter!!

    Hands-down, Cheryl, you are one of the best I have seen (i.e. read) as far as hitting the ground running on the first page of a book with taut action that ramps and ramps till the reader is almost suspended in air! And, uh, the romantic tension in your books, girl, is nothing to sneeze at either!

    As far as "romantic tension" in my books, I have to laugh because I'm not happy unless angst or ecstasy is happening on almost every page, but not everybody likes (or wants) that kind of tension in their books. When my prayer partner first read A Passion Most Pure, she actually didn't like it -- it made her too tense. "Can't you write a "sweet" romance without so much tension?" she asked.

    Uh ... no. :)

    Fun post, Cheryl.

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  10. Good morning, Cheryl. Great post on raising the stakes for our characters. I remember the bridge collapse opening of A Soldier's Reunion. Not an easy scenario for the hero and heroine to reconnect after all those years. And exactly your intent. :-)

    I love your advice regarding our characters--give them two choices with equally bad consequences and make them have no other choice than to choose one.

    Thanks for the breakfast burritos! What a great way to start the day.

    Janet

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  11. Morning Cheryl, Ooooo yummy breakfast burritos. Reminds me of home. And Ruthy the coffee is yummy. I drink mine black, but that creamer sounds tempting.

    Great job on tension Cheryl. I keep saying you need to be a teacher. smile. You are the master in tension. Your Love Inspired novels are full of it. You make those characters suffer so, but then the love means so much more.

    Thanks for your post and the reminder.

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  12. Debra, LOLOLOL!

    Shhh...don't tell my kids but trust me, I know how to make their lives miserable.

    They learned the hard way NEVER to say, "I'm bored!"

    I hand them a toothbrush and say, "Oh, well let's remedy that. Scrub the baseboards."

    They sulk off muttering, "I'm not THAT bored."

    Muhahahahamama.

    Thanks for stopping by Seekerville.

    Enjoy the sausage and eggs.

    Cheryl

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  13. Hi Walt,

    GET THOSE DEVILED EGGS BACK HERE!

    I know many who think my sausage is too spicy.

    Eat those eggs and go amp that tension! (Love that phrase by the way!)

    How's your book coming along? Anything new? Keep us posted.

    Thanks for being a regular visitor to Seekerville.

    Cheryl

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  14. Hey Diane,

    Gotcha down. Thanks for dropping by. Oh and if you need tension, hmm, let's see...

    Oh, I know (because I did this). Go to the remote corners of India, alone, without your family and only strangers, most of whom are years younger and look to you for help, kind of like a mom. Travel way, way down wayyy south. Travel for hours on a steaming bus on rickety roads all the way down near the coast where they don't have cell towers or electricity and try to find a way to contact your home. LOL! Trust me, that'll put a little tension in your life.

    Seriously, thanks for stopping by.

    Hugs

    Cheryl

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  15. RUTHY! Thanks for the coffee! It's YUMMY!

    Looks like the coffee cart just pulled up!

    And ps...I love your stories. I think they're rife with tension. Just not the blow 'em up and break a bridge kind of tension that I put in my books. LOL!

    You have quite nice relational and inner tension in your books, meaning your characters always have their demons to fight or are stuggling with something in their past that's affecting their present.

    That makes for a steady drip of tension all the way through the book IMHO. And goodness you are a much more experienced writer than I! Think back to the state of my mss in the Barclay. LOLOL!

    Tension? What's tension? LOL>

    Hugs!!!!!

    Cheryl

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  16. Hi Cara! Love the pic! And love Ruthy's new hairstyle, don't you?

    You're so right in that there are many different types of tension.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

    Hugs

    Cheryl

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  17. Hi Melanie! Always great to see you here in Seekerville.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Grab a burrito!

    Cheryl

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  18. Hey Julie!

    Awww...thanks for your kind words!

    I LOL at what you said:

    "I'm not happy unless angst or ecstasy is happening on almost every page..."

    That's SO true and SO you. And we love you for it.

    I was just thinking about this last night, how readers prefer different types of books. I love high-octane, major voltage, fast-paced action books.

    But, I also sometimes crave more simplistic books where everything runs smooth and for the most part the characters are happy-go-lucky with only a few glitches (mostly funny) here and there.

    I also love a great historical to take me back to a calmer time.

