Some people believe that tension is something you have to create artificially. Something that needs to be added to your story. Something that only Hollywood has really mastered and that they certainly don’t think about when it comes to telling customers about their topic.
And yet there are these fascinating communicators who have their audience glued to their lips after just a few sentences. How do they do this? They can’t possibly have the only exciting topic there is, or can they?
No, certainly not. But they understand a crucial factor of tension: relevance. What they say is relevant to their audience and they say it in a way that the audience can relate to.
Just like Hollywood does.
Hollywood understands that the key element to excitement is relevance. All the ingredients that we think of when we think of increasing tension in a movie depend on it. Action in a movie is boring as long as we don’t care for the people involved in the action. An elaborate soundtrack is just nice music as long as we don’t care for the people.
Movies create tension when we relate to the characters in the story. Everything else is just there to enable and amplify that. Great acting makes it easier to relate to the character. Great soundtracks focus our attention on key moments and set the mood.
The same is true for our own story. The key ingredient to create tension is relevance. If our story matters to our audience’s lives, then we can tell it in an exciting way. If it solves a problem that our audience has, or if it fulfils a desire they have, then they will want to know how. If it’s relevant, they will want to know more … and that, by the way, is the definition of suspense: wanting to know what happens next.
So, if you want your audience glued to your lips, ask yourself this: Why is it relevant to them? Why would they want to know more?