Notch Up the Tension

Creating a manuscript with rising tension throughout isn’t easy but last night I watched a movie that had me on the edge of my seat from the first scene — I am Legend starring Will Smith.

Did the author adore his main character or despise him?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Smith plays Robert Neville, a military scientist in a world felled by a virus first hailed as a cure for cancer.  The virus wiped out 90% of the world’s population out right.  Of the remaining 10%, only 1% were truly immune.  The others became something close kin to zombies — super fast moving, light hating, mean as all snot zombies.

If you can handle serious tension, watch this movie to see just how hard the author has made it for Neville.


When the virus first goes bad, Neville uses his military connections to get his wife and daughter out of the city.

But at the last check point, a scanner says his wife is infected and can’t leave.

Neville uses his rank (something way up the food chain) to bully the soldier into re-scanning her.  The scan comes back as uninfected, which would be marvelous except for a  helicopter crash while Neville is still watching.

All he has left is his daughter’s dog.  So, of course, something is going to happen to the dog.

He finally meets other people, but by then Neville is just a bit nutty, something about the isolation no doubt and feeling responsible for not stopping the virus.  Having someone else around is less than fantastic.

Scene after scene, things just get worse for our character.  Watch this movie and then tell me — are you really being hard enough of your character?

But, you’ll have to tell me later.  I need to get going.   I have a 12 year-old character to make miserable.