Using Inaction to Raise the Stakes:
Effectively use silence
When a character doesn’t say something when they should, this can help build tension. If a character asks, for example, “Do you love me?” and the other person doesn’t answer—you’ve raised the stakes. It also works for something like, “Will you have my back when it comes down to it?” Meaning, will you support me when I need your help? When a character doesn’t respond or remains silent, a lot of questions are left up in the air for the readers. They just don’t know what’s coming. Learn how to use silence and how it can create tension in your story.
When a character knows something bad is happening and they remain inactive about it, that helps raise the stakes of your story. The readers are left wondering what it’s going to take to get your main character motivated to act. If you set up a world where action is dangerous and remaining complacent helps you stay alive, like most dystopian novels, doing nothing becomes a likely course of action (until the inciting incident). Most characters aren’t motivated to do anything in these types of novels until either they’re put in danger or something they love. This helps create tension because your readers can feel the situation building and they know something really bad needs to happen before action is taken.
Have your character hold back information
Sometimes your character is afraid to share information because they’re frightened of the repercussions of sharing something dangerous. Maybe they’ve been blackmailed or maybe they’re afraid something is going to get hurt. When your character holds back information and lies to someone close to them, the tension in your story builds. Raise the stakes of your novel by having your character not act on something they should. Fear is a good motivating factor when it comes to holding back information.
[Image: Hokusai Katsushika Bamboo]