PREDATORS Friday night and dug it. One, cuz it's freakin PREDATOR (and, dudes, Adrian Brody gives American Action Hero a solid turn).
Two, I love producer Robert Rodriguez, who's still hungry for stories and always comes with a rack of killer actors (hello Danny Trejo!). (Have you checked out the trailer for MACHETE? Here's hoping the tiresomely aggro Michelle Rodriguez doesn't bork it up.)
And three, director Nimród Antal gives the franchise plenty of warmth and love for the original PREDATOR, with all kinds of judicious ass-kicking and this buzzing, god-awful tension that snatches you up and doesn't let go until shit is smashed, bleeding, wrecked up and on FIRE.
What made that movie? It was FULL of the please don't, the two most important words when it comes to building palpable tension in a story. I turn to those two words any time I need to ratchet it up in the MS.
It's easy to do: just open up your scene, drop yourself into your character's head and then ask yourself what's on the other side of that please don't for your character:
Please don't...hurt me?
Please don't...be what I think it is on the other side of that locked door?
Please don't...tell me to open that fucking door, because I don't think I can do it?
Please don't...be dead?
Please don't...let me be alone in this dark place?
Then take it just a little further and drop yourself into the other side of that please don't coin, into the head of the antagonist, into the machinations of whatever's hurling obstacles at your MC like freakin ninja stars, and into the thoughts of your supporting characters in that same scene. What are their please don'ts? What do they know of your MC's please don'ts?
Now things are starting to feel tense. (Which is another little Jedi mind trick that works for me: Where my MS needs more tension, I don't use the word "tension" in my notes. I drop a single word at the beginning of said passage: tense. That makes me think of locked up muscles, lips drawn up tight, jumpy reflexes, eyes snatching glances, etc - suddenly I know what to do to keep tightening that wire.)
Works like a charm. What about you? Got any simple tricks for making things tense?