Why is story tension important?
Tension is crucial for your learners to focus their attention. When you build believable tension, they feel engaged with your story and your learning goal. But how do you get your learners at the edge of their seats? Put something at stake. This will get your learners emotionally committed. The stakes you set in your scenario are what keep them playing your scenario over and over again.
Techniques for adding tension to your training scenario
Consider tension as the thread that runs through the main story, the supporting obstacles, and the growth of the learner towards your learning goal. Here are some great strategies for increasing the tension in your scenario:
The inciting incident
A trigger event gives your learner a purpose and an objective. This might be a simple question or piece of information from another character or as dramatic as an impactful incident, but either way, it sets new stakes.
This should be part of the exposition (the background information your learners need to know for your scenario to make sense). We use this in every scenario to let learners know what is expected of them — in a storytelling way.
Introduce new problems, as stories can only advance through conflict. Create obstacles for your learner. Whatever situation your learner is facing at the start of your scenario should become worse.
Your story will lack suspense if you consistently give your learner what they want. Don't let your learners get off easy since they need this to develop. Conflict isn't only about dramatic action; it may take many different forms depending on what your learners want and what gets in the way of them attaining it.
The most crucial thing to keep in mind is that conflict should intensify as the story goes along. You can achieve this by introducing multiple obstacles and placing your main obstacles in the last part of your story.
The ticking clock
One of our favorites is a very old storytelling trick, that is used in most thrillers: the race against the clock. The perfect marriage between stakes and a time limit creates a little bit of stress and adrenaline. It’s one of the most important strategies for creating tension. Your learners will be thrust into making decisions and discovering new situations, whether it is an actual clock created with our timer feature or an impending deadline. It’s also a great way to simulate the feeling of lack of time and invite your learners to take job shortcuts.
We use this a lot for safety or security scenarios. For example, puting trainees into a situation where their manager tells them to quickly fix something, otherwise the company loses a very important client.
Get more storytelling tips in our webinar “Why storytelling matters for training”, where we talk about:
- What is a story-based approach in training?
- When does story-based training make a bigger impact than traditional ways of learning and how?
- What are best practices for story creation, with story writing expert and Netflix New Voices finalist Dajo Leunge.
- How to implement what we learned in your immersive scenarios.
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