Should You Slam Your Story’s Brakes?

This week’s video cautions against allowing your story’s “ticking clock” to speed things up too much.

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Video Transcript:

High stakes are important in any story. To one extent or another, we always want readers to feel a sense of desperation and urgency. One of the best ways to ramp up that feeling is to tighten the story’s timeline and speed up events. You have to disarm a ticking bomb? How much more exciting if you have to do it in five minutes rather than five days? But there are definite downsides to allowing your story to run along too quickly.

To begin with, we’re going to have to deal with simple logic. We have to give our characters enough time to accomplish the task. Maybe it’s impossible to disarm this particular bomb in five minutes. If so, the character better have enough time to get the job done; otherwise either his head’s going to explode—or your readers’ heads are.

We also have to consider character development. Is it possible for two characters to fall madly in love and form a lifelong attachment in just one day? Yes. Is it likely? Not so much. Is it possible that a scumbag character can completely turn his life around in a day? Yes. Likely? No. Sometimes sacrificing logic in situations like this is worth it to gain that sense of urgency in the ticking clock. But never do so without due consideration.

Finally, perhaps the most important reason to slow down your story’s timeline is for impact’s sake. This is going to matter in segments in which time becomes important not just for your character’s development, but to emphasize his state of being—and usually that state is going to be one of suffering. Getting thrown into an oubliette for a day or two isn’t going to be very fun, but it’s not going to compare to spending months or years locked away in horrible circumstances. Allowing that extra time in certain stories can sometimes make all the difference.

 

Photo Credit

Thumbnail – Screen Capture From Video

Originally posted on Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors

 


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