Consideraciones Prácticas. La Tensión Narrativa.


Desde que se cuentan historias, la manera más habitual (y más fácil) de generar interés en el público es formular preguntas y retrasar las respuestas.
Sin embargo, he visto utilizar el término Tensión Narrativa para referirse a conceptos que abarcan desde el lenguaje a bajo nivel, como el fraseo o el ritmo de la prosa, hasta conceptos más amplios e imprecisos, como la muñeca o el pulso de tal escritor “que tiene mucha tensión”. Nosotros lo vamos a utilizar para referirnos a este juego de preguntas y respuestas.

Me van a disculpar, porque estoy pasando unos días en Almería y no tengo demasiados textos aquí, así que vamos a inventarnos una novela a lo John Grisham para ilustrar la cuestión y de paso meternos un poco con John y los best-sellers malos (casi todos) que tanto utilizan este recurso.
Nuestro héroe, Jack McCarthy, varón de 29 años, a pesar de ser licenciado con honores de Princeton en Informática de Sistemas y trabajar de sol a sol en la empresa puntera de Ingeniería Inversa, es alto, guapo y atlético. Además, tendrá amplios conocimientos de estrategia militar y lucha cuerpo a cuerpo, circunstancia que justificaremos, por ejemplo, alegando que su padre era marine. Es más, utilizaremos el desempeño del estricto progenitor para complejizar al personaje ya que creció sufriendo los constantes traslados de base militar a base militar y, además, el marine nunca tenía tiempo de ver los partidos de béisbol del joven Jack (el pobre), de manera que es emocionalmente inseguro y retraído. Añadimos una atractiva compañera de trabajo como subtrama, y la relación sin resolver de nuestro héroe con su padre para evolucionar al personaje, y lo tenemos.
Pero a lo que vamos: empezamos la novela con nuestro héroe corriendo por una acera muy transitada. Está asustado, se quita a la gente de encima a empellones, pero con educación. Mira hacia atrás mientras corre, la gente grita. Un tipo moreno, grande, vestido de oscuro (preferiblemente con gafas de sol) y pistola en mano (preferiblemente con silenciador), le persigue quitándose a la gente de encima también a empellones, pero sin educación alguna.

Ya está: hemos generado la pregunta.
Se os ocurrirán varias, pero dos destacan especialmente, por inmediatas: ¿por qué le persiguen? y ¿le pillarán?
Faltan las respuestas, así que el lector seguirá leyendo.
¿Por qué? ¿Por que el ser humano es así y se traga cualquier cosa, sin más?
Sí, efectivamente.
Casi todos.
Pero podemos exponerlo de una forma menos sangrante: la Tensión Narrativa funciona porque (1) nos aprovechamos de que el lector tiende a buscar la relación entre los acontecimientos y (2) exponiendo a nuestro héroe a una situación de peligro, despertamos una emoción solidaria de miedo y ansiedad en el lector.
Cuando encuentre una respuesta, le hacemos otra pregunta y así sucesivamente hasta el final. Como se trata de un best seller, el final estará donde corresponde: a partir de la página 400 si lo hemos comprado en tapa dura y a partir de la página 500 si lo hemos comprado en tapa blanda.

Volvamos a nuestra escena: La primera pregunta, ¿por qué le persiguen? es más compleja. Cuando nos encontremos con la pregunta explícita ¿por qué…? en una narración, la respuesta tendrá, en principio, dos funciones: (1) justificar la escena. Esto es: la persiguen por algo y/o (2) exponer el conflicto que desata la trama. Esto es: Jack McCarthy ha descubierto una red de corrupción e intenciones espurias y los jefes de la compañía puntera quieren eliminarlo, por ejemplo. Además, como cualquier pregunta sin respuesta inmediata, generará Tensión Narrativa, pero es un efecto colateral.

La segunda pregunta, ¿le pillarán? (que podemos enunciar de manera general así: ¿Qué ocurrirá ahora?) es Tensión Narrativa pura y dura.

