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One of the areas of creative writing that pupils consistently fail to incorporate into their work is the technique of building tension, atmosphere and suspense. The following simple steps are some that I have found to have an immediate impact on children’s writing in this regard:
As well as sight, think about what your character can hear, smell, touch and taste. This will enable the reader to feel the tension, the anticipation, the warning of approaching danger etc. more easily. For example:
Darkness will mean that the character(s) has to rely on his other senses and makes it easier to include sounds, touch and smells, which adds to the tension. Add detail and description to paint a picture in the reader’s mind.
Giving a setting an atmosphere is more than stating that ‘it was dark’. For example, adding more descriptive detail could give you:
She lay motionless in the darkness and listened to the night. It was an unsettling, menacing darkness, full of dancing shadows and the occasional creak and rustle from the house. A tingling sixth sense warned Kitty not to move.
By gradually adding to the atmosphere you are creating, you increase tension; making the setting scary and the action scenes exciting. Think about putting in details such as background noises, flickering lights and shadows, and tricky terrain, such as muddy or uneven ground during a chase. For example:
Weather and darkness can to be used to great effect to create a scary atmosphere and tension:
As before, adding detail and description will give the reader a more vivid sense of what is happening:
Include hints to the reader of the danger to come, or indications that the danger is getting closer. Think about:
Build a sense of tension by making frequent references to time (the ‘ticking clock’ effect):
Vary the length of words, sentences and paragraphs to increase the pace and tension:
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