“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”
-Henry David Thoreau
“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”
-Henry David Thoreau
Hello, everyone! I hope your holidays were well and relaxing! To start off this new year of 2018, I decided to create a writing-centered series called Ingredients for Storytelling! In each of these posts, I will discuss an element I find makes a story all the more intriguing and why.
As you can see from the title, today’s spotlight will be on tension and how creating this between characters can further enrich an already great plot.
First of all, what exactly does tension mean in literary and storytelling terms? According to the Oxford Living Dictionaries, tension may be defined as “A strained state or condition resulting from forces acting in opposition to each another”. In the context of storytelling, this comes about as a result of two or more characters being forced to interact, and many times, even cooperate while maintaining opposing goals. Because of this, nearly every conversation or action shared between these characters is laced with mental or emotional strain that we label “tension”. Another way we can think of tension is a “potential for conflict”. This isn’t to say the presence of tension always necessarily leads to conflict, but rather, that the potential for conflict constantly remains just beneath the surface of the characters’ interactions, influencing their dynamic and chemistry until their opposing goals are either met or adjusted to lessen the already existing tension.
A prime example of tension can be seen in the classical hate-to-love trope—one of the most notable cases being acted out by Han and Leia from George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy. As a princess and politician, Leia is the exact opposite of Han, who is a smuggler and relative loner, in nearly every way. While initially their personality differences cause a certain level of discomfort and strain, what ultimately creates tension and eventually conflict between them is the fact they retain not only different but opposing goals. Leia wants to save people’s lives and freedom by fighting against the oppressive empire. In other words, she believes in a greater cause. Han only wants to preserve his own life and freedom, and thus, has no interest in joining any cause at all…initially. However, circumstances force them to work together in order to survive, and thus, their encounters, while not violent, are rife with simultaneous conflict as well as attraction, and therein tension.
Why I love it: Like in life, in literature, TV, and movies, you can’t ever physically see tension, but you can feel it. If tension is written into a novel or script and written well, we, the audience and readers, can practically feel the strained dynamic between characters oozing off the screen and page as vividly as if we were standing next to them. And isn’t one of the main purposes of stories to draw you into the characters’ lives—to see what they see and feel what they feel—in the first place? While incorporating tension isn’t a requirement for every story, as a viewer and reader as well as a writer, I find this element often makes the characters and the world they inhabit infinitely more life-like and relatable.
What do you think? Do you like tension in the stories you read and watch? If so, what are some of your favorite examples? Please feel free to leave your comments below!
Hello, everyone! I’m sorry I haven’t been posting as frequently for awhile, but this will serve as both a Christmas aesthetic and announcement that I will be a taking a hiatus until the new year. In the meantime have a wonderful holiday, and I wish you all an awesome incoming year full of reading and writing!
Synopsis in a sentence: A half-human, half-fae woman must solve the murder of a fae countess and in doing so, is pulled back into the very world of dark magic and danger she has been trying to avoid for most of her life.
As a fan of Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniels series, I have been looking for another good urban fantasy world to delve into and after hearing so many interesting things about the October Daye books, I was excited to try Rosemary and Rue. The plot was relatively straightforward enough and the world building was as intriguing as it was gritty. With that being said, I struggled to connect with Toby throughout the novel. While I liked how this protagonist for once isn’t a stereotypical “chosen one” character with amazing superpowers far above those of everyone else, I couldn’t help but find her almost not capable enough. In other words, throughout especially the last half of the novel, she can’t seem solve any helpful pieces of the case and in the end her constant series of mistakes leads to innocent side characters’ deaths—characters that barely receive any development in the first place, but whose deaths seemed unnecessary to the overarching plot as well. As a result, by the end of the first book, I found myself feeling detached and disappointed by the ending rather than excited to read more about Toby’s other adventures in the following novels. With that being said, Rosemary and Rue was a fast and easy urban fantasy read for anyone looking for just that.
📚✔︎ Would recommend for fans of urban fantasy.
This book reads like a…modern fantasy noir
Check out the official summary of Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire on goodreads.
My rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★
Favorite Quote: “Love speaks in flowers. Truth Requires thorns.”
This was one of my favorite reads of the whole year! While usually, I’m not a huge fan of short stories, Bardugo’s writing had me hooked from the very first page. Styled in the tradition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Language of Thorns contains six fantasy tales and retellings that spark the imagination and re-illustrate some of the most famous and beloved stories with a beautiful dark twist. Rather than a usual review, this will serve as more of spotlight in which I will emphasize my thoughts and favorite (spoiler free!) aspects of each of the stories listed below.
