How to Create Tension

The more I study the craft of writing, the more I’m convinced that the driving force to engage a reader is a relatable character displaying emotional responses to tense situations. If you miss any of those three key elements — a relatable character, filtered emotion, or tension — you’re not going to hold your reader’s interest.

Quite honestly, I haven’t quite figured out how to define the creation of the first two of those essentials. The third, however, is quite easy, so I’m going to focus on it. Instead of telling you that you need to add tension or even explaining how to add tension, I’m going to show you.

Step 1: Give your character a goal.

Jack wants to go up a hill.

Example –

Jack wanted to go up a hill, so he did.

Commentary –

Okay, not exactly the most tense scene in the history of writing. Give me a break; we’re only on step 1!

Step 2: Create opposition to the character achieving his goal.

It’s rained a lot lately, so the only path up the hill is quite muddy.

Example –

Ready for a bit of exercise, Jack struck out for the hill, but he failed to consider the amount of rain that fell yesterday. Thick, stinky mud covered the dirt track leading to the top. He stuck his foot off the paved parking lot onto the trail, and it sunk several inches. A goopy mess coated the previously pristine white Nike.

Sighing, he considered turning back. No, he thought. I’m not going to let a little rain stop me.

Jack slogged up the path, often losing half as much ground with each step as he had gained. But he persevered. Reaching the top brought him tremendous satisfaction.

He looked at the trail below him. “Oh crap, now I have to get back down.”

Commentary –

Okay, a little more tense, but not exactly riveting.

Step 3: Increase the character’s motivation to achieve the goal.

Instead of wanting exercise, Jack needs something at the top of the hill. Let’s say it’s a magic pail of water that is the only thing that can save his dying wife, Jill.

Example –

Knowing it was his only shot at saving her, Jack struck out for the hill. He knew the slog to the top would be difficult considering all the rain, but he didn’t have a choice. If he didn’t get that pail of water, and get it fast, Jill would die. He had only hours.

Thick, stinky mud covered the dirt track leading to the top. He stuck his foot off the paved parking lot onto the trail, and it sunk several inches. A goopy mess coated the previously pristine white Nike.

Imagining himself slipping and breaking his leg or injuring his ankle kept his pace cautious, but his need for quickness spurred him faster. He desperately sought the right balance between safety and speed.

Often losing half as much ground with each step as he had gained, he persevered until reaching the top to claim the life-saving Water of the Oracle.

He looked at the trail below him. “Oh crap, now I have to get back down without spilling it all.”

Commentary –

See, this is picking up. It still could go a little further, though.

Step 4: Increase the opposition.

A hill is too easy. Now, he has to climb a mountain. Rain and mud? Really? Now, there’s a blizzard. And let’s throw a stone-hurling Cyclops in his path.

Example –

“I have to do what?” Jack said.

“You heard me. Climb Mount Oracle to reach the Water. If Jill doesn’t drink it within the twelve hours, she’s dead. There’s nothing else I can do.”

Jack peered out the window at the swirling snow with trepidation. Reaching the summit of the mountain was no easy task under ordinary circumstances. In a blizzard, it would be well-nigh impossible. But he had no choice; Jill was his wife, his one true love.

A white blanket covered the roads as he drove to the base of the trail, and the parking lot was in even worse shape. He pulled his coat around him as he stepped from the car. I don’t know which is more likely, he thought, falling off a cliff or freezing to death.

It was a long, slow slog even on the relatively level part of the trail. Jack looked upward in dismay when he reached a slope that led seemingly to the sky. A man would have to be bloody insane to try to climb that in this weather.

Insane or desperate.

After several attempts, he managed to hook a rope around a tree above him. Though he struggled to gain purchase for each step, the rope held him steady. Cold seeped through his gloves, and his fingers grew numb. He shivered, knowing that failing to hold his grip would send him into a hundred-foot fall.

A rock bigger than his head flew past him within inches of his shoulder. Frantic, he glanced about and spotted the creature. Its single red eye dominated its face, and…

Commentary –

Okay, I think you get the picture. Tension is easy to create. If you don’t have enough, make sure you have clearly defined Steps 1 and 2. If you need more of it, just turn up the volume on Steps 3 and 4.

Oh, since I left you hanging, I’ll tell you how the story turns out: Jack manages to get the water and save Jill, but, before then, a bad fall causes him to break his crown.

My World Is Defined by What I Write

I’m learning a particular style of writing.  I’m not saying that it’s the only style or even the best style, but it’s what I’m focused on at the moment.  It does seem to be the “in” thing as far as modern writing goes.

This style says that the following opening is horrid:

Joe lives in Dallas.  In the year the story takes place, 2012, he’s 22 and working at an entry level position as a bank teller.  With a degree in economics from LSU, he expected more from life.  He’s frustrated with his low pay, menial job and his lack of a love life.  His hair is cut short to conform to his employer’s dress code but spiked to try to give him some degree of individuality.  The length still riles him every time he looks in the mirror.  Even his car annoys him – a 1996 Ford Mustang with two dents and holes in the upholstery.

The main problem with the passage above is that I’m trying to tell the reader everything they need to know about the character up front instead of developing him slowly.  A secondary concern is that I’m revealing details that may not be relevant to the story.  For example, does the reader need to know that he went to LSU?

In the style of writing that I’m learning, a setting detail should be included only if it does one of the following:

  • Sets the scene, but only a thumbnail sketch – Think of a play.  A single cardboard tree stands for an entire forest.  A table with two chairs set with plates indicates a dining room.  Add a menu, and it’s a restaurant.  You can be a little more detailed with the written word but not much.  Give the reader only enough information to create a picture in their mind.
  • Set emotional context – We’re viewing only the things that the character sees.  If he’s looking at roses and admiring their beauty, that says one thing about his emotional state.  If he sees leaves decaying on the ground, it says another.
  • Provides some important plot purpose – If the character is going to stab someone in chapter 2, you need to make sure that, at some prior point, he has access to a knife.

Take Joe.  He looks in the refrigerator and sees:

  • Perhaps a bottle of Abita Beer – Since this is a, presumably, small regional brand, this helps set the scene.
  • Perhaps a carton of milk – This can remind him of his dead father who used to guzzle milk straight from the jug, much to his mother’s annoyance.  It’s a fond memory of happy times but saddening due to the loss.
  • Perhaps a bottle of juice – Later Joe is going to drink that juice not knowing that his roommate has poisoned it.

Similar to setting, I’m going to develop my character through his actions, but I’m only going to show you those things that have some bearing on plot.  Perhaps Joe has a complicated love/hate relationship with his mother.  Since the plot revolves around Joe’s poisoning by his roommate, maybe that relationship with his mom has no place in my story (unless the roommate’s motivation for attempted murder is driven by his annoyance by the telephone fights to which he’s constantly subjected.)

The point is this:

I am only going to reveal details that directly impact the story.

This constraint gives me an important advantage; it allows me to keep my story tight and engaging.  There’s no getting bogged down with unimportant details.  There is no chasing of rabbits.  It does, however, lead to an important caveat.

This method only works if the reader allows me to shape my world as I go.

This is the first line in Power of the Mages:

The bottle slipped through Xan’s fingers. 

My expectation of the reader is that a void exists in his mind when he opens my book.  After reading that first line, he fills that void with a figure and a bottle.  Perhaps the figure is humanoid or perhaps not.  The bottle could look like a soda bottle or a whisky bottle.  The only thing firm is that the figure has some indeterminate amount of fingers.

Later I give more details:

At seventeen, young for a journeyman apothecary, he strove for perfection, to be precise in his movements.

Now the reader knows the figure is a male, young, and probably human.  If the reader, for whatever reason, had pictured Xan to be old with a wrinkled face, I expect the reader to replace the image with that of a young man.

The reader’s responsibility is to fill in his mental picture with dashed lines for the details I have not yet given.  When I write something specifically showing that detail, he has to erase the dashed lines and replace them with the solid ones I’ve shown.

My responsibility as the author is to keep the solid lines consistent and the reasonable.  If I show Xan with curly hair and later show it to be straight with no explanation in between, the reader has every right to throw the book away.  Similarly, I must keep the details within the realm of the possible.  If Xan has three-foot long hair and gravity in all other ways works normally, I can’t have his hair stand straight up without some explanation.

Writing Example – Adding Emotion

Here’s a short excerpt from the version of my novelette, Abuse of Power, I sent to my beta readers.

Auggie crept through the moonlit forest.

Dark hues and roughened buttons replaced the royal blue and shiny gold trim of his uniform.  His blond hair hid under a black cap, and a layer of mud covered the white of his face.  To keep his broadsword from moving, straps fastened the sheath to his thigh.

He chose a specific spot for each step.  Despite his bulk, the resulting crunch of leaves and sticks blended into the sounds of gurgling water and a gentle breeze stirring the canopy of treetops.  Behind him, Benj employed far less care.

Auggie glanced back.  Keeping his voice low, he mustered sharp emphasis despite the low volume.  “Are you familiar with the concept of sneaking?”

