Resist resolution . . .

To keep your scenes full of tension, resist the temptation to resolve things. If a character says something terrible to someone she loves, don’t have her apologize. Yet. Let the suspense of that fracture in the relationship span over into another chapter. Or several. Let the readers feel the full impact of the hurt and the betrayal.




One of my favorite examples of creating tension by leaving something hurtful hanging is from the movie The Queen of Hearts (1989, screenplay by Tony Grisoni.) Our protagonist is a little boy who looks up to his older brother and whose best friend was abandoned by his parents and lives with a relative. When the two have a falling out, they say the worst things they can possibly say to each other. The best friend tells our hero, “Your brother works for the villain—he’s a traitor.” Our hero tells his best friend, “Your parents didn’t even want you – they threw you away.” (I’m paraphrasing here.)

When I was young, I would’ve immediately had the hero say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.” Or I would at least have had him think to himself, “That was a terrible thing to say!” But it’s better not to. Let the reader suffer for a while. It will give the wound in the relationship more impact and make the delayed resolution more satisfying.


One Response to “Resist resolution . . .”

  1. Wendy Says:

    After being away for a while, I just got caught up on your blog. Wonderful reading, great advice! Thanks for being so faithful in your sharing and updating your blog, even when we readers don’t always write comments back to you.

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