Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Contrast Creating Tension

I'm reading Bram Stoker's Dracula for the first time, for a Cousera class called, Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World.  (The class is excellent and  totally free!  I'd recommend it to everyone who wants to learn how science fiction works.)

Dracula isn't the kind of book I'd ever pick up on my own.  I really don't care for the extra spooky, creepy or bloody genres, but I'm thoroughly enjoying taking this novel apart to see how it works and it's neat to read around Halloween.

As I read, I'm realizing that a lot of the tension in the story comes from contrasting elements. When the MC, Jonathan Harker first meets Count Dracula at his castle, he senses an eeriness but the Count provides him with a sumptuous meal and is a friendly and welcoming host.  Jonathan continues to discover strange things but upon face to face interactions the Count is always pleasant and intelligent.

At one point early in the story, the Count startles him while shaving and the Count's eyes have a demoniac fury when he sees Jonathan's blood and reaches out to grab him. But his hand brushes Jonathan's cross and the fury disappears.  Jonathan wonders what kind of demon his host is, what he is hiding, and fears he won't leave the Count's castle alive.  Yet after each frightening incident, he interacts with the Count who assumes a noble friendly air and asks Mr. Harker knowledgable questions on the law as if there was nothing strange occurring.  

There is also the contrast of night and day which mirrors the two sides of the Count.  During the day the Jonathan feels renewed and safe, at night he is afraid and vulnerable.  These contrasts between Jonathan fearing for his life and risking his life for freedom and between the friendly noble Count and the monstrous Count and never knowing which Count is present, the demonic or the noble are what help to create enormous tension in this story.

I'm not yet finished with the book, but I'm excited to learn more about it and hopefully be able to use some of Stoker's tricks for creating tension and suspense in my own writing.

Have you read Dracula? What did you think of it? What tips have you learned from reading the classics?

Kathy :)


  1. I admit I've never read the book. I've seen most of the movies, but I'm pretty sure that's not the same thing.

  2. Alex-haha, yeah I don't think so! :)

  3. It's been a long time since I read Dracula. I found the writing style rather boring, but I think I was only in middle school at the time, so that opinion probably doesn't mean much. I should see if I can dig it up and try it again.

  4. JE- I didn't find many of the classics interesting when I was in middle school! :)

  5. I've never read it as I admit I'm really bad about reading the classics. This class sounds really cool and how awesome that it's free. Happy Halloween!

  6. Dracula has been on my to-read list for too long. It's about time I picked it up and actually read it.