With their help, I discovered the following issues:

  1. The paragraph of description breaks the flow of the narrative and ruins the immediacy.
  2. If you read the story as written above, you would have thought the significant situation involved Auggie and Benj chasing horse thieves.  In fact, the current mission is a small plot point that ties in later in the story.
  3. In the first 1,000 words, there was little, if any, emotion.

Here’s how I fixed it:

Auggie crept through the moonlit forest.

He chose a specific spot for each step.  Despite his bulk, the resulting crunch of leaves and sticks blended into sounds of gurgling water and a gentle breeze stirring the canopy of treetops.  The cool night air and the excitement of the chase made him feel alive.

How dare Trina ask me to give this up.  The thought made him want to tear a limb from a nearby tree and crush it into splinters.  If she knew how I felt, maybe she wouldn’t have asked, and we’d still be together.  A quiet voice in the back of his mind reminded him of how many times he had told her just that.  Fighting not to scream in frustration, he picked a patch of ground covered in moss and stepped on it.

Behind him, Benj employed far less care.

Auggie glanced back.  Though he kept his voice low, he mustered sharp emphasis.  “Are you familiar with the concept of sneaking?”

  1. I moved the descriptive paragraph to later in the scene.
  2. The story is a romance.  I moved Auggie’s concerns about his love life front and center.
  3. I added emotion.

Two takeaways:

  1. I’m a big believer in Show, Don’t Tell, but I placed artificial constraints on myself by following it too much without thought.  When dealing with emotion, pure showing can be misinterpreted by the reader.  I’ve learned that it is best to blend showing, telling, and dialogue to properly convey emotion.
  2. Every word in your writing has a purpose.  In your editing process, go back and carefully consider what you’re trying to accomplish and if what you wrote is getting you there.

Submission for Coaching – Wyrdmystic

Faltering, Aliyah sat on the edge of her nest, the shift between visual falsehood and tangible truth no less disorienting than her first experience.

That first sentence is quite a bit to parse.  I think, and I could be wrong, that you’re saying she’s having a vision?  It’s probably best to be a little more clear and ditch the attempt at flowery prose.

She braced her head in her hands, anticipating the relief that usually follows the touch of familiar bedding.

I like the start.  Consider “and anticipated” instead of “, anticipating.”  The technique you use here is valid, just be wary of overusing it.  “Follows” should be “followed.”

Entwined sticks poked through squashed pillow, ruining comfort.

This is what I mean about overuse.  You do the same thing with the comma in this sentence.

I’m confused at this point.  You say she’s experiencing some kind of vision, but I’m not seeing it.  She tries to gain comfort and fails, but I see nothing about what she’s experiencing.

A flash of movement stole her gaze.

I like this.

Nothing. Not even a spider hanging from the finest of threads.

This doesn’t flow.  You’ve lost me.  Does this mean she didn’t see a flash of movement?  You need to work on clarity over playing with words.

Her chest tightened, breathing hurried.

Last time commenting on this, I promise: you overuse this technique.  I’d recommend deleting at least two of the occurrences thus far.

Manifestations of panic flowing from subconscious depths.

If “flowing” were “flowed,” this fragment would become a sentence and would make more sense.  I get that you’re trying to evoke a certain feel, but you’re doing it at the expense of the reader knowing what the heck is going on. 

Falling back, she clutched at her forehead, fighting to draw air through constricting pain. As she rolled onto her side she came to face that wooden cat, its arms and legs tethered with string, pebble eyes full of deferred anguish. Saniyah’s favourite puppet. The only part of her daughter she could still hold.

Again, I like the emotion but would suggest minor stylistic revisions for clarity.  From the text, my understanding is that this is the first time the reader has been shown the “wooden cat.”  If this is correct, I hate the use of “that” to describe it.  This is going to cause the reader to attempt to remember it and, since it’s not possible for them to, will annoy them.  I’d replace the phrase with the puppet phrase and clearly refer to it as a wooden cat later.

Also, this is the first mention of pain.  Before this, I get that she’s having some kind of vision and is disoriented.  Where did the pain come from?  Here, she falls back and then tries to deal with the pain.  If you show the onset of the pain, it then logically flows that she falls back in reaction.

Another technique I feel you overuse is the sentence fragment.  If used occasionally, it adds emotional emphasis.  By using it a lot, you’re both making less effective and you’re making your writing seem choppy.

The tide ebbed.

I’m assuming you’re talking about a metaphorical tide of pain.  Two problems: I have to stretch to figure this out and it’s a bit clichéd.  Saying “the agony ebbed” is much clearer.

Reaching out to stroke painted fur brought the touch of Saniyah’s hair to her fingers. She pulled long curls taut with each stroke. Voices echoed from the past…

A bunch of issues here.  “Out” is superfluous.  “Reaching…brought” is a weak sentence.  How about: she stroked painted fur, and the touch transported… 

For that second sentence, I think you need to continue the analogy.  Splinters became long curls she pulled taut…

Why the ellipses after the last sentence?


