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  The Tension and Stretch Sensors

Let's talk about tension and stretch sensors.


"Muscle tension refers to the condition in which muscles of the body remain semi-contracted for an extended period. Muscle tension is typically caused by the physiological effects of stress and can lead to episodes of back pain."
-- From

(And other kind of pain!)


Stretch sensors are found in such places as the lungs, bladder, stomach, and the gastrointestinal tract. A type of stretch receptor, that senses dilation of blood vessels, is also often involved in headaches.



Take a moment and clench your fists and then release them.

Did you feel that muscle tension and release?

Maybe you’re like me and your forearms are very tense from all the typing you've been doing.

Lots of people hold their stress in their neck and shoulders. Where do you hold your stress?

You can hold stress in your face, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, stomach, other internal organs, lungs, legs, feet.



What does that tension feel like?

-- Tightness in your chest

-- Bunched up shoulders

-- Closed lungs

-- Clenched fists

-- Knots your stomach

-- Held breath

-- Boxed in

-- Stiff neck

-- Locked joints

-- Strained muscles

-- Other!


(From Henrietta and the Battle of the Horse Mesa (Book 3) by Beth Barany)

"Wrapped tightly in a bright yellow, silky cloth with an orange pattern, the old woman stood still as stone, frowning. Maybe she didn't recognize Paulette, maybe she wasn't real. Paulette reached out to touch the old woman's shoulder."

Here, I have my main character, my point of view (POV) character, Paulette, observing at this tense, little old woman, and having a response to her.

(Next example created for this course:)

Jackson clenched his jaw.

The writer doesn't have to tell us he was stressed or tense. That's boring and that's telling. Instead, show us the experience of your POV character.

(From Henrietta and the Battle of the Horse Mesa (Book 3) by Beth Barany; on stretching)

"The pink of dawn found her crawled up in a ball on the ledge. She stretched and banged her head on the stone wall."

EXPERIENCE the opposite of tension -- relaxing.

Stretch. Reach the sky. Breathe out.

How does the release of tension feel?

-- Sinking into a warm pool of water

-- Floating on a bed of rose petals

-- Wrapped in a down quilt

-- Melting into butter

-- Carried on a spring breeze

-- Tingly with relief

Advanced Story Telling Tip

Stories are about secrets and reveals for your characters.

Your reader will experience this as worry -- a form of tension -- and then as a release, a relaxation.

As you edit each scene, make sure you can feel the worry, the tension. As you edit each sequel, make sure you can feel a small release, and even a slow build of tension.

More on Scene and Sequel here:


Consider your POV character.


-- Where does your character hold their tension in their body?

-- How do they experience their stress?

-- What is their go-to internal body experience to reveal stress to the reader?

-- What is their experience when they stretch or take a deep breath?



-- How does their tension play a role in how they interact with the world?

-- What do they notice of other people's tension?

-- What is their go-to external to reveal stress to the reader?

-- How do they stretch?


Share how your main character experiences tension and stretching.

Also, share your discoveries, ahas, and questions.