1. bsharp
    Offline

    bsharp New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2009
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0

    Scene conflict/tension in a novel

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by bsharp, Mar 25, 2009.

    I've attended seminars and read books in which authors and editors said every scene should have conflict (or at least, tension). I can see how this can help create a page-turning novel, but also feel that there might be room for a scene here and there that just gives the reader a chance to relax - to breathe, as it were.

    What do you think?
     
  2. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    I don't agree with tension in EVERY scene, that would drive me crasy (hell; not even Stephen King had somthing building up to horror on every page), but I think there should be somthing that is holding the readers attention.
     
  3. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I think it's a guideline that has been overstated, and therefore risks being discarded out of hand.

    However, every scene should advance the plots. That more or less implies that conflict and tension should be a component in each scene. Even if the overall tone of the scene is uplifting, you can introduce some foreshadowing of trouble or unresolved issues
     
  4. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    I don't like foreshadowing myself, so I have to disagree.

    At the beginning I think there should be some scenes of characterisation in a novel, though they may have have relevance to the plot (or is used for symbology; like the surgery scene in Thomas Pynchon's V.), I think they should be in themselves independent. Later on when the plot is closing, yes, there is no reason to include a random scene, but I do not think everything in a novel should contribute to plot.

    Also, I don't like foreshadowing as I don't like to guess what happens, I like to be surprised. When I read a novel, it should be an adventure.
     
  5. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I think you must misunderstand what foreshadowing is, especially if you thnk King doesn't use it.

    But I wasn't using the word in the strictest sense either. Planting the seeds of a latent conflict is also plot development.
     
  6. Dcoin
    Offline

    Dcoin Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2008
    Messages:
    279
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    NYC
    Maybe we can say that changing tension is the key, not having the same level from start to finish.
     
  7. lilix morgan
    Offline

    lilix morgan Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Messages:
    536
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    Wonderland
    Tension shouldn't be in every single scene, no way. That would kill a reader, beat them right into the ground.

    That being said, I partially agree with Cogito, too. Most scenes in a book should advance the plot in some way or form, no matter how small. Having a rogue conversation that has nothing to do with the story randomly inserted will throw the reader off, and it just sucks when that happens.
     
  8. Neha
    Offline

    Neha Beyond Infinity. Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2007
    Messages:
    4,060
    Likes Received:
    37
    Location:
    India
    Tension, is tension-phir whether it's anger, sorrow, happiness, excitement or attraction-it's always there.
     
  9. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    Yeah, just omit that King comment from memory, as it was pretty stupid now that I look back. :D

    However, I do know what foreshadowing is, and I just don't like it. :)
     
  10. NaCl
    Offline

    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,855
    Likes Received:
    58
    Constant tension will soon lose its appeal and impact, so it's better to vary the level of tension allowing the reader to experience ebb and flow in the story. Of course, every scene should contribute to the plot, otherwise, it is extraneous and should be removed. Varying the tension from scene to scene is the best way to provide good pace in the story.
     
  11. captain kate
    Offline

    captain kate Active Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Cruising through space.
    I would agree with Cognito and NACL. If you've got one or two chapters of high tension, then maybe the next one should be more relaxed..not the the point of not moving the plot, but just enough to allow a reader the chance to breath. Otherwise, you will beat the breath out of them and they will want to put the book down...
     
  12. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Foreshadowing, for what it's worth, includes more than direct connections to later events. A similar minor occurence that is echoed on a larger scale later is also foreshadowing. Finding a quarter on the sidewalk can foreshadow finding a treasure later, even though the quarter has no relation to the treasuer. Likewise, an offhand comment can foreshadow a later event (" I would just die if...", by someone who later turns up dead). Handled with subtlety, fireshadowing can add interest, especially when someone rereads a story. Don't despise it in all forms!
     
  13. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    Like I said; I know what it is. I just think about these things too much when reading a novel, and end up guessing a plot twist due to an offhand comment at the very beginning. I just don't like it when there is too many intentional and obvious things like that.
     
  14. NaCl
    Offline

    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,855
    Likes Received:
    58
    Is that like "reverse deja vu"? LOL
     
  15. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    Lemex without foreshadowing the surprises are not as clever. Imagine how lame the ending of Sixth Sense would have been if there was no foreshadowing. We would be like, "What? He was dead practically the whole movie?" We would be totally unconvinced and disappointed because there is no reason for us to believe he was dead the whole movie.

    A surprise like in Sixth Sense only works well when it was foreshadowed. That way you are surprised but not cheated. When the surprise comes, you go, ohhhh, and it feels good.