“Well if you would go mudslinging with your friends, expect a few tugs.”

“Don’t tug so hard!”

“There, all done.”

“Mother, you can’t forget him!”

“Yes, he is getting a bit mangy.”


She reached for the puppet. The brush slipped…

Since you’re doing this in flashback, you need to work extra hard to be clear.  I get easily that she’s brushing the hair and that there was a fight with mud.  However, I have no idea who “him” is until three lines later.  I’d suggest naming the puppet earlier and going with that name here.

I still don’t like the ellipses. 

The clatter of the hairbrush striking rock snapped her back to the present. Without realising, she had left her nest to stand by her dresser. A side table left dusted by neglect, the only sign of its true self visible in the shape of the object removed and smears left by her hand.

I have no idea whether the hairbrush exists in both realities and really fell in this one.  That’s not a good thing.

I don’t like that second sentence.  How about something like: She stood by her dresser and wondered how she had gotten there. 

This might be a difference between American and British, but I’m not keen on the “left dusted.”  I get what you’re saying, but “left layered with dust” is so much more clear.  However, if you feel it’s clear to your audience, it’s probably fine.

Okay, now you’re giving me a clue that the hairbrush actually fell.  It works better, I think, if you’d simply indicate that more clearly at the beginning.

She glanced back at the trigger of her fugue, wondering why, if her recall was so vivid, she could not remember his name.

All those commas disrupt the flow of the sentence.  Make sure that this is the pacing you desire. 

The cat stared.

Aliyah stared back, as if she could unlock him by standing her ground. As if he would reveal his name to her if she won a contest of wills.

Unwavering in his mindlessness, the cat kept his silence.

As above, I suggest changing this to give the thing a name earlier.

Submitting to the inevitable, Aliyah cast her gaze downward. Wisps climbed from a ring of black burnt into rabbit wool pile. The rug’s colour now faded. Drained. The lingering taint of singed fibres teased her nostrils.

I have no idea what’s going on here.  Really.  None.

Echoes of her surreal meeting correlating, yet alternate, to what transpired.

Huh?  You’ve completely lost me by this point.  I don’t think that most readers would make the effort to continue on.

Repercussions she could not predict. She would have to be more careful in future, take more time to measure the weight of her actions.

Familiar sounds anchored her further. Rushing water. The shrieking of drakes frolicking on the wind. Mundane everyday noises, always present though rarely listened to. Nevermore enjoyed.

The more recent memory of her pact with the shadow fiend bellowed embers of hope. Fire rose within her, warming blood and sweating brow, forcing darker thoughts back into their brittle prison.

Yet, the fiend only promised revelation. To take back what the wind stole would require action on her part. She would need more help, not just that of a monster.

She swapped her nightgown for garb more appropriate for a foray from her roost. A backless top, with clasps top and bottom, and trousers fastened with a belt. Thin, light, and hand woven from hemp; clothing designed to cover without hindering flight. Although, flight was not on her agenda.

As on so many occasions, she opted to leave by foot. Stopping at the curtain veiling the tunnel beyond, she almost changed her mind. Scenes flashed behind closed lids. Standing on the edge of her crevice, overlooking the valley below. Jumping, soaring…falling.

A shiver traced the curve of her spine as imagination fed false ending.

She shuddered.

With a shake of her head, and a swipe of cloth, she moved into the mountain. The air, though dry, was kept fresh by intricate currents flowing throughout the rockbound passageways. Weaving her way through tunnels, only her feet registered the changes between the rough carvings of water now diverted and smoother minings of workers long passed.

Overall Comments:

I like your writing.  It’s active.  You choose good words.  You infuse it with emotion.  These are good things!

On the other hand, most readers, I think, aren’t going to make it through your piece.  By the end, I was pretty much saying “Oh Good Lord!”  It feels like you’re trying too hard to be poetic with your words.  Frankly, that’s not a style that’s going to be popular to the modern audience and not a style that I have a lot of tolerance for.

If that’s what you’re passionate about, there is, I think, a niche market for your style.  Keep on keeping on.  Regardless, though, I think you need to work on being clearer.  Even those who dig your style aren’t going to be patient with it if they can’t understand what’s happening.  Also, please consider that the impact of using any technique is diminished with overuse.  You overuse sentence fragments and the comma-gerund phrasing.

Your intention on submitting this work was to see if the flashback worked.  In my opinion, no.  That’s mainly because flashbacks need to be handled with a high degree of clarity to show the reader what is happening.  Overall, your writing lacks clarity.  The flashback exacerbates the situation even more.

