Readers Need an Emotional Tug-of-War…Tension


“Readers Need an Emotional Tug-of-War…Tension” by Joan Y. Edwards

Tug on the heart strings of your reader. The reader must want the main character to win as desperately as your character does. You want the reader to  feel the tension your character feels.

Show your characters tugging with all kinds of emotions. Happy ones. Sad ones. Fearful ones. Pull your reader this way and that way. Don’t stay stuck on the same emotion. Don’t always have the character win. Show his rope of life pulling him so strongly that he tumbles and falls several times in your story. Add tension to your story.

Mesmerize your reader throughout the whole story…from the first chapter through the last chapter. Keep your readers there from the beginning to the finish line.

Donald Maass in a workshop at the Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference said you must have tension in your story. The dialogue and the descriptions have to show both sides of the picture. Show how the characters are pulled toward believing they can get the job or their goal and on the other hand and doubting they can get any job or can’t reach their goal because of the way they fouled it up last time.

Inside our heads every day we have these opposite points of view. We have at least 50,000 thoughts a day. So do the characters in your story. Show they’re human. Share their thoughts. Their thoughts depict their emotions.

Give your character one big strength and one big weakness, or give them one small strength and show its growth through your story. Our humanity is what we have in common with other people. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses.

Good luck with your writing!

“Backstory’s Emotional Weight” by Darcy Pattison

“Creating Emotional Conflict and Tension in a Romance Novel” by Dummies.com

“Creative Writing: Crafting Characters with Emotional Appeal in Mind” by Lenin Nair

1. The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great by Donald Maass.

2. Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time (Paperback) Jordan Rosenfeld

3. Writer’s Guide to Character Traits (Paperback) by Dr. Linda Edelstein:

4. Writing for Emotional Impact (Paperback) by Karl Iglesias:

Thanks for reading.
Ask questions.
Leave a comment.
Subscribe to my blog.

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2010-2023 Joan Y. Edwards. All rights reserved.
Revised January 4, 2023


6 thoughts on “Readers Need an Emotional Tug-of-War…Tension”

  1. Hi Joan,

    What a wealth of tips. I look forward to reading them. You put a lot into one post! Thanks so much.

    Linda A.

    1. Dear Evonne, I’m glad you like my blog. Thanks for reading it and posting your kind comment. Thanks for being my writing pal, too. You’ve given me great ideas! Please pray for America. …Joan Y. Edwards

  2. This is great information and resources. It is difficult to get the characters’ emotions conveyed.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Dear Karen, Thanks for leaving a comment. I’ve been working on getting the characters’ emotions conveyed, too. What has helped you? Is it telling the reader what the character would tell his/her best friend about what’s happening to them? Is it the conversation that’s going through their mind with their inner self? I’m trying to learn. It’s the key to selling our stories. We’ll learn together. Do something good for yourself today

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *