Believe me. I've tried.
However, I did not have tension. Not in the original version. In that one, the short novella, the characters meandered through life until they reached the end and encountered something dire and threatening. Before that they did have a goal, but not one they had to struggle to reach. Rather, all they had to do was sit and wait as the days ticked by.
Last summer I decided to take the leap and make the short novella into a full novel. (Yes, you may know this if you've been following the blog, though I can't remember just now if I've discussed it and the site seems to be acting funky for me.) In doing that I knew I had to create more tension, give my characters something to struggle against, to reach toward. But I am now coming to the conclusion that I may have given them too much tension.
There are books out there, authors who like to throw everything they can at their characters in quick succession. Urban Fantasy likes this. Mystery, I'm sure. Stories following police procedurals? Most definitely. On occasion I will pick up these kinds of books because I think they look good. Then I get 60 or 70 pages into them and I just can't take it. For me, it all seems just so contrived.
No. The word is Convenient.
What, you haven't been having relationship trouble with your girlfriend in the year between the last book and this one and yet, suddenly, you do? You live near the beach, see bikini clad girls all the time and your girlfriend sees you staring off into space while you two are at some restaurant and, it just so happens, your staring blankly in the direction of the cute waitress and now there's a problem. Uh-huh. Then you leave the restaurant and find your car has been broken into and its tires slashed. Of course the girlfriend blames you and thinks the food was horrible and everything. In the morning, work calls and you have to go in for some big meeting or some such despite only having a few hours sleep because the couch is too short and uncomfortable.
Stuff like that. Convenient, made for the story and not likely to happen in just that way outside its pages. At least, that's how it seems to me.
Some people absolutely love it. Sometimes, if I'm enjoying the story enough, I can overlook it or, rarely, not even see it. I just feel there has to be a better way of creating tension than piling it on your main character.
How does this relate to my story, my WIP? I think I may have been trying to pile tension on my main guy. Let's see, which of the common devices did I use... Relationship trouble? Yep. Family (parents, siblings, etc) trouble and obligations? Check. The bullies at school who seem to be everywhere? Oh yeah. Other, outside meddlesome problems? Yes. And that was all in the first 70 pages.
As generally I don't like that sort of plot structure in my reading habits, I'm somehow thinking that I've got to back off on it in my own writing.
So how do you create tension in your story? Do you like tension to be really high, constantly about to boil over and your characters always on the verge of mental breakdown from the stress? Or do you prefer something a little more relaxed, letting the people in your story have some say in the plot and how it develops?
There's nothing wrong with any of it. Different stories have different needs. Mine just doesn't need the tension to be boiling over the sides of the pot.