Writing exercise: Tension

Issa Dioume is passing on some of Ursula Le Guin’s writing advice in the form of exercises. This one is to write a short scene of less than 150 words using whole, grammatical sentences of no more than seven words. This is a condensed scene from my WIP.

The watch slams the door closed again. Will she come? The message surely won’t leave her indifferent. Énna is her favourite brother. Minutes pass, and the postern gate opens. Aoife stands there, two gallowglasses behind her. Her eyes widen in surprise.

“You? Why has Énna sent you?”

Art’s eyes shift to the gallowglasses. Their hands grip sword hilts. He fumbles for something in his cloak.


He reaches out a hand. Aoife steps forward to take the message. His empty hand grabs her arm. He pulls her outside; a gallowglass lunges. One by one, Art can take them. His sword slices across the Ostman’s throat. The return stroke catches the man behind. Art whistles for his horse, turning.

“You are coming with me.”

The words die in his throat. Aoife faces him, drawn sword in hand. Her eyes flash in fury.



Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

24 thoughts on “Writing exercise: Tension”

      1. One thing that I always think sounds very amateurish is the ‘chase’ scene where the monster/murderer ‘is so close I can feel it’s breath on the back of my neck’ for paragraph after paragraph.

      2. To me it shows that the author isn’t in the action with the characters, but sitting behind a screen tapping away lots of words that show what a good writer he/she is.

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