    Thanks for coming by!

    And keep writing those great books!

    Hugs
    Cheryl

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  19. But can't there be such a thing as too much tension? If you put so much into it in the opening paragraphs/chapters, there doesn't seem to be much left for the story. I realize we need to draw the readers in and hold them, but still just having one thing after another happen right away is bad for the heart LOL!

    Very interesting article, though, and something I'll need to think about.

    kagashi(@)fmtc.net

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  20. Hi Janet!

    Thanks for your kind words about Reunion and thanks for reading it.

    Side note:
    That book was a true challenge to write because my editors really wanted me to amp up (borrowed that term from Walt...thanks Walt!) the heroine's PTSD. This was hard because I had to make her traumatized yet not so physchotic that the readers disconnected with her. That book grew me as a writer, for sure.

    And I've gotten lots of letters from people who say they really connected with the heroine because of her PTSD because they suffered from it too.

    Lesson to aspirings once you sell and get revision suggestions: Trust your editors! They know the readership better than you do.

    Hugs all!

    More burritos coming up.

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  21. Hi Sandra,

    Isn't Ruthy's coffee yummy? I admit I'm hoarding it over here...(sneaks off with two cups, one in each hand).

    Thanks for your kind words! I don't feel like a good teacher because I'm a total instinct writer. I write then go back and analyze what I did later. LOL! And it's hard for me to even explain what I do because I don't think about it beforehand other than to get to know my characters and sketch a vague scene index. But thank you for your kind words. I'll consider 'teaching' more. LOL! I prefer to think of it as mentoring.

    Mentoring I guess is what we're doing here huh?

    Someone's always ahead of us leading and we all need to be taking someone's hand who's a little behind us on the road and teach them what we've learned from others a little ahead of us on the road. What a journey! :-)
    Hugs

    Cheryl

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  22. Oh my goodness, Cheryl! Throw all that tension at us on a Monday morning! Forget the coffee -- give a couple shots of espresso to get up to speed, LOL!

    Good, good advice. The last thing I want is for a reader to start yawning through a scene. Thankfully, Ruthy took care of all that in my mss, LOL! Cut and snip, she cracked her whip over me : )

    Now, I'm going to print off your post and examine all the catastrophes you inserted with ease.

    Thanks for the eye-opening Monday morning call to action!

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  23. This is a nice wake-up call for me, Cheryl. I think, except for the two dozen killers on the trail of my heroine, I've made things to comfortable.
    She and the hero are definitely getting along well.
    I need to fix that.

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  24. Hi Whalehugger,

    I DO think there is such a thing as putting too much ANGST in a book. But I think it's hard to put too much tension if you're doing tension right, meaning giving readers a breather through the use of scene and sequel.

    If you don't know what that is, Google it or read Scene and Sequel by Jack Bickham. Readers do need a break in my opinion. And while I don't care for books that stay constantly tense without a break, I think one of my trademarks as a writer is to start off with a bang.

    I think you have to find your groove and write like you write and your readership will find you. But for sure there needs to be some tension in the book. I think tension is what keeps readers turning pages.

    And like I said, tension could mean the hero trying to figure out how to propose to the heroine in a surprise way without her finding out and she has the quirk of being a snooper. Stuff like that where it's more of a positive, fun kind of tension.

    Anyone seen the movie Seven Pounds (never figured out the meaning of the title) but that movie was tense all the way through. No break anywhere but I was so busy trying to figure out what was going on and what was real-time and what was flashback that the unrelenting tension didn't bother me.

    Thanks for stopping by Seekerville! Come back often.

    Cheryl

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  25. Hey Audra,

    Thanks for coming by! And Ruthy's good for cracking those whips! We all need her from time to time even though secretly she's a loving, caring sap. LOL!

    Ruthy is our secret weapon here in Seekerville. She and Tina keep all of the rest of us hooligans in line.

    Hugs

    Cheryl

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  26. MARY,

    DID YOU JUST SAY:

    Cheryl. I think, except for the two dozen killers on the trail of my heroine, I've made things to comfortable.


    ROFLOLOLOLOLLL!!!

    Mary's got it goin' on with tension. Trust me, get these Seekers books for great examples of DIFFERENT KINDS of tension. There are tons. Tons I tell ya!

    off to eat another burrito...

