Posted by: nancycurteman | September 11, 2013

The “Ticking Clock:” A No-Fail Writing Strategy

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The “ticking clock” is a no-fail writing strategy. Readers never tire of the “ticking clock.”  When your character has to accomplish something within a designated time period or suffer the consequences your readers worry right along with your protagonist.

failed-lapband-realize-band-ticking-time-bomb-clockWhen using this technique:

Introduce the time constraint early in the novel—in the first few chapters if possible.

Create harm that will come to the character or someone he cares about if the deadline passes. Not just a minor inconvenience—a terrible, intolerable harm. The more dire the harm, the greater your readers anxiety will climb.

Insert forewarnings at various points in your novel that show the reader how much time is left on the clock.

Don’t allow your character to accomplish the goal until the very last second. In fact, throw so many obstacles in your character’s path that the reader starts to think the deadline will not be met.

Authors can imagine an infinite number of situations using the ticking clock. Here are a few examples:

• He has to find the bomb before the timer explodes it.

• He has to escape before the soldiers arrive.

• Kidnappers have threatened to kill the hostage unless they receive the ransom by a certain time.

• He’s got to get the wounded man out of the cave before the tide comes in.

• A natural disaster is about to occur, and the town must be evacuated in time.

• He’s got to get to the airport before her plane carries her out of his life forever.

The scenarios are endless. The “ticking clock” is a no-fail writing strategy guaranteed to keep your readers turning the pages of your novel.

More Writing Tips:

7 ways to add tension to any kind of novel

9 Ways to Create Tension in a Mystery Novel

What is Tension in a Novel?

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