Story Tension

Story Tension in The Nostalgia of Time Travel

Story Tension in The Nostalgia of Time Travel


Story tension arises from barely contained hostility or strained relations between individuals or groups.

This differs from conflict which is more about disharmony and opposition between people who hold different ideas, goals, and beliefs.

Both conflict and tension are invaluable in making stories more powerful and dramatic. In this post we look at seven ways to add tension to your scenes.


Drop your characters in uncomfortable situations. Think of the worst thing that could occur to them and make it happen. Your characters might hate you, but  your stories will be better for it.

Remember, tension is an antidote to boredom.

7 Ways to Increase Story Tension

1. Place your characters in a place they shouldn’t be in.
2. Have your characters make decisions that have severe consequences.
3. Have your characters participate in actions and dialogue that worsens conflict.
4. Have your characters participate in actions and dialogue that increases the danger to themselves.
5. Have your characters participate in socially, politically, and morally unacceptable actions.
6. Place your characters in a situation where they have to choose between two evils.
7. Have your characters overstep their natural boundaries.

In my novella, The Nostalgia of Time Travel, for example, the protagonist, Benjamin Vlahos, a retired theoretical physicist, has made a decision years preciously that changed his life forever. His thoughts and actions in the present continue to be impacted by that decision. The result is that he is unable to move on with his life until he can forgive himself for the consequences flowing from that decision.


Story tension hooks the reader or audience hooked into your story. Use one or more of the seven techniques mentioned in this post to help you achieve this goal.

2 thoughts on “Story Tension

  1. Gerhard Pistorius

    Great post . Quentin Tarantino once said that the most fun movies to watch are usually the most violent . It’s no coincidence the most romantic novels involve daring sword fights. By placing a character in a place where they don’t belong there first instinct is to act violently . Maximus is forced into the gladiator ring. His only way out is to be the last man standing. Same with William Wallace – the English kill his wife , the only way to avenge her is to butcher the English army who have occupied his county thus forcing him to commit mutiny against the crown that rules Scotland. In short : The hero needs to draw a line in the sand and when the antagonizing force dares to step over it all hell is going to brake loose.


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