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arrative tension is most often talked about in fiction writing (as in Aimee Bend

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arrative tension is most often talked about in fiction writing (as in Aimee Bender’s “Looser,” and Kelly Link’s “The Specialist’s Hat”) but the same technique applies when writing creative nonfiction. Remember Allie Brosh’s story, “The God of Cake”? In her piece Brosh examines a true story from her life and determines where the anticipation, uncertainty, and investment lie. This is exactly what elevates an anecdote to a true story told well.
For this sketch, work with building narrative tension in any genre. If you’re stuck, deal yourself a few cards from your Personal Universe Deck for inspiration. Upload your sketch below!
Option 1: Create an obstacle for your character or think about an obstacle you or someone you know faced in their lives. Then, list a minimum of five methods for them to overcome it. Pick one and write a short scene. The protagonist don’t have to be successful in overcoming the obstacle. Sometimes, it’s better if they don’t! If they do, what’s the complication in their success? The idea is to show anticipation, uncertainty, and investmen, thus creating tension in the mind of the reader.
Option 2: Try this technique in a dialogue exchange. It’s like a debate. One character says something, the other counters it. Try to intensify each line. Think about starting out with longer sentences and as the conversation progresses, make the sentences shorter and the words more specific and powerful. The idea is to show anticipation, uncertainty, and investment, thus creating tension in the mind of the reader.
Adapted from Larry Keeton

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