    Cheryl

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  27. Okay...I just thought of something and I need to confess. LOL!

    The book I'm finishing up is going fast now (I should finish it today or tomorrow...WOT!) but, can I just say that this book has taken me twice as long to write as my other?

    I figured out the reason. This book doesn't start out with a bang. On revisions the eds wanted me to start with a specific scene that had happened later in the book.

    Which I thought was great advice because of their rationale behind it. BUT, I wrote it and while it's a normal opening it's not what I'm used to because it's CALM. Nothing really dramatic is happening other than the H/h meeting in a home when she shows up to help his dad with OT.

    Oh, well, okay she brings a dog with her so that added some tension. But after I got stuck for days on the first chapter, I called Camy and said, "You think my editors would notice if I slipped an itty bitty helicoptor crash in chapter two?"

    ROFL.

    So anyway, my confession is that because this beginning is SO drastically different that what I'm used to starting a book with, it has taken me AS LONG to write chapter one (one week) as it has THE ENTIRE REST OF THE BOOK. (one week-rought draft).

    I'm really not kidding.

    Normally I can spew a rough draft out in about 4-8 days. But it has taken me two solid weeks plus two days...and chapter one took a week by itself. LOLOL!

    We'll see how this book fares compared to the others and how readers react. NOT putting tons of danger-type tension in the opening was one of the most challenging things that I've done as a writer to date.

    So at times, when the story calls for it, decompress the tension.

    But still, try to have some kind of tension in each scene or the book could get boring really fast.

    Hugs all!

    Cheryl

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  28. Someone e-mailed privately to ask if those storm pics were real.

    YES! That was near my home (blocks away) and exactly why we didn't have electricity (or Internet-WAAA!) for three solid weeks.

    And I was under a looming deadline. LOL!

    Talk about tension...LOLOL! Typing by flashlight in the hallway. THANK GOD FOR GENERATORS!!!

    Cheryl

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  29. Whalehugger,

    That Bickham book I mentioned where he talks about his scene-and-sequel style of writing is titled "Scene and Structure."

    It may be out of print but you should be able to find a used copy somewhere online.

    Cheryl

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  30. Hi Cheryl! Wow! You do know how to lay on the tension! I'm so intrigued to know how things turn out for Vince and Val. Great post!

    Jen

    gypsyscribe(at)gmail.com

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  31. Hi Jen,

    Thanks for coming by and for your kind words!

    Got you down.

    Come back and see us often, okay?

    Cheryl

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  32. Just tweeted this post.

    Hmmm...wondering...

    Tweet & they will come?

    We shall see!

    Experimenting,

    Cheryl

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  33. I agree that Julie Lessman does a great job with the romantic tension. Each book in her daughers of Boston series is a great example. And she builds it clear until almost the end of each book.

    Blessings
    Michelle
    m.vasquez[at}grandecom[dot]net

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  34. thepeachykeenwriter [at] yahoo [dot] com

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  35. Stopped in to see if Cheryl needed extra food or drink because it's mid-day here in the Northeast.

    Don't you love living in a country big enough to have mega time zones???? I mean, seriously.

    So I brought fresh chicken salad, whole wheat and D'Italiano Italian bread, cheeses and a pot of Italian Wedding soup. Love those tiny meatballs. They're just so darned cute!!!!

    And I realize that I have been mentioned a multitude of times today which either bodes well or looms horrific.

    So far it doesn't seem too bad, LOL!

    So, Cheryl, I love that your editors had you try a whole different way to start this book BECAUSE it forces us out of our customary comfort zone and into a whole new time/space continuum.

    'Member how we talked about specific authors' books all sounding alike? That's so stinkin' easy to have happen, and so easy to miss as the author, so you should be kissin' up (like I'm doing right now, LOL!) to that/those editors 'cause we're so much better if nudged out of the comfort zone and pushed to try new things.

    I love that. Totally. Not as much as I love God and my husband and chocolate and some of my kids, but I do love it.

    Great concept.

    Ruthy

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  36. Hi Michelle!

    I agree about Julie. Thanks for supporting Seekers' books!

    And thanks for reading our blog and sharing your thoughts. Every reader is important to us.

    Cheryl

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  37. Hi Audra E you peacky keen writer you. Grin.

    Gothca down.

