Larry Brody’s TV Writing Tips & Tricks #9

Raising the Tension!
by Larry Brody

A story can’t maintain reader or viewer interest if it doesn’t build. In other words, to stay interesting it has to become MORE interesting.

Upward and onward should be your catch phrase, in the sense that the tension has to increase as you race to your climax. (No double entendre intended.)

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One way to increase the tension is to keep raising what’s at stake.

You say that your gutsy heroine is going to lose her job at the factory if she doesn’t succeed? That’s a fine start, but how about some add-ons?

You know, like as she goes along she learns that she’s also going to lose her car? And after that her house goes on the auction block, ala NORMA RAY?

And then see how much farther you can go, also ala NORMA RAY. Remember how she almost won out over impossible odds and set up a union vote — only to have her success dashed as her husband threatened to leave her?

Oh, the poor thing. But look how she fought on!

The trick here is to let your main character start to triumph only to find that the odds against them have just become even greater, so that each triumph ends tragically.

Two steps forward and one step back all the way to the climax, when at last your lead wins the overall victory he or she has been after since the first reel. Do this right, and I can all but guarantee that the audience will be up on its feet at the end to wildly cheer.


Another in what I hope will be a long run of helpful hints for TV writers here on TVWriter™ every Tuesday. Which brings up a point: If you’d like to share some writing tips with your fellow TVWriter™ visitors, please get in touch with me at larrybrody@tvwriter.com and we’ll try to make a guest post happen.

Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.