Micro tension. In other words – the little stuff going on that makes the reader turn the page without their eyes glazing over.
I experienced a different kind of micro tension, one that I hadn’t connected to writing. Sometimes, tension comes from apprehension in the character’s head from a preconceived notion of what might happen based on their own insufficiencies or lack of self confidence.
I volunteer in my son’s classroom when needed. I told the teacher that I could NOT sew (they make small friendship quilts). So, she asked me to come in and cook. Great.
Like I’ve said, I’m a plotter. I cook from recipes. So, the idea of cooking with first graders without any prep work before hand was intimidating. What if I didn’t understand the recipe? I didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of the kids or the teacher (And I have a teaching background!) It was the fact that I had to show up and figure out what to do. Yikes!
I arrived and looked at the big table full of ingredients and a crock pot and freaked out a little. But, once I read the recipe and broke it down, the tension dissolved. (If you don’t count the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to use the fancy onion chopper and had no idea what to do with fresh garlic.)
I succeeded. The tomato soup was excellent. I shouldn’t have worried.
If I had been a writer writing this scene in the story, I would have taken full advantage of the opportunity for humor and more tension. Like, the onion chopper breaking. Or spilling the soup and then the teacher slips on it…etc you get the point.
How often do you write with micro tension based on what might happen – instead of what is happening? It’s a good way to foreshadow and build up reader expectations.
**And for those of you that are wondering why they made soup, let me explain. Every year the first grade makes clay bowls in art class. Empty bowls. Then one day the children help to make soups and bread. Parents are invited to Empty Bowl Day where the children serve, wait, seat, bus, and perform. And parents are encourage to make a donation to the Heifer Project to represent their child’s hard work.
Here is my son with his empty bowl.