    Thanks for dropping by.

    Grab some food. Ruthy just brought lunch.

    Thank you, Ruthy!

    Cheryl

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  38. Ruthy,

    Thanks for lunch! And as always the sage advice.

    I trust my eds. Totally. And I love the challenge of being stretched and of being thrown off my preplanned course every now and then. It's good to stay flexible and willing to roll with the changes.

    Still, I SO WANT TO CRASH SOMETHING! LOL. Maybe I'll sneak it in the black moment so that the readers who love that from me and who've come to expect it won't be disappointed.

    I'll let you know how it goes. LOLOL!

    But totally, seriously, unbelievably, the beginning is CALM.

    I feel quite proud that I accomplished that without blowing something up. Muhahahahahaaha!

    Editors are good for us that way. Build our writing and therefore our confidence in branching out to stuff we're not used to.

    We'll never continue to better our craft with each book if we're not challenged to grow, eh?

    Cheryl

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  39. Great post as always, Cheryl! Lots to think about. Ramping up the tension stimulates curiosity, ie. page turner!

    I start my WIP with a kidnapping, actually it is a rescue, but it all depends on perspective. Love interest was not dead after all, looks like story begins with a happy ending, or is it? Each of their spiritual lives have had a paradigm shift, but still result in a great gap, expectations crash, attempt to marry but back out and when finally decide to go ahead a suprise pregrancy is revealed and the antagonist is the father, the antagonist tries to "rescue" the girl from her hero (kidnapper), results in a major them of trust issues and trying to resurrect faith and love.

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  40. Thanks for the info on the book, Cheryl. I'll see if I can find a used copy on Amazon or in the area.

    And have no doubt, I'll be back to visit Seekerville again. A friend of mine recommended it and with the friendliness and information I've gotten here, it only makes me want to stay when I should be working.

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  41. Great post, Cheryl... and Ruthy - I'm on your side of the country so I'm all ready for that chicken :-)

    I just finished reading in Donald Maas book about how dialogue creates some 'great' tension...and that dialogue that isn't moving the story forward (as Melanie wrote) or causing some sort of tension (good or bad), needs to be revamped.

    I mean really, who wants to know if the character is doing laundry unless she's going to discover lipstick on her husband's collar or a blood stain on his sleeve. OR maybe the washing machine repair man is a murderer or a hero...either way - if you're mentioning a washing maching, it should be to move the story along :-)

    Okay - evidently I do way too much laundry :-)

    Cheryl, I LOVE action books...like Indiana Jones movies all written down, right?

    I don't usually write explosions, but my hero & heroine are on the ill-fated WWI ship the Lusitania in my historical WIP...and her ex-fiance (the heroes' brother) is on the ship too. They haven't seen each other since he left her at the altar one month earlier. Plus - he has his brand new wife, and three-year old son that no one knew about. Not to mention the fact that the ex-fiance is the only one who knows my heroine's secret past.
    And then...a German U-boat torpedoes the ship...it sinks in less than 30 minutes and no one can find the three year old.

    You are right - the seeker gals have some 'killer' tension in their books and have been inspiration for me.

    Romantic Tension? Thy name is Julie :-) Definitely...but of course, I have to wait and check out Myra, Ruthy, and Cara's books when they come out. Yipee!

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  42. Yes, but they've given the killers the slip for now.

    And the hero/heroine (married admidst gunfire in about chapter....seven) have had their ... ahem...Wedding Night together. Very congenial. Wildly congenial honestly.
    Maybe I should mess that up somehow.
    Hmmmmmm............

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  43. Oh, man, Mary's going to mess with their wedding night, but we have no worries about that in Seekerville.

    Because approximately 50% of the readers will miss the wedding night, it passes so quickly!!!!

    Zooooooooooom!

    Done.

    :)

    Sorry, Mare.

    Couldn't resist.

    And I want the world to know I was one of the five people who got 'it' in Petticoat Ranch.

    Seriously. Five people. The rest wrote and asked how she conceived.

    Mary, Mary, Mary.

    ;)

    Let them have their moment. Heaven knows that's all they'll get, darlin'.

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  44. Good afternoon, Cheryl I just love reading your posts! If I ever finish my book it will be a best seller just from the knowledge I get from your posts, you really should be a teacher.

