(To survey other elements and author quotes, visit the Elements of Fiction home page)

“[The writer’s] job is to give readers stress, strain, and pressure. The fact is that readers who hate those things in life love them in fiction. Until a writer assimilates that fact he will have difficulty in consciously creating sufficient moments in which the reader feels tension.” Sol Stein

“Like all excitement, it is endurable for brief bursts, which is one of the factors that distinguishes tension from suspense. Suspense can last over a long period, sometimes for an entire book. Tension is felt in seconds or minutes.” Sol Stein

“Tension produces instantaneous anxiety, and the reader finds it delicious.” Sol Stein

“Our instinct as human beings is to provide answers, to ease tension. As writers our job is the opposite, to create tension and not dispel it immediately.” Sol Stein

“Relocating a sentence to increase tension is a valuable technique.” Sol Stein

“To express the tension of the situation, especially James Page’s sense of panic, I need a long, rushing sentence: the rhythm appropriate to the mood helps call up phrases (looking at the picture in my mind, what can I say that will keep the sentence pounding)?” John Gardner