And why would that be significant? Because stress is tension OR compression OR shear, but dramatic tension makes very very explicit that it's ONLY tension that matters, very very specifically. Which immediately raises the question: tension in WHAT? What is it that is being pulled? From where, TO where?
In the minds of ALL authors, ALL writers, ALL literary reviewers, ALL critics, and ALL readers ... something is being pulled from somewhere to somewhere else. There is no question about that. They just have no fucking idea what it could possibly be. Well, this will be answered today.
There are three abstract elements to the interaction between a reader and their book, a gamer and their game, a viewer and their movie, a spectator and their ballet:
- datastream - the stream of their experiences in sight and sound and motion
- control metastream - the stream of their thoughts, expectations, decisions, page-flipping, mouse-clicking, game-loading, bathroom-running
- goal - not chosen by the writer, but chosen by the reader, viewer or gamer, out of the things they care for
The existence of a uniquely reader-determined goal is most obvious in games. Some people like linear games and other people like open sandboxes. This is explained by GNS - Gameism, Narrativism, Simulationism theory. Which is itself explained by personality type theory and is the reason it really should be SGN theory, not GNS. But I don't have the other isms to prove that SGN is only a tiny subpart of personality manifesting in an aspect of reality.
What is dramatic tension? It's the pull experienced by the reader towards their goal. More obvious concepts are the pace of a film and the grip of a novel. Well, tension is similar to pacing but different because pacing is external and objective whereas tension is interrelational. Tension both originates and terminates inside the reader.
If the tension is too low, this will manifest in either of the two streams becoming highly entropic. Either the datastream will become monotonous and boring, or the control metastream will become full of "why am I reading this?". Once EITEHR of those streams passes a critical threshold in entropy, it will simply collapse catastrophically: the reader will stop reading, the gamer will cease playing.
If the tension is too HIGH, this will manifest in either of the two streams becoming highly entropic. Either the datastream becomes incomprehensible and uninterpretable, effectively just noise, or the control metastream will become full of "wait, hold on, what did that mean? I need to reread this". And yes, once either of those streams passes a critical threshold in entropy, it will simply collapse catastrophically.