Ayama and the Thorn Wood-This opening tale is loosely based on the greek mythological story of the minotaur, and it was absolutely brilliant! Rather than placing a high value on physical beauty like so many fairy tales, this story prizes the main characters’ uniqueness and compassion—an aspect that I found made it infinitely more touching and memorable.
The Too-Clever Fox-Like the title, this tale is very cleverly told. It revolves around a fox who believes he can outsmart a famed hunter. Without giving away any spoilers, his pride ends up costing him dearly in the end, and one of the things I liked about this one was that it reminded me of the countless parables and folktales I read in storybooks from when I was younger.
The Witch of Duva-This disturbing tale seems to be based loosely on Hansel and Gretel, and was every bit as dark as the comparison implies. While fantastical, this story, however, explores the horror and darkness within the ordinary and is made every bit as enthralling and disturbing because of it.
Little Knife-Like The Too-Clever Fox, this story reads more like a parable than a regular short story or fairy tale complete with a simple but powerful moral at the end. I also love the way Bardugo speaks directly to the reader as if relating an old haunting folktale while sitting by the fireside on a chilly winter night.
The Soldier Prince – I absolutely loved this retelling of the Nutcracker from the titular character’s point of view. In this tale, the “Soldier Prince” longs to be human and gain freedom over his own fate, and the way Bardugo recreates all the other well known characters such as Clara and the Mouse King while also beautifully illustrating the poignancy of time passing and life’s choices is as real and raw as it is enchanting.
When Water Sang Fire -How can I adequately describe this without giving the ending away? All I can say is that it’s a retelling of the Little Mermaid but with some dark and heartrending twists that leave you thinking about the story long after the story has ended. This is a great haunting tale to end this anthology!
📚✔︎ Would recommend for fans of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Andersen, and dark fantasy.
If I could summarize this book in two words: darkly mesmerizing
Check out the official summary of the Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo on goodreads.
My rating (out of 5 stars): ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
On we drove through the darkening storm
until without warning a bright light tore through
the thick endless blanket of clouds above
When witches go riding
And black cats are seen,
The moon laughs and whispers
‘Tis near Halloween.
Synopsis in a sentence: An ordinary girl uncovers a conspiracy involving the dragon empire in her homeland.
This novel was a unique and interesting read. The beginning started out strong with the introduction of a terrifying enemy and an all new perspective on dragons as massive pets and honored steeds that I had never encountered before. Within the initial hundred pages, however, the plot began to drag. Given the novel’s suspenseful first couple of chapters, I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the all too predictable direction and slow pacing of the story overall. More than that, rather than a narrative, the novel ultimately developed into an extended commentary about the nature of religion. Once again, while the author presented this discussion in an original and intriguing way, I found myself hoping for a more fulfilling story throughout with characters that seemed more like people rather than opposing mouthpieces for the various factions concerning the world’s fictional and overly complicated religion. What I was hoping for was an intriguing and entertaining story about dragons. What I got was a long and drawn-out metaphorical discourse on the nature of religion using dragons. With that being said, I appreciated and enjoyed Lockwood’s ingenuity and found The Summer Dragon to be a refreshing read.
📚✔︎ Would recommend for fans of Eragon or dragons in general.
If I could summarize the book in five words: good, not amazing, but good
Check out the official summary of The Summer Dragon by Todd Lockwood on goodreads.
My rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★
Blade Runner 2049 is an entirely immersive and rich cinematic experience. With multiple mesmerizing aesthetic landscapes and an entrancing musical score from the one and only Hans Zimmer, this noir-scifi film was a visual treat. Despite not being a huge fan of the original, I was nevertheless thoroughly entertained by the majority of the movie. Ryan Gosling’s character made a likable enough protagonist while Harrison Ford’s part was adequate if somewhat predictable. Even with some great scenes and unexpected twists, however, the story’s pacing was too slow. With little suspense—due to the lack of action sequences or even particular compelling characters—the film could have easily been cut down from its nearly three-hour running time. While this will hardly bother fans of the original, considering it contained slow pacing as well, the sheer amount of unnecessarily drawn-out scenes and aesthetic shots, ultimately lowered my rating of the film overall. Most importantly, however, is the fact that the film left off with so many unanswered questions—so many that by the time the credits rolled, I was scratching my head trying and failing to puzzle all the confusing and inconsistent pieces together. I understand that the original Blade Runner set out to be a more philosophical film than many of its counterparts in the same genre, and the latest installment attempts to do the same. However, a little more moving action scenes and tighter plotting wouldn’t hurt either.
🎬✔︎ Would recommend for those looking for a cinematic treat with mediocre characters and plot
If I could describe the film in four words: Visual stunning, mentally confusing