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Using a Tension and Time Graph for Your Story

Although, not everyone likes the idea of mapping out their story before they even start writing, I do think having structure-based visuals are helpful in looking at the overall arc of your piece. Amongst the most impactful to my personal writing has been the tension and time graph.

See Below:


As you can see, on the left you have the level of tension where the bottom would be no tension, and the top would be the highest level of tension. Then, you have the time in the story in which these moments occur in your story. Each crisis can also be mapped out so that you have a birds eye view of how each of these affect the larger arc of the piece.


While this works very similarly to mapping out each moment of crisis, I also like to name my scenes so that I can make additional notes. Whereas, Scene 1 might be "Diner scene" or Scene 2 might be "First confrontation." Overall, the key should be to use these type of graphs to determine how tense your scenes are, at what point in the story they take place, and the rate at which they occur.

In doing so, you will also have a better idea of where you need to cut back, need to add more release of expectation, etc.