As moviegoers, we tend to focus on a film’s production value and characters -- the same way many Marvel fans raved about their favorite superheroes in its most recent sequel of the Avengers. We’re moved by the tear-jerking scenes in Star Wars: A New Hope. Remember when Obi Wan Kenobi died? Or maybe you remember the action-packed, fight scene in the Karate Kid movies that pushed us to take Martial Arts lessons when we were kids.
But, more than the characters, the fight scenes, and special effects, what really makes a great story is tension. Would there even be a hero without the antagonist? Would there be an adventure if there was no villain to slay? Challenges for the protagonist is the key to keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. It makes a novel a page-turner and a movie a blockbuster. Obstacles make a good story, outstanding.
Matt Reeves, Hollywood screenwriter and director and the man behind Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, has perfected building tensions in his movies. The trilogy has become a blockbuster, simply because Reeves kept moviegoers wondering what would happen next. Critic David Blaustein of ABC News described the film as “a tension-filled movie that’s as smart as it is entertaining.”
For storytellers like us, here’s a short checklist to guide you in perfecting the art of creating tension in your stories: