Elements of Drama: Tension
Part 3 in a series exploring the use of various dramatic elements.
My definition of tension:
Tension can sometimes be used as an interchangeable term with conflict. But where it differs, lies in the development of suspense in a performance. As the audience anticipates certain outcomes in the plot, the tension builds. An obvious example of rising tension is in a mystery or whodunit. The development of tension usually parallels the advancement of the plot, leading to a crisis or climax. Tension is closely linked with timing.
After a bit of workshopiing and analytical discussion, my Drama students concluded:
- tension should preferably have the opportunity to build in the drama
- if tension builds too slowly, it will die in the middle of a scene
- if tension builds too quickly, it may appear ineffective or artificial
- pace now becomes a key factor in the development of tension
- tension can occur when performers raise their voice > shouting
- the opposite is also true, as tension can also occur with stillness and silence in the drama
- tension can be created by the unknown
- tension can be created simply by the audience following where characters look on (or off) stage
- tension can be created via heavy use of emotion/s with and between characters
- blocking (positioning of actors) can also create tension