By Jennie Atkins
The other day while walking out of work, I told a woman I was leaving for a dentist appointment. Expecting the normal answer of, “Oh, I hate the dentist!” you might say I was quite surprised when she said, “I love going to the dentist.”
I should add here that I know her well enough to say she isn’t into masochism. But her view of the dentist came from a different angle than mine—called experience--or lack thereof.
Growing up, due to a very small jaw and large teeth, my teeth grew in wherever they found space. Needless to say, they weren’t perfectly aligned. It took pulling multiple teeth and wearing braces for y-e-a-r-s, to put them in place. Add to that soft teeth that attracted cavities like people catch the common cold, I’ve seen the inside of the dentist office more than I care to talk about. (I know…too much information.)
But my reason for talking about it is, the woman who enjoyed going to the dentist was born with genes that gave her perfectly aligned, cavity free, pearly whites. So going to the dentist was about as easy as a walk in the park.
These diverse backgrounds are what can add to the underlying tension in our stories. How different would a person who had picture perfect Christmas holidays react to someone who only remembered Christmas as a time when her father got drunk and knocked down their Christmas tree? Or, how would the person who’d lived in a home where abuse was frequent look at a loving family where hugs and kisses were the norm? How would a homeless person (or someone doing his or her best to scrape together a few cents for food) look at a well-to-do person? What would each of these people feel because of their personal experience?
The crux of our stories are based on growing through the conflicts. There is a reason the heroine can’t trust the man who likes to add a little “spice” to his eggnog at Christmas. For him, indulging once- a-year seems like nothing. But for her it’s a huge obstacle. Or, at least a small one that adds to the trust issues she has with him.
Whether these conflicts are what drive our stories to the ultimate black moment then to redemption, or whether they are stumbling blocks, it adds layers to what the characters in our stories have to overcome to find peace, love, and deliverance.
Your turn: What are some ways you ratchet up the tension in your stories?