    Could you give an example of a movie or novel you were surprised in that wasn't foreshadowed. I would be interested in seeing how that was pulled off successfully.


    bsharp, I think conflict or tension should be in every scene. If you withhold information from the reader that builds tension, for example. Is she going to say yes and go out on a date with him?

    A scene can be slow and insightful and have conflict or tension.

    Think of a scene of a guy building a boat. Suppose the first few paragraphs told you everything from the type of boat he is building to why he is building the boat. He runs into no problems while building it. For the next five pages it is just him building the boat, and you know exactly where it is going.

    Now suppose you know what kind of boat he is building, but you have no idea why. The whole time you are wondering why is he building this boat? The author must be spending these few pages having the MC build this boat for a reason. The MC accidentally cuts his thumb. He pours peroxide over it and superglues the wound shut. Building this boat must be pretty damn important for him to hold off getting the stitches he needs.

    Then he starts to work faster. He wants to be finished before the sun sets. He needs to be finished. But why? More tension. It is starting to get dark, but he doesn't know if he can finish before his father shows up. This is the boat he has always wanted. It's his birthday. Will he finish in time?

    Isn't that scene far more exciting when we tell it the second way? But it is still just a guy building a boat.

    Maybe he doesn't finish in time. And covers it up. When the father gets there, he is curious as to what is under the tarp. Oh it's nothing. For the next few pages during their conversation, the son has to keep his father from finding out what is under the tarp. Maybe the father looks.

    "Well, Dad, happy birthday. It's not finished."

    Dad has tears in his eyes.
     
  16. Atari
    Offline

    Atari Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2009
    Messages:
    455
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    Louisiana
    This is difficult, because while I condone the use of 'filler' chapters with characters doing nothing important but enjoying themselves or divulging in some entertainment, I also have read enough books that stop building the story in intermittent spurts; these spurts have, at times, worn upon my patience.

    It TRULY depends on how you write.

    Some books, I read them for no other reason than to see 'what happens'.
    Others, I am curious as to how others will react to the main character, or how he will react to different situations.

    Using advice to suit your story is always a smart choice, though, I think.
     
  17. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    Off the top of my head, for novels; The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft, V. by Thomas Pynchon, and Johnny got his Gun.

    I know I didn't give a good example, but nevertheless I don't like it when it is obnoxiously obvious.
     
  18. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    In the beginning of lovecrafts story the MC dreams of the sunset or golden city, which is a foreshadowing.

    Nyarthathotep tells him toward the end - For know you, that your gold and marble city of wonder is only the sum of what you have seen and loved in youth.

    This is another hint as to what this golden city is that he dreamed of.

    There are other ways he foreshadowed things to come.

    I'm not familiar with the other stories but I bet they also use foreshadowing, otherwise you would feel jipped.
     
  19. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    I understand what you are saying, and I agree.

    I didn't really explain myself, and also, i got it (and myself in fact) wrong and for that I can only apologise.

    However, many books I find foreshadow way too much, and I really don't like that. I like to be kept in the dark as much as possible, like take Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe, the main point of that story (and all Dupin stories for that matter) is the explanation of an otherwise wild end (I mean, really, did you think an ourang-outang would kill two people and get away with it?). I always find that a more interesting path.
     
  20. Cheeno
    Offline

    Cheeno Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2008
    Messages:
    594
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Ireland
    The way I see it, you mc is always contributing or reacting to a given circumstance, so there is always, or should always be, dynamic moving the plot forward or developing characterisation and its relationship to plot and story. Superflous is, well, superflous.
     
  21. lynneandlynn
    Offline

    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2009
    Messages:
    746
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Asheville, NC
    I honestly think that every book that is written has foreshadowing in it, whether it be very subtle or very obvious. I think foreshadowing gets misconstrued as a bad thing because of the few writers out there who use it as a very obvious way to tell the reader what is going to happen. Subtle clues that lead up to the "wtf" endings that are still very believeable is the type of writing done by a writer very good with the concept and use of foreshadowing events.

    I personally love novels with the 'wtf' endings but I don't like a lot of crime novels because sometimes it's just too obvious who the bad guy is. I either want to be completely surprised at who is doing the crime or know right off the bat so I can avoid having to look at the bad foreshadowing done and know who the bad guy is before the author gets around to telling me.

    There are a lot of great books that have subtle foreshadowing and because of that make it onto my favorites list... Chuck Palanhuik is great at it (he wrote Fight Club, Lullaby, Choke- just for a few titles) as well as Dean Koontz (love the Odd Thomas series).

    It's the authors who overuse foreshadowing that give the technique a bad name, but the technique itself is a very good one when used correctly.

    ~Lynn
     

Share This Page