I've been told by several people now that my tense scenes aren't very... tense. I'm trying to figure out why, and what I can do about it.
Thing is, I don't want to orchestrate combat for maximum amount of special effects and duels that last for several minutes. I'm not a big fan of fiction that tries to create artificial balance for the sake of having combat last longer. I skim over combat pretty much anywhere because I know exactly the author isn't going to kill those characters off. It's just a matter of scrolling down to 'how did they win this time? Okay, that was clever. Next chapter.'
What really has me on the edge of my seat is... characters. My favorite scene in all of Worm - one I still think about sometimes a year later - was one involving Taylor and her dad. Maybe my characters are boring, and that's why readers don't care about tense scenes they're involved in?
I'm trying to avoid predictability and artificial balance. As a result, I have a bad guy who uses every unfair advantage at his disposal (for instance, staying underground) to fight dirty and either end combat in his favor within a few seconds, or get the hell out. I have characters who could one-shot most anyone, but only do so in select situations with strong reasons. I can think of many situations where characters might want to hide rather than fight, because that's what makes the most sense. Those characters don't care about the reader wanting to read a suspenseful scene, they just want to survive.
My idea of suspense is that anyone can die, even POV characters, and in possibly unexpected situations. But can I get this across to the reader without killing a POV character so early? I wonder if the lack of tension is because they expect me to keep characters alive, and don't expect the battlefield diplomacy to end with a headshot.
On that note: My first real hero team vs villain team conflict was mostly battlefield diplomacy, because that just made the most sense with the characters and background knowledge involved.
I'd appreciate some advice! And maybe some examples of scenes in fiction you found really suspenseful.
Edit to add: Here's an example of a chapter that moved ME to tears (the second part of it). Writing wise, it's not my best chapter, but seeing as it's a villain origin interlude it should be fairly easy to understand without having read the whole story. Did I only move my own emotions with this one? What do you think? Suspense yes or no?