    Milissa Austin Jenkins

    mdriverswife[@]aol

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  45. Make it worse? Hmmm. I think you just sent me off in exactly the right direction. Thank you.

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  46. I remember clearly that Ruthy got it. I remember because I had to tell almost everyone.

    Go back to page 83, read paragraph three. Now why would she say that if they haven't.......

    Oh, uh, really? Okay, if you say so.

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  47. What a great post, Cheryl!! I've got to go work some more (and ramp up the tension now that you've give me great examples!), so I'll come back and read comments tonight. :)

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  48. Hi Cheryl!
    Long time, no...talk! Lol....

    Anyway, I thought that your post was great! I don't really write much, as you know, but coming from at least this readers point of view the action/tension writing makes a book worth reading. : )
    This is the only book out of the 4 that I don't have. It sounds really good. I wanted to buy it when it was available, but then it was sold out.

    Thanks for the opportunity and I'll try to come onto Seekerville more : )
    Hannah
    hccelie[at]gmail[dot]com

    P.S. I don't know if anyone else will be on tonight or what your weather is llike, but up hear in Vermont it's REALLY chilly! So, I am providing some hot chocolate and warm chocolate chip cookies that I just made for all you late-night bloggers! Enjoy! : )

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  49. Hey Carla,

    Great to "see" you here!

    Wow! A kidnapping that is actually a rescue...I'm totally intrigued.

    My kinda story!

    Thanks for coming by. Keep up the great work on your book.

    Cheryl

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  50. You're most welcome, Whalehugger. We're glad you'll be coming back often.

    Now I've been wondering all day about the meaning of your nickname...whalehugger?

    That's intrigue in itself. :-)

    See you soon!

    Cheryl

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  51. Hey Pepper,

    Yes, absolutely! Dialogue is a great way to show tension.

    Another action-flick chick! Wahoo! I knew I liked you from the start.

    :-)

    Come back soon!

    Cheryl

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  52. Mary and Ruthy...you two crack me up...sparring over whether to meddle in Mary's characters' wedding night.

    Now THAT is a story in itself. LOLOL!

    And, Mary, I do confess that I had read your book and missed "it."

    So when you told us what page "it" was on, I intentionally ignored that post just so I could see if I could find it myslf. LOLOL! I went back and read from the beginning and, again, got so immersed in the story that I forgot to miss "it" again.

    Never did find it. Had to use your guide for where "it" was.

    No, no, no, no...don't go there. LOL.

    Cheryl

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  53. Hey Milissa!

    Awww...you are so sweet. Remind me to hand you your stack of cash at ACFW if you're going. LOLOL!

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Best of luck on your work!
    Cheryl

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  54. Hi Sheila,

    I hope it works! Come back and let us know...

    :-)

    Cheryl

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  55. Missy, thanks! Hope you got lots done.

    Cheryl

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  56. Hi Hannah!

    I LOVE hot chocolate! YAY!

    Gotcha down. Thanks so much for reading my books. That really means a lot!

    Hope you enjoy the rest of the series just as much. And definitely do drop by here often!

    Cheryl

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  57. Hey again!
    Cheryl, you really crack me up! Lol!

    How many books will be in the series total? I'm just curious...Do you always want to write about the soldier type material? Or is it easier to ask what we should be expecting in the near future from you!? : )

    By the way, I really love the atmosphere on here. Especially with the food! I feel like we're all in a big room as a group of friends. Just chatting and mingling and eating...I just wanted to share that. I really hope that if I can get on here more, I might become like a part of the group : ) I know on the Craftie Ladies blogs, I just kinda jumped in on a leap of faith and they've kind of taken me under their wing. I feel like they know me now, lol! That sounds kinda stupid, doesn't it!?

    Thanks Cheryl! Enjoy the warm goodies!
    Hannah

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  58. Hey again, Hannah!

    No you don't sound stupid! We love the support and love newcomers. We hope you'll visit our posts often and comment all you want. Be part of crowd of cool-n-crazy Seeker commenters. :-)

    So far there are 7 books contracted in the Wings of Refuge pararescue series. Book 5 (Soldier Daddy-Petrowski's story) releases Oct 1 of this year. Book 6 (A Soldier's Devotion-Vince's story) releases Jan 1 of 2010. And Book 7 (Chance's story...the one with the CALM opening that I'm finishing up now) will release in June 2010 and is titled Steadfast Soldier.