Si nos decidimos a utilizar la Tensión Narrativa, la clave para que funcione está en encontrar la distancia adecuada entre la pregunta y la respuesta. Me ha quedado poco concreto. Vamos a ver: si haces una pregunta en la primera frase y respondes en la tercera frase, estás escribiendo un libro para niños. Si haces la pregunta en la primera frase y respondes en la página 73, lo más probable es que el lector ya no recuerde la pregunta.

¿Cómo se retrasan las respuestas?
De muchísimas maneras: desempaquetando la acción (la descripción de la persecución); deteniendo la escena para establecer la Autoridad Racional (los conocimientos de nuestro héroe en estrategia militar); con un flashback (esta persecución le recuerda a nuestro héroe aquella vez que le persiguieron otros chicos en el instituto); con un cambio de narrador; con un cambio de punto de vista, etc.

Insisto: al igual que sucedía con el Establecimiento de Autoridad, no es ni obligatorio ni necesario emplear la Tensión Narrativa tal como la hemos descrito. De hecho, por los motivos antes expuestos, se suele asociar este recurso con las novelas populares y muchos novelistas modernos tienden a despreciarlo (o a utilizarlo sólo puntualmente) y a emplear otros medios para generar tensión, no hay más que leer El despertar de Finnegan de James Joyce, o El miedo del portero al penalty, de Peter Handke.
Es cierto que este recurso, como muchos otros, predomina en las narraciones populares (también las narraciones más cultas, de arte y ensayo, digamos, tienen sus propios recursos, aunque no guste señalarlos). Pero no tiene sentido relacionar directamente la utilización de la Tensión Narrativa con la calidad. No hay más que ver una película de Hitchcock o leer una novela de Stevenson.

¿Entonces por qué me he metido tanto con los best sellers? Pues por ahondar un poco más en las preguntas que dejamos abiertas en el primer post sobre la justificación de la narración. Porque utilizar la Tensión Narrativa con la única finalidad de generar tensión al decir la historia no es una justificación: decir una historia no es contarla (por ejemplo: Shakespeare dice la historia de Macbeth, pero cuenta que la ambición es autodestructiva), porque lo que se dice y lo que se cuenta se superponen, pero no son la misma cosa, y si no es así, entonces no estamos en el terreno de la literatura, estamos en el terreno de lo literal (que es, precisamente, lo opuesto a la literatura). Estamos en el terreno de la peripecia vital, de la historieta (Grisham, entre otros muchos) o en el territorio de la argumentación enmascarada de narración (Coelho o Bucay, entre otros tantos), que podrán ser más o menos satisfactorias, pero no son Representaciones Artísticas.
En cualquier caso, ya recogeremos estas cuestiones en la primera entrada de “Consideraciones Teóricas”. Dadme tiempo: escribir ensayo me causa tanta pereza como dificultades.

De momento, sería interesante que si estáis leyendo una novela, o si veis una película, o alguna serie de televisión, prestéis atención a si la narración está sostenida mediante la Tensión Narrativa, a cómo se generan las preguntas y a la forma en que se retrasan las respuestas. Además, una curiosidad. Notaréis que la pregunta predominante guardará relación con el género. Por ejemplo: ¿Qué ocurrirá ahora? Nos conducirá hacia una narración de aventuras. ¿Quién lo hizo? Nos conducirá a una narración detectivesca. Si mezclamos las dos (¿qué ocurrirá ahora? y ¿quién lo hizo?) tendremos un thriller. ¿Cómo lo hizo? Nos llevará a la crónica (“El día en que lo iban a matar, Santiago Nasar se levantó a las 5.30 de la mañana para esperar el buque en que llegaba el obispo”. Crónica de una muerte anunciada).
Los tres ejemplos están referidos a la acción. Cuando la pregunta está referida a la acción, tenderá a llevarnos hacia el suspense. Cuando la pregunta está referida a la identidad, tenderá a llevarnos al misterio: ¿Quién es? (¿Quién es Kurtz? El corazón de las tinieblas) ¿Qué es? (¿Qué es lo que sucede? El quimérico inquilino)

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