Sean McCarthy

Man On Wire: The Importance Of Narrative Tension

Originally Published: February 2014

by K. Marcus

seanmcarthyMAN ON WIRE, the documentary about Philippe Petit’s high-wire walk between the Twin Towers in 1974 was used by Sean McCarthy, owner of the Sean McCarthy Literary Agency, as a metaphor for planning and creating narrative tension in the manuscript.

McCarthy focused on the manuscript’s first three chapters as those are read by agents and editors. This was a presentation from the traveling SCBWI Roadshow in Tarrytown on February 8, 2014.

Petit took 5 years to plan his high-wire walk.  While McCarthy is not suggesting authors and illustrators take that long, he did stress that preplanning plotting, pacing, external/internal conflict, motivation, stakes and character development is more favorable “than forcing it in later.”  In the first three chapters, it is necessary to “lay hints and groundwork for those reveals later on.”  There should be “one conflict at the beginning and it should be resolved at the end.” (more…)