Writing and sewing

My sister is an amazing sewer of vintage patterns. I was talking with her about how I’d just started the 4th draft of a short story. I had a great title, a great protagonist and a solid plot. So why was I on attempt #4?

Just like a sewing machine, it was the tension. If you’ve ever sewn, many times the problem is the tension–thread is too tight or too loose, so the fabric bunches up or gets stuck or the stitches won’t hold. 

With some digging, I realized what was wrong. The tension in my story was off because the murder took place in the heroine’s past, distancing the reader, and the victim wasn’t important enough to her. 

With some tinkering, I adjusted the plot and wrote it again–this time, the beta readers were delighted.

Here are some more great tips on upping and maintaining tension from Writer’s Digest: up the stakes, reduce backstory, more emotion.

Any other good tips to fix a story’s tension?

4 thoughts on “Writing and sewing

  1. A couple that occur off the top: introduce an element that is mostly ignored by the characters but niggles away in the reader’s mind as a potential problem. Example: that furnace or boiler in Stephen King’s The Shining, that the main character forgets to depressurize. Of course it eventually explodes. OR: set some sort of time limit for the characters, beyond which chaos and disaster ensues if obstacles aren’t overcome. Or (for quieter stories) a fundamental personality clash between two characters. This one is great for scenes with dialogue.


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