    I'm hoping to pitch Brock's story and sell it for 8 total in the series for now. I might expand it later but I'm going to switch gears and turn proposals in for some of the ancilarry characters folks met in fictional Refuge. Characters that readers have written to say they hope get stories, such as Officer Stallings, Cole-the EMT, Doctor Riviera and nurse Bailey, etc.

    I would probably call that series Heart of Refuge and maintain the same setting so readers who loved the Wings of Refuge series can still catch glimpses of their beloved PJs.

    That's what I plan to pitch anyway and am hoping Steeple Hill loves the idea and buys it.

    Your support means so much. We will never tire of you coming by and chatting it up with us!

    These women are a welcome wagon all their own...just like craftie ladies. We love you over there, too! :-)

    Readers are the whole reason we do what we do and a large part of why we love what we do. We appreciate you so much.

    Hugs!

    Cheryl

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  59. Awww...Cheryl! The readers appreciate you authors sooooooo much! Lol...I don't know where we'd be without people who have your amazing gift of writing.

    Wow! Your book ideas sound amazing! I'm hopping on your bandwagon...hope you get your pitch!
    It's really funny that you have a nurse Bailey because on Grey's Anatomy there's the Doctor Bailey! Lol...I am a die-hard Grey's fan...never miss an episode and own all the seasons on DVD! I love medical shows/books. I think the LI authors should do more : ) I think it'd be a really cool book idea!
    Thanks!
    Hannah

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  60. Hannah, that's funny you should mention medical drama stuff. LOL!

    I'm also an RN but not currently working anywhere.

    My last chat with my editors consisted of them telling me that I write caregivers (nurses, docs, etc) very well and they encouraged me to do more of them.

    I have written medical drama romances but I haven't tried to pitch them anywhere. Entered them in contests though and they did decent which is where I met my Seeker sisters.

    Thanks again for your support.

    C U soon!

    Cheryl

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  61. Vanilla Caramel Brownie by International Delight: wahoo, I do believe I will help myself to some as I haven't yet tasted this flavor. Thanks.

    I love tension/conflict in a story but not in my life, lol.

    yourstrulee(at)sasktel(dot)net

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  62. Robynl, that's histerical about loving tension in books but not in life.

    That's exactly why I turn to books. Romance in particular. They can be trusted to provide a happy ending every single time. LOLOL!

    Thanks for coming by.

    If you haven't stopped by Mary's post today, grab a cowboy hat and click over. She's got a great post as well with a giveaway too.

    Warmly,
    Cheryl

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  63. I know I'm coming in a little late on this discussion, but I just had to ask a question about this.

    I am a huge fan of many of the authors on here (and the rest are on my "to read" list). I didn't find the tension overpowering in any of them, and I am almost finished with "The Fire in Fiction" by Donald Maass - which has helped me a lot. I read a book once though that really made me feel like the author was trying to beat the characters up. I was discouraged from chapter to chapter - emotionally drained rather than entertained or held in suspense. How can you make sure not to cross the line?

    lee @ leesmithwriting . com

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  64. There's no real mystery about my moniker, really. I call myself Whalehugger because I love whales, especially Orcas/killer whales. For that matter, I have hugged and been kissed by an orca at SeaWorld Orlando many many years ago.

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  65. This is just what I needed. I'm revising ch 1-3 of my Regency-set WIP and trying to quicken the pace and up the tension. Thanks for the shot in the arm!

    Put me down for the drawing, please!

    srdietze [@] sbcglobal [.] net

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  66. Hope I win the book, it sounds exciting! Rose agreatdayin2003{@}yahoo{.}com

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  67. Hi Lee!

    Glad you stopped by. Better late than never. :-)

    That is a great question and I think the answer lies in getting feedback from critique partners who know the genre you're targeting.

    We writers normally can't see the errors in our own work because we're simply too close to it.

    The very fact that you are a reader will help you to kind of feel when you've stepped over that line. But it's hard to define for you what that line is because it differs per book.

    For instance in my debut novel, I thought I made the hero pretty normal. But then folks I trust like Mary Connealy and others started mentioning (after the book was released) things about how that poor tortured hero made it through all he had to endure, etc.

