Writers Republic
Published in

Writers Republic

9 Ways to Create Tension in Your Writing


If you want to make your writing more intriguing, it is imperative that you create tension in your writing. By adding tension to your writing, you will be able to compel your readers to read your work through and through. However, it is not as easy as you would think. Remember that tension writing takes some work. You could not just put a twist at the end of the story and expect it to be well-received by your readers. If you want to create tension in your writing effectively, you will need to put in the time and set things up. Overall, you will need a set strategy throughout the writing process. Here are 9 Ways to create tension in your writing.

1. Don’t overdo it

If you want your tension writing to be as impactful as possible, it is important that you don’t overdo it. Remember that tension is meant to keep the reader interested in your story. However, if you put too much tension into your writing, it will get boring very fast. So it is best that the tension has an ebb and flow. If the reader is constantly being subjected to tension-filled moments, then they will no longer feel the thrill. There will no longer be any novelty in the tension, and the story will be a lot less intriguing in the long run. So you should plot out your tense moments. This will allow you to create tension that is more impactful to the overall storyline.

2. Raise the stakes consistently

When it comes to using tension in your writing, it is a good idea to raise the stakes at a consistent level. Readers will care more about the story if there is a lot more on the line. There are many ways you could raise the stakes. There are many elements that you could add to the tension. One way you could do this, is to give the main character a time limit that he or she has to struggle with. For example, your main character has to race against time when a terrorist leaves bombs all over the city. Now the main character must search throughout the city, while contending with a time limit. If he or she does not get to the bomb in time, many lives will be lost. By raising the stakes, you are showing readers that there are circumstances to every choice that your characters make.

3. Make your readers care about your main characters

If you want your tense moments to have more weight, it is a good idea to make your readers care about your characters. The more likeable the characters, the more protective your readers will be of them. So if you put your main characters into a compromising or dangerous situation, the readers will most likely feel apprehensive about their favorite character’s fate. So make it a priority to fill out your character’s personality, backstories and relationships. Make the characters as multifaceted as possible. They should also be relatable, and vulnerable as well. Refrain from making your characters too perfect because the readers won’t be able sympathize with them.

4. Take your character’s motivations into consideration

If you are going to use your characters to create tension in your writing, it is important that you take their motivations into consideration. Don’t just write a particular scene between two characters to create tension. Readers will mostly see through this, and the whole scenario will seem too contrived. So take the time to create justification for these tense moments. The best way to do this is to fill out your character’s motivations throughout the story. If a particular character did something, make sure that you make his or her motivations as clear as possible.

5. Conflict between characters is key

Yet another way you could add tension to your writing, is to create conflict through your characters. This tension could come in many forms. One way is to create conflict between relationships. A conflict between relationships, is a conflict between characters. You could write about an argument between your protagonists, it could also be a misunderstanding that gets out of hand. By creating a conflict between your characters, you could ramp up the tension in your writing easily. However, before you have your characters get into a conflict with one another, you should really give proper justification for their conflict. If your characters get into an argument without proper provocation, it will just look contrived. If you are going to pit your characters against one another, they should act realistically. They should not just get angry at one another at the drop of a hat. There should be proper buildup before the fight occurs.

Yet another way you could create a conflict with your characters is by creating internal conflict within your characters. This means that your characters are going through an internal struggle. He or she might be having trouble deciding on a specific dilemma. The character could also be struggling to come to terms with something he or she did. Internal conflict, is technically a conflict that is taking place in the character’s mind, and none of the other characters know about it.

6. Use the setting to create tension as well

Aside from using your characters to create tension in your writing, it is also important that you use your setting to create tension in your writing. You could do this by writing your setting in a specific way. For example, you will be writing a scene that’s supposed to be suspenseful. So you should be extra descriptive of the scene. Describe the lighting, the sounds, and even the temperature of the area. You could also be vaguer with the surroundings, such as a covering it, with fog or making it pitch dark. The time could even be used to create tension if your character has to race against the clock to accomplish a certain task within the area. Overall, when it comes to creating tension in your story, you should utilize the setting effectively.

7. Utilize a lot of twists

It is a good idea to utilize a lot of twists in your story. This helps create a sense of uncertainty in your writing and could really help develop tension. When you do use twists in your writing it is important that you support these twists. Remember that twists are meant to surprise the reader, and create a sense of excitement and surprise in your writing.

However, your twists should not just come out of the blue, without any facts to support them. For example, one of your main characters turns out to be working with the main villain. This is a serious plot twist, because the readers may have grown to love the traitorous character. So if you don’t want to annoy the readers, it is best that you give a proper explanation as to why he or she switched sides. Take the time to create subplots to explain the betrayal. You should also take the time to explain the character’s main motivation for turning on the other main characters. By giving proper exposition on all your story twists, you will be able to justify all your plot twists.

8. Use Cliffhangers efficiently

If you want to create tension in your writing, you should use cliffhangers, however, you should not really overdo it. Remember that cliffhangers are meant to create anticipation. They are best used at the end of a chapter, because they compel the reader to go on to the next chapter. While some writers use cliffhangers at the end of their books, they only do so because they are writing a series.

So it helps create anticipation for the next book. However, if you don’t really have any plans of writing a sequel to your book, it is best that you just limit your cliffhangers to the end of your chapters. Nothing annoys a reader more than reader multiple chapters of a book to reach the conclusion, only to be faced with an open-ended ending. So if you are going to use cliffhangers, it is important that you use them strategically.

9. Pacing is essential

Remember that there are many ways to create tension in your writing. One effective way is through your pacing. By using the right pacing for your writing, you will be able to create a sense ease or tension. For example, if you want to ease up on the tension, you could take a more leisurely approach. You could also use a more relaxed tone. On the other hand, if you want to create tension, you could write shorter paragraphs and use more direct wordplay. Overall, pacing is key when it comes creating tension in your writing.


When it comes to making your writing more intriguing, it is imperative that you create tension in your writing. However, writing tension is not as easy as you would think. So you will need a set strategy. With these tips, you’ll be able to create tension in your writing in the most effective ways possible.

Posts you might also like:

7 Unique Ways to Incorporate Plot Twists into Your Writing

A Few Things Writers Should Know About Daily Word Counts

7 Tips for Writing a Strong Rough Draft



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store