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Tension-Resolution Pairs

 

Disciplines > Storytelling > Storytelling articles > Tension-Resolution Pairs

 

The fundamental pattern of all stories is tension and resolution. A wrong is done, creating tension, then the wrong is righted, creating the relief and closure of resolution. The stimulation of emotion that this creates leads to a sense of pleasure in the reader or observer.

Tension and resolution thus largely appears in matching pairs. However, few if any stories have a single pair, although many have a major pair with other pairs being used to keep the excitement going throughout the story.

Here is a big list of tension-resolution pairs that cover many story patterns.

  • Attack - Defeat

  • Attack - Defend

  • Attack - Repulse

  • Attack - Victory

  • Betrayal - Restoration

  • Betrayal - Retribution

  • Capture - Escape

  • Capture - Rescue

  • Chase - Capture

  • Chase - Escape

  • Conquest - Revolt

  • Corruption - Redemption

  • Death - Rebirth

  • Defend - Defeat

  • Defend - Victory

  • Destruction - Restoration

  • Discovery - Exploitation

  • Discovery - Loss

  • Dislike - Like

  • Inadequacy - Transformation

  • Ignorance - Illumination

  • Illumination - Seeking

  • Loss - Search

  • Need - Gain

  • Need - Relief

  • Need - Seek

  • Revelation - Transformation

  • Search - Discovery

  • Seek - Find

  • Shame - Redemption

  • Suppression - Rebellion

  • Threat - Averted

  • Threat - Salvation

  • Threat - Defense

  • Trust - Betrayal

  • Unrealized - Realized

  • Wrong - Righted

Tension-resolution pairs in a story can be written in a notation system that uses an indentation system taken from the field of computer programming. This uses a few simple rules:

1. Each tension and resolution goes on a new line.

2. When a new tension arises before a previous tension is resolved, it is indented by four more spaces

3. The resolution that closes a tension sits vertically beneath it, at the same indent level.

See also

Tension principle, Closure principle

 

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