Hope this helps!

Unified Theory of Writing

In physics, scientists since Einstein have tried to create a unified field theory that ties the interworkings of gravity and electricity and magnetics together.  Think of it: if we knew how they related, antigravity might be possible.

As an engineer who is passionate about becoming an author, I seek the unified theory of writing, an equation that will unlock the secrets of creating great works of art that are also engaging and readable.  Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Writing = Storytelling + Technique

I define storytelling as the “what and when” and technique as the “how.”

Storytelling informs you of when you need a fast or slow pace; technique shows you how to speed or slow the pace.

Storytelling informs you of when you need to show and when you need to tell; technique shows you how to show and tell.

Storytelling informs you of what elements need to be included in your story for plot and character development; technique shows you how to incorporate these elements.

So, which is more important?

The easiest answer is neither.  Let’s assume that the best theoretically possible piece of writing ranks at 100 on our scale.  Both elements contribute equally to the total.  If you’re at 50 on the storytelling and 0 on the technique, the best you’re going to get is a 50.  Same with the reverse.  I think that a publishable piece needs to achieve a minimum in the range of 70 to 80.

However, I consider technique to be the more important field of endeavor for the beginning writer.  Here’s my reasoning:

  1. Technique is easier to learn.  It’s simply a set of rules that anyone can pick up.  There are hundreds of books and 10,468,115,924,245,209 blog articles (I know; I counted them all) explaining this element of writing.
  2. Learning technique quickly improves your writing.  Take a beginning writer and teach him to use proper grammar, to show instead of tell, to use tension in every scene, to add emotion, and not to info dump.  That beginner is going to go from producing unreadable dreck to creating something that can at least get his ideas across.  This allows him to be able to focus on what he wants to say and boosts his morale.
  3. A good portion of storytelling is intuitive.  Humans are natural storytellers.  To an extent, the talent is ingrained into us, especially if we’ve spent our entire lives watching stories unfold on television and in movies and reading them in books.  I’ve seen a lot of beginning writers who start out at 1 on the technique scale.  I’d say it is unusual for one to start below 10 to 15 on the storytelling scale.
  4. To transition from an intuitive storyteller to a good storyteller, you need to study the types of stories you want to tell.  The best way to do this is to read and analyze those types of stories.  However, if you don’t understand fully the techniques being used to perform the storytelling, you’re missing the first fundamental step in determining why the author chose to tell the story that way.  Understanding technique is crucial to understanding storytelling.


Submission for Coaching – SiS

We have a new contributor.  Please welcome SiS, who has bravely stepped up to the plate.

The long road was completely empty due to heavy rain.

Write active sentences.  If you write: the road was empty, you’re saying that the road existed in a state of emptiness, which is passive.  Active sentences, ones where something is performing an action, tend to draw the reader’s interest better.  For this sentence, how about: The heavy rain emptied the road.  Or, let’s add a bit more color and interest: The heavy rain inundated the road, driving the men with their ox carts (or whatever) to shelter.  Note that anytime you see the word “was,” you can usually find a candidate to rewrite into a more active form.

A second comment: if this is the start of your piece, consider introducing a character in the first sentence.  Readers are drawn to characters, not to scenery or weather.  Give us a person to experience the weather through.

Every strong claps of the thunder increased the heartbeat like a cosine wave.

You’ve got a couple of problems here.  First, it’s every clap, not every claps.  Second, you’re introducing a heartbeat, but you don’t have a character.  Whose heartbeat?  Third, how do you increase a heartbeat like a cosine wave?  You’re trying, I think, to say that the heart rate increased with each clap and fell in between, showing the graph to be like a cosine.  This is not what you’re written.  It’s important to be clear and precise in your descriptions.

The flashing lights in the sky lighted up the sky from one end to the other, blurring images of the vehicles that buzzed every odd minute.

You use “the” in front of flashing lights.  You should only use “the” if you’re referencing something you’ve already introduced.  Drop the article and start the sentence with “flashing.”

“Lighted” is okay, but you can also use “lit.”  The former sounds a bit archaic, but that’s fine if that’s what you’re going for. 

You do not need “up.”  Read the sentence with the word and without it.  The meaning doesn’t change.  Whenever you can get rid of an unnecessary word, do so.

Try not to repeat words.  You use “sky” and a form of “light” twice in the same sentence.  Get rid of one instance of each.

You can replace “that buzzed” with “buzzing.”  It’s more active and gets rid of a word.

I’m not sure how the lightning (?) blurred the images of the vehicles.  I would think the light would add clarity if anything.  Same problem as before with “the.”  This is the first time we’ve seen these vehicles. 

