Characters Stretched to the Limit

Photo: Yvonne Lehman

Yvonne Lehman

Tension comes from the Latin word tendere, which means to stretch. It’s likely we’ve all felt stretched.

Trials are common. Conflict, adversity, doubt, and unfulfilled goals happen. Even if we get what we want, the dream can become a nightmare. Many conflicts come because of wrong choices, someone else’s actions, natural disasters, disease, financial problems, accidents. Sometimes we don’t even know the cause. That tension is what we’re to inject into the lives of our characters.

Raise the stakes

Strive to make things increasingly tough for your characters until there seems no way out. Stretch them, create tension, and raise the stakes. The stakes are the heart of the story. The stakes capture an editor’s attention and make the book a page-turner.

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Trials and lessons

Readers love tension. Why? Because it gives them a sense of excitement and keeps them interested. Not because they like seeing the character in trouble, but because they want to learn from how the character handles adversity.

As the character learns to rely on God, so does the reader. That’s why we stretch our characters to the limit.

Stress and faith

In giving my characters stressful situations, I explore the depth or shallowness of my own faith. Writing about being stretched to the limit deepens my convictions. I can then incorporate that faith message into the life of one of my characters—and hopefully into the lives of my readers.

During her 25-year writing career, Yvonne Lehman has written short stories, articles, and 48 historical and contemporary novels in the categories of mainstream, biblical, romance, young adult, mystery, and women’s fiction. Her collection of three historical Hawaiian novels, Aloha Brides, will release in April 2011.

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