We often look at creating tension in stories and you think about all the possible problems a character could face and things that could just go horribly wrong all to create a scene that has escalating tension until finally we resolve something or explode. Well, I don’t think anyone has exploded from tension yet but you get the idea. I was wondering the other day what makes me tense in real life and I came to the conclusion that waiting is my killer.
People being rude to me is annoying but I get over it pretty quick.
People getting in the way of something I want to do is also pretty easy to either get around or get over.
catastrophic failure of a plan happens and then you make a new plan and move on.
But waiting. Sitting and having to wait for a designated time for something to happen and then it not starting and having to wait more, that is what makes me very, very tense. Forced inactivity. I can’t move on and do something else because I have to wait and I can’t make what I’m waiting for happen any faster.
Some would see this as a sign that I am an impatient person. This isn’t actually the case. I just like my plans to run smoothly and when things are late or delayed it upsets other plans plus it forces me to do nothing. I don’t get upset in traffic – that often. There are exceptions, such as when a twenty minute drive becomes a three hour one due to severe traffic issues. I would like to meet the person who doesn’t get annoyed about that.
Could this sort of tension work in a story?
Yes. It actually works quite well. Particularly in horror where the victims are forced to wait for the next attack. They can’t leave, they can’t get proactive, they can’t call for help. They are stuck just sitting and waiting and unable to do anything that is useful. Sure they can read and they can talk and they can shuffle things around and pretend they are looking for weapons, but they know they are just killing time until someone else decides to act.
What makes you tense in real life and could you use it in a story?
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