    SO that made me realize that though I didn't think I overtraumatized my hero, a lot of readers percieved it that way.

    So I backed off a bit in future books. Also, once you sell, your editor will let you know if you need to ramp the tension or back off a little.

    I learn from my editorss notes, suggestions, comments and observations about my writing. After all, they see and read thousands of mss and books. So they know comparitively where you lie as far as tension.

    After a few books, my eds told me thnat I tend to overplot my books and that there's not room in one 60k book for all the stuff I have planned in the synopsis. Their GREAT advice to me was to give each character only ONE issue to deal with as far as an inner struggle or a demon from their past.

    For instance, my second heroine had been a runaway, raped, emotionally neglected by her father and her mother never stood up for her. In addition she's been a widow.

    My editor told me, "Save some of that angst for another character and another book!" LOL.

    SO we removed EVERY hard thing from her past except that she'd been a runaway once and she was a widow because that was CRUCIAL to the plot.

    And I still ended up having to cut liek 10K from the book.

    A lot of times current tension in the book will arise from characters' past hurts or traumas is why I mention this.

    I think they only way you're gonna know is to read books in the genre you're targeting and also to have good, honest critique partners who can read your stuff and tell you if you're overtraumatizing your characters.

    Remember tension doesn't only have to equate to inflicting trauma on characters.

    In a scene I just wrote yesterday that consisted mainly of dialogue that was lower tension than I wanted, I went through and inserted action beats where the heroine was trying to resist a bowl of chocolate and go for the grapes instead.

    That had nothing whatsoever to do with what was happening at that time in the story, but it gave me some background tension so I could feed the reader crucial plot info via dialogue without being too obtrusive.

    Anyway, hope this helps!

    Just the fact that you picked out that that one book you mentioned seemed like the author beat up the characters tells me that you probably have a decent handle on how much tension is too much.

    God's best to you! Thanks for stopping by.

    Cheryl

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  68. Whalehugger, thanks for sharing about your nickname. I hope you will write a story about an orca or at least have a heroine in there who works with orcas or who loves whales. It's a very endearing trait when characters have soft spots for animals and especially for unique animals in my opinion.

    And if you have a blog, I'll bet your readers would LOVE to see photos and journaling about your whale adventures at Sea World, etc. People really like those glimpses into your life.

    I never post pics of my kids though or their names. Just for safety's sake.

    Hugs!

    Cheryl

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  69. Susanne,

    Glad it helped! Thanks for coming by. Got you down.

    Love regencies!

    I'm always good for arm shots...am an RN (Real Nerd) after all. LOL!

    Cheryl

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  70. Hi RO!


    Thanks. Gotcha down.

    Mary C's hosting a giveaway today so be sure to bop on over to her post and check it out.

    Thanks all!

    Now go ramp that tension!!!!
    Grin.

    Cheryl

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  71. Excellent article!

    edwina.cowgill[@]yahoo.com

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  72. Hi Edwina.

    Thanks! Gotcha down.

    Cheryl

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  73. Hi Cheryl!
    Guess I can't stay away! Lol!

    That is funny about the medical drama stuff. I don't know I just love it.

    Can't wait for more of your books! ; )
    Hannah

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  74. I would love to be entered in your draw. Thanks.
    wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

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  75. Cheryl: What a fabulous post on ramping the tension. It came at a perfect time for me.

    Connie
    nvgrams at yahoo dot com

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  76. Connie,

    Oh goody! I'm glad it was timely for you. Hope it helps during the application process. Good luck!

    Come back again soon,

    Cheryl

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  77. Hi Cheryl I am so behind in everything as have been feeling really sick for a couple of weeks now.
    Im Reading The Call of Zulina by Kay Strom and it has alot of tension.
    there is alot of action and I dont want to give anything away but I read one part of the book thinking we will find out its not what we thing. Grace the main charator has something done to her and then you hear her father is told as proof someone has her. I though no way its not what I think. but It was I was crying as I read the next bit where we see what had happened. I felt the pain and and was so involved in the book. I love books but not many have me crying and almost feeling the pain. The story gets more rivetting by the chapter.
    please enter me.

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  78. Hi Jenny, my Cricket buddy!

    So sorry you've been illin'. I hope you feel all better soon.

    Got ya down.

    Hugs!
    Cheryl

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