Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Creating Tension in a Variety of Ways: Increasing the Volume of Student Writing Part 4

This is the fourth post in a series about increasing volume for young writers (or any writers!). To read the original post, follow this link. For the other posts about volume, please search our blog for volume and you will find them.

One of the most important lessons for young fiction writers and readers is that writers use many techniques to build tension in stories. Multiple efforts at solving a problem is one way to build tension. For example, Clare wants to catch a fish. The first cast brings in seaweed, the second cast gets tangled in her fathers line, and the third cast hooks a fish. Simple formula.
However, many other techniques and strategies exist for developing the catching a fish story. here are some ideas and applications:

  • Make it really matter to the character...
    • Clare has been wanting to catch a fish for a long time. Everyone else has caught a fish. She had a dream about catching a fish and she has already envisioned the whole family sitting around the dinner table for a fresh fish fry.
    • Clare has been waiting all day to go fishing and they are FINALLY throwing a cast.
  • Make it really matter to other characters...
    • Clare's dad has spent a lot of time and money teaching her to fish and outfitting her with equipment.
    • The rest of Clare's family is planning on fresh fish.
    • Dad has announced that he will eat the fish raw if Clare catches a fish.
  • Make it almost not happen...
    • A storm is coming in and there is a sense of urgency to get away from the water. 
    • Clare's younger sister is seasick and Mom has declared that this is the absolute last cast. 
  • Make catching a fish highly unlikely...
    • The water is rough.
    • No one is catching fish anywhere nearby.
    • The equipment and bait are all wrong
All of these scenarios have the potential to create tension and very different stories about catching a fish. Applying them to other story-lines works as well; scoring a soccer goal, winning a race, learning spelling words, remembering homework, losing a dog, jumping off the diving board or arguing with a sibling are all common stories for young writers and have the potential to become different stories depending on techniques used for increasing tension.  How fun for some writers to realize that they can develop the same problem and resolution with so many different sources of tension! 

I am off to write about Clare's fish!

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