Bestselling authors deftly manipulate time to keep readers captivated.
Time is one of those subtle story elements that exists almost invisibly to the reader, yet when absent or misused, can dramatically alter the reader experience.
Specifically, bestselling authors use five special techniques:
- Time Warp
- Time Stop
- Time Wrap
- Time Jump
- Time Check
Whole books could be written about each of these so let’s take them one at a time. One for each blog post so that we really master each technique.
Bestselling authors skip the boring parts of life – cooking, eating, traveling, pooping.
This is just as well because, “Fiction is life with the boring parts left out”.
Skilled writers fast forward from dramatic moment to dramatic moment, cutting scenes into bite-sized high moments that keep readers glued to the page.
Great storytelling is as much about what to leave out as it is what to leave in.
Leave out the boring parts.
Note: Anything – even pooping – can be a thrilling moment (am I right?!) if it reveals character, advances the story and is connected to theme.
Example: Stephen King took bathroom horror to the next level in Dreamcatcher with a worm alien squirming up from the John. You’ll never feel safe on the toilet again! Watch these iconic movie moments for more examples.
How to Time Warp Like A Bestseller
- Be suspicious of transitions – how characters get from point A to point B. You can usually cut these scenes.
- Start scenes in the middle of action. Instead of “John walked up to the door” why not “John kicked the door in”.
- Leave scenes early, before the problem is resolved. Instead of “They all held hands and sang kumbaya” why not “Lisa slipped the hypodermic needle into her hand”.
- Any common domestic ritual – cooking, eating, cleaning – is on the chopping block. Get rid of them or juice them up with story elements like conflict and tension.
- Think of a movie trailer: keep only the best parts of your story. The highlights. The big “movie” moments.
Do you ever need slow moments? Yes! Most stories, however, fail from too much slow and not enough fast.
But since you mentioned slow scenes, that brings us to the next time tactic: Time Stop.
That’s for the next post. See you there! (Wait, is this whole post an example of Time Warp?! 😉)
Don’t want to wait? Check out this other post on time in writing: 5 Deadlines That Show Up In Every Bestseller
Christopher FAST FORWARDS from one big moment to the next – usually chasing his kids. Follow this blog and sign up for his newsletter so that you never miss a beat!