I don’t like “every odd minute.”  I think it needs to be something like: buzzing by each minute.”

The moist winds were continuously blowing on my face.

Get rid of adverbs (words ending in ly) where you can.  “Continuously” isn’t needed in this sentence.

Here’s another instance of a form of “was,” but this one is super easy to get rid of.  Simply replace “was + -ing form of verb” with “past tense form of verb.”  In this case, “were blowing” becomes “blew.”

A ray of hope kept me waiting hoping for the last bus to my hometown, even after half past midnight and I was the only living creature sitting on the bench of silicon city bus stop – the bus stop known for buzzing IT Professionals!

The beauty of first person is that you can get inside the character’s head.  Give us an “I” statement here: I kept waiting, hoping that the last bus home would arrive. 

Don’t use “buzzing” as you just used a form of that word.

Avoid exclamation points except for highly emotional moments where people are speaking.  Try not to use them in your narrative.

A blurred woman image holding a white colored umbrella was seen at a distance of 100 meters, which came closer and closer each passing second and at last, it was a beautiful girl and she sat next to me at the bus stop.

Again, if you’re going first person, use “I:” I saw a blurred image…  Break the sentence after meters.  Then start the a new sentence: She came closer, and I gawked at her beauty.

She was wearing a white colored Salwar Kamez. She had a face of an angel. She had worn kajal instead of kohl that added beauty to her powerful eyes.

Avoid starting multiple sentences in a row with the same word.  Some say you should avoid starting any two sentences in the same paragraph with the same word, but I’m not quite that strict.

Her nose was drafted perfectly like a triangle. Her perfect pale pink rose bud lips were inviting to kiss them. Her white complexion could put technologies to shame. Her white colored sandals were her pride, I believe.

Same thing here.  Vary both the starting word and the sentence structure.  Going subject – verb too many times in a row gets monotonous.

She was hot despite her small faulty tummy; in total, she was an Angel and she mesmerized me!

Describe her better here without the use of “was.”  Her face (performed action).  She resembled an angel.  Mesmerized, I (performed action).  Also, don’t overuse “hot.”

She was reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and I was reading her lips. PS: Lip reading 😛

Same thing as above with “was reading.”  The title of the book needs to be in italics.  I don’t know about the repetition of “lip reading” here.  If you’re emphasizing the phrase as “I studied her luscious lips,” then it would work.  If you’re implying that you are actually reading her lips, I’d rephrase.  Get rid of that last part.

She was irritated, so she asked, ‘What?’

Try: Irritated, she said, “What?”  Note that you can use just “said” for your tag since the question mark tells the reader that it’s a question.

‘I’m dying of loneliness. Can you help?’ I said smiling.

Replace the speech tag with a beat (an action).  Speech tags (said) are used only to indicate to the reader who is talking.  If someone acts in a paragraph with speech, the reader knows the person acting and talking are the same.  Change to “I smiled.”

She smiled broadly for the first time and said, ‘Okay!’

Don’t have her smile after you smile.  She could grin.  Also, you can ditch the adverb and the speech tag.  I don’t like “for the first time.”  I sounds like it’s possible that she’s smiling for the first time in her life since you don’t quantify it.

‘Tell me about yourself?’

You’re going to have to work on the dialogue.  It’s one of the hardest things to get right.  This needs to be something more colloquial.  You could throw a clichéd line here, maybe: Who are you and where have you been all my life? 

‘I’m Ritika, working as a Senior Software Engineer. I’m a Facebook addict; in fact, that’s how I met my boyfriend, who happened to share the same corporate tag, and he calls me Riti!’ She said, forgetting to breathe.

This is not good.  You have to draw this out.  Think about it, when a stranger meets you for the first time, do you spit out a whole paragraph of information.  Make the POV character work to draw out the data.

I cursed Mr. Zuckerberg and his co-founders of the social networking site Facebook, managing a smile, as it’s rare to meet a girl aloneat night, and that too a heart stealing beauty.

I don’t think it’s necessary to explain who Zuckerberg is.  He’s pretty well known, and the exposition slows things down.  If you feel you have to explain due to your audience, try something like: I cursed Zuckerberg for creating Facebook.

She smiled and asked, ‘Tell me about you!’

Again, delete the tag and the exclamation point. 

‘I’m Siddesh, working as a Senior Executive Engineer. I’m passionate about writing and I write at Few Unsaid Words. I had a girlfriend but my bad we broke up,a month ago 😦 ’

Do not use emoticons in your writing.  Again, you need to break up the conversation.  People don’t meet and immediately throw out their entire dating history.  Throw in some quips and actions. 

