About the Tour
Welcome to the second month of the Tales of Faith 3-Month tour! For the month of June, Amanda guest posted on a dozen blogs, featuring “Befriending the Beast.” This month, we’re getting a deeper look into book two of the Tales of Faith series: “The Secret Slipper.” Each post by Amanda is unique to the blog—an inspirational post, an article on the writing craft, an excerpt from one of the Tales of Faith books… you’ll just have to visit each blog to see what comes up. 😉 Amanda will link to each blog on With a Joyful Noise, so check in every week and see what blogs have a special Tales of Faith feature!
Amanda Tero began her love for words at a young age—reading anything she could get her hands on and penning short stories as young as age eight. Since graduation, she has honed her writing skills by dedicated practice and study of the writing craft. She began her journey of publication with a few short stories that she had written for her sisters and continued to add to her collection with other short stories, novellas, and novels. It is her utmost desire to write that which not only pleases her Lord and Savior, but also draws the reader into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
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Ever read a book where you are just as torn apart as the character? Yeah. That’s what angst is.
Now, in real life, I don’t usually feel a lot of angst. I mean, I’m not even an overly emotional person (Actually, when my emotions swell up and cause me to cry, I feel quite betrayed!). Because these emotions don’t come as naturally to me, I have to work twice as hard to get those emotions in my manuscript.
In “The Secret Slipper,” the biggest lesson I learned was about upping the stakes—intensifying the angst. I want my readers to feel it with my characters. But I usually fall flat in my first attempt (courtesy of my personal lack of emotion) and have to edit to add it. For me, it’s an ever-learning process of upping angst.
Put on the pressure
From the start of your story, put pressure on your character. If it’s bad for your character, make things even worse. If you up the stakes, then the angst will naturally swell. In “The Secret Slipper,” Lia already had things bad with being the hated “step-daughter” of Bioti and an almost-invalid. In my first draft, that was simply the continuing thread. But that wasn’t enough. It had to be a thickening thread of tension, difficulty, and trials to bring Lia to the breaking point. I had to put on more pressure than I originally thought necessary in order to intensify the tension.
This seems similar to pressure, but it’s slightly different. With pressure, you’re squeezing your character by outside forces. With tension, you’re giving them an emotional strain—you’re stretching them tight between external and internal forces. This usually goes hand-in-hand with pressure, but as writers, we are tempted to let our characters respond glibly to the pressure and that totally diffuses any feeling of angst.
Build a believable platform
Both pressure and tension have the material to be great, but only if you can get your reader to believe it. One suspense book I read didn’t feel suspenseful because I couldn’t really feel the threat posed to the main character—the threat was something distant, which then made it appear (to me) like the characters were all overreacting when a “potential threat” (all false) appeared. Another book I read gave a punch in the climax but… it didn’t feel like a punch because my brain was whirling with, “And why did this character even do this in the first place? I don’t quite get why they’re here…” In both situations, because I had a hard time believing the threats and pressure, I then had a hard time feeling the angst and sympathy for the main characters. So don’t just grab any random idea out there and throw it into a vegetable soup of pressure and tension—from chapter one you have to figure out how to ease on the difficulties and make it more and more grueling for your character.
Give your character emotions
Bottom line: we won’t feel if the character doesn’t feel. Don’t overdo the emotions, but make your character feel the pressure and tension. Make it weigh on them. Heavily. Give them the desire to be out from under it. Intensely. A character who doesn’t care if they’re squished is just as annoying as a character who melts into a helpless puddle under the pressure.
Think from other characters’ POV
One last thought. Because pressure comes externally, you have to think about your other characters’ POV. Why are they pressuring your main character? In “The Secret Slipper” *spoiler alert* Bioti puts pressure on Lia to hold two jobs and then steal the sheriff’s cart because Bioti herself is under pressure from Galien. *end of spoiler* Having the antagonist apply pressure because they’re pressured themselves adds not only believable angst, but depth. I have read several books where I’ve reached the climax and the “big reveal” only to find out that the antagonist had a pathetically weak motive for the pressure they placed on the main character. Talk about a let-down! Suddenly it doesn’t just matter that the main character is believable. The antagonist has to be believable too—and I even have to sympathize with them, as a reader.
Next time you read a book, think about the angst they’re causing you to have—and why you have it. How do they add pressure and tension? How do the side characters play an important role in intensifying that angst?