Imagine walking up to the front door of a two-story house. You’re dressed in your fanciest clothes, holding a corsage in hand, rehearsing the speech you’ve had in your head for weeks. You know tonight’s the night that everything will change. You just need everything to go according to plan. That’s the only thing you need. You take a breath, fold your fingers into your palm, rap your knuckles against the door.
And you wait. And you wait some more.
Time passes. Do you knock again? Or do you keep waiting?
You hear someone yelling from inside the house. Someone else yells back. The words are inaudible. You check your corsage. You rewind the day in your mind. It’s Friday, right? Tonight’s still the night. Right?
Maybe no one heard you. You reach for the doorbell. But even before your finger makes contact, you hear something crash. Maybe a vase. Maybe a plate. Do you press it?
Do you want to know what happens next?
Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf. This week, we cover the most important elements in all of storytelling: emotion, tension, and conflict. Without these ingredients, the story has no soul. Without these ingredients, the story has no readers. Writing with Emotion, Tension, and Conflict by Cheryl St.John is that one essential book that investigates these three elements with care, and it’s one I highly recommend you put on your shelf (and read) as soon as possible
You can check out my video about it while you’re here.
by Cheryl St.John
· Paperback: 256 pages
· ISBN-10: 1599637588
· ISBN-13: 978-1599637587
· Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books; 11/27/13 edition (November 28, 2013)
Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.
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P.S. Rather than knock or ring the doorbell, you simply call your date and tell her you’re here. She asks where. You tell her the front porch. She says she doesn’t see you. You realize you went to the wrong house. She lives next door.
Notes: I picked this book for its representation of conflict, but it covers a little of everything, including emotion and tension, as references in the title, as well as characterization, naming characters, pacing, and so on. I want to make sure I mention the fact that this book references other books as a source of education (extending the life of The Writer’s Bookshelf) and presents one of the most useful story and character development sheets I’ve seen in recent times (simple but relevant) at the end of the book. I also want to reiterate that conflict is important, and I’d hoped to spend more time talking about it. Maybe in Season 3.