Values in Threat: Creating Tension Through a Change in Polarity


This download is a single-page lesson plan.

Creating tension through a change in polarity



To generate tension in a story, the protagonist’s most deeply held beliefs, possessions, and relationships must be under siege. Typically, storytellers consider these values at risk when they are contradicted, but this is only the first part of the process. To generate maximal tension, those values must contradicted, then opposed, and finally perverted thus bringing the protagonist not only into conflict with outside forces but also with a shadow side of themselves.

This curriculum will help you understand how deeply in conflict a character is, could be, and fears to become; recognize that the greatest opposition reveals the greatest opportunity for heroism, development, and virtue; learn to place characters in escalating threat-levels in order to demand their growth; and design stories in such a way that each scene “turns” the value of the characters in question.


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