I just read a remarkable article on Kristen Lamb’s blog about writers pushing their character’s comfort levels and forcing them to become uncomfortable – in turn, this tension transforms a good book into a great one.


Now, uncomfortable really is an understatement. When you (the reader) think the story is just thumping along toward a happy conclusion and then all of a sudden someone poisons the water well with a gray, bloated corpse you start flipping the pages and absorbing the pain and terror and you become anxious to find out who the bad guy is and if they get caught. Tension.

In my new novella series, The Market and Center of the Universe (both coming this summer), my protagonist, Teagan O’Leary, is in a new city and starting a new life. She’s lost weight and trying to overcome her verbally abusive ex-husband’s, well, abuse. She struggles with her body image, her new loneliness and just plain old fitting in.

Now throw a handsome, secretive man into the mix. During the day, James Lightbody is a warehouse manager at the store where Teagan works. But by night, he’s an up and coming rock star.

And for some reason Teagan can’t quite grasp, James is pursuing her.

Teagan has to fight her instincts and make the decision to either hide and lick her wounds or agree to meet this tall, dark, sexy rocker at the local bar where his band is playing.

Now if it were me, I might stay home and eat ice cream and watch The Walking Dead instead of taking that chance. Actually, I did do something like that once when I was invited to a party back in my singles days. I was shy, new to Seattle and scared as shit.

Shannon number 2But then I was invited again – luckily my sweet co-workers were persistent and overlooked my bashfulness…not to mention I was hella cute and fun. So I hitched up my big girl panties and went. Alone. And I had a blast mingling and making new friends.

Fiction is full of tough decisions that we may never be brave enough to make. But we (the reader) need to dive into a story that’s going to make us squirm, make us cringe, make us wish we had the balls to face the scary challenges the courageous/terrified/timid characters are facing.

Please take a moment to check out Ms. Lamb’s article. She references one of the greatest dystopian stories EVER (The Road by Cormac McCarthy) – and I got serious chills recalling the basement scene from the book (the movie is good but the book…aw, yeah). Tension.