‘Really? Even we broke up last week 🙂 I realized he is not the right guy and all he wanted was flesh.’ She said with tears, looking down, and she kept silent for the next few minutes.

She asked, ‘Are you still in love with her?’

You’ve got some good emotion here, but you need to be more subtle about getting to this point.

I smiled and said, ‘It’s time to move on because she is not going to comeback as my life.’

Try to think of some actions they could perform besides smiling.  They could stand, pace, hit a post, sit, fidget, etc.  Here, it could be: I shrugged.  “She’s not going to come back into my life.”

‘I’m sorry! Anyway, move on, because love is not the life, it is just a part of life. But when you love someone; love her heart and not her flesh, okay?’ She said in a demanding voice. I nodded my head because I loved my girl.

“She demanded” instead of “said in a demanding voice.”  It’s more active.  I’d delete everything before “when.”  Avoid repeating yourself, and try to keep your dialogue short and snappy.

The rain started pouring down heavily in all directions and we were drenched completely by the time she opened her umbrella for us.

Why does the rain start pouring?  The rain poured… is more active than it started pouring.  Try this: The rain poured in sheets, drenching us to the skin.  (too clichéd, but something you can build from) 

Her inner was completely visible as her white dress became transparent; she looked like an ice cream and I could not stop staring at hers, she was hot!

You’re burying the lead with the passivity:  Water turned her dress transparent, revealing her secrets beneath.  I couldn’t take my eyes off her.  She was ice cream.  She was hot!  (I’ll allow the exclamation point there 🙂 )

I wanted to stop staring at hers so I started reading a-day-old newspaper, which I had in my back bag.

“I wanted” isn’t a great descriptor.  Why did you want to stop staring?  Not wanting to appear like a cad (fill in reason of your choice), I pulled a day old newspaper from my bag and read it.

As usual, the hot news was “Pregnant woman found dead in her flat!”

I don’t understand the “as usual” here.  Describe this better.  Do you mean that this story has been repeating for the last several days or do you mean that there have been multiple pregnant women found dead?  Be clear.

BANGALORE WORDS – Bangalore Police officials are trying to determine the cause of a doubtful suicide of a pregnant woman found hanging in her flat, who is working as a software engineer in ABC Enterprises.

I think that last phrase needs to be in a separate sentence.  Something like: The deceased worked as a…

‘Am I too hot to handle?’ She asked smiling mischievously!

‘Well, you are damn hot!’ I said, still looking into the paper.

‘Maybe, that’s why Harish always wanted sex I guess,’ she said.

‘Harish! Did she say Harish? Harish and Ritika? What the F!’

I was shocked! I read the same names in the newspaper.

It would be better to show the part of the story in the paper that contained the names before this revelation.  Move the part below up with the rest of the story.

Ritika was found dead in her flat. She had committed suicide by hanging and the police suspects that her boyfriend Harish could have murdered and hanged her.

She peeped inside the newspaper, laughing, and said ‘I’m Ritika Chaudhary!’

I fainted!

Thanks for submitting the piece.  I hope this helps!

Submission for Coaching – Nicholas Beacham 2

Nicholas is back for a second go around, having edited the previous version.  Let’s see if we can help some more.

Finn is your viewpoint character.  It’s important that his name be the first that is mentioned.  Start with and introductory sentence showing Finn doing something interesting.

“I have a job for you.” Aost smoothed the parchment on the oak desk. “There is a merchant in town. You might know him. Mills?”

You can get rid of the first sentence.  The fact that Aost has a job for Finn will become apparent through the scene.  You can combine the remaining dialogue and make it a bit more concise:  You know that merchant in town?   Mills?

“That old fart? He still buy from us?” Finn’s amused gaze drifted from the window to Aost.

Did you mean “buys?”  It’s okay to have him use incorrect grammar if he’s consistent.

“He does. When he can offer a good price.”

Delete “he does.”

“So what’s the job then boss?”

You can introduce a bit more conflict here to liven it up: What’s he got to do with me?

“Don’t call me boss. How long have we known each other?” Aost said.

“Fine, what’s the job then… my lord” Finn smirked as he fumbled with a quill.

I like the quip, btw.  Why’s Finn fumbling with a quill?  It’s also not clear to me where he is in relation to the desk and the window.  Show him in front of the desk.  You need to ground the reader in the scene with details.  Describe the room.  Give me something visual to latch onto.

Aost sighed and slid the parchment across the desk. “Sources retrieved this from a messenger. Give it a read.”

Resist the Urge to Explain (RUE).  The action of sliding a document to someone implies that you want them to read it.  That last sentence isn’t needed.

Finn grabbed the note. He squinted and turned the parchment, it said something about a big job tonight and getting back at those rotten thieves. Finn tossed the parchment down. “So Mills is planning something. What do you want me to do?”

It’s not clear here why he’s not able to understand exactly what the note is saying.  You made progress here in showing, but it’s not quite clear yet.  Make sure that your reader understands why Finn isn’t able to ascertain all the details from the note.  Alternately, you can just show him grabbing it, squinting at it (we’ll assume he has bad eyesight), and tossing it back down.  The part about what the note says isn’t really needed here.  Instead, you can reveal that in the dialogue.

“He is asking around town for independent thieves to work on a job.”

Try contracting “he is.”  It will sound less stilted.

“You want the guild to do the job?” Finn went back to staring out the window.

This could be clearer.  What you’re trying to say, I think, is: You’d rather he use the guild instead of independent thieves?  You don’t quite achieve that here.

“We are the job. Mills is planning to steal from the guild. He is asking thieves to rob our storehouses.”

Combine the second two sentences: He’s asking thieves to rob the guild’s storehouses.  As you have it now, all three sentences say the same thing.  Don’t repeat yourself.

“Our storehouses are hidden and well-guarded. Even if he did find thieves stupid enough, they wouldn’t make it past the traps.” He took pride in the traps he set for the guild.

I’d prefer that last sentence to be something like: Finn smiled as he thought about the traps he had set.  Play with the wording, but show him being proud instead of telling us he’s proud.

“He offended Me. He offended the guild. He’s offended you.” Aost adjusted his sleeve cuff and reached for a quill. “Teach him a lesson.”

Would it be better if Aost were more emphatic here?  Maybe have him start this speech with: Aost slammed his fist on the table.

The dusty red cushion of the window seat gave little support as Finn sat. “I’m not an assassin, Aost.”

“I’m not asking you to kill him.” A hint of irritation in his words.

This last isn’t a sentence.  It needs to be something like: A hint of irritation tainted his words.  As it is, you don’t have a verb.

“I’m asking you to rob Mills.” Aost scribbled something onto the parchment and folded it. “Show that coward that he can’t cross us. We are masters of our trade.” He slid the parchment into an envelope and picked up the burning candle, letting its crimson wax drip to form a seal. “Leave this for him when you’re done.” Extending the envelope to Finn.

This last still isn’t a sentence either.  It needs to be: He extended the envelope to Finn.

Sighing heavily, Finn shuffled to the desk. “Any more details? or just rob the guy?” Grabbing the envelope.

Do you need “heavily?”  I don’t think it adds a lot.  Get rid of the question mark after “details.”  Make that last phrase into a sentence.

“I’ve arranged for him to meet the fence at Mog’s Tavern tonight. He doesn’t think we know about his plan.”

“The fence” needs to be “a fence.”  “The” implies that you’ve already mentioned a fence and refers the reader back to him.

Finn detected a tone of satisfaction. “Mog’s Tavern? I hate that place, drunks vomiting all over.” Finn held his nose. “So you want me to take his wagon?”

I don’t like the conversation here.  That last sentence seems tacked on.  Consider adding a sentence where Aost comments on the tavern to explain the “tone of satisfaction.”

“Do whatever you have to. Just get the job done.” Aost brushed away a lock of gray hair from his wrinkled forehead and reached for his cane. “Just remember to leave him that note. And don’t get caught!” he shot Finn a scowling look.

Delete the first sentence.  Delete the second “just.”  Capitalize “he.”

“Sure thing, boss. Go take your nap now.” Finn waved his hand as he left the office.

End the paragraph here.

The heavy oak door crept shut behind him. He tucked the note into the leather pouch at his hip and set off down the hall. The floor creaked under his boots. Aost had the nails pulled up slightly for this very purpose, it warns him if someone comes. A thief thwarts a thief, Finn thought; or was it the assassins he was afraid of?

You need to vary the sentence structure in this paragraph.  Each one is subject – verb.  Make one start with an introductory phrase.  As it is, it sounds choppy.  You need a period after “purpose.”

He stepped into the cobblestone street. They were alive with merchants and shoppers.

Combine these two sentences: He stepped onto a cobblestone street alive with merchants and shoppers.

Beggars nipping at their heels for a piece of coin.

To make this a sentence, “nipping” needs to be “nipped.”  “Nipping” (the way you have it used) is a noun.  “Nipped” is a verb.

The mid-afternoon sun filtered through the dense collection of buildings. Only a few hours of daylight left and things needed to be in place for tonight. Only, Finn didn’t know what those things were. Aost had provided him nothing.

You start two consecutive sentences with “only.”

Hope this helps!