In this final post in our Time series, we are deconstructing how bestselling authors use the last of five special techniques to massively leverage story time.
Here they are again, as a reminder:
- Time Warp
- Time Stop
- Time Wrap
- Time Jump
- Time Check
If you missed the previous posts, read them here:
Today, let’s look at the fifth and final time tactic, Time Check.
Time Check is reminding the readers of how much time is left before something terrible happens. This builds tension, keeping readers squarely on the edge of their seats.
4 Ways To Use Time Check
- A global, story-wide time check like the 24 TV Series which keeps minute by minute track of the time lapsed.
- A section time check where some portion of the story (usually over several chapters) requires a deadline to up the ante of suspense.
- A chapter Time Check.
- A scene Time Check.
So, how do you apply this time tactic to your story?
Consider these ideas…
- Define a Deadline: A Time Check only works within the existence of a scene, chapter, section or story deadline (also known as Time Clocks).
- Pose a Threat: Deadlines boost suspense because of the threat to characters or character goal if the deadline is missed.
- Choose A SBM: SBM stands for Snooze Button Method. A snooze button jars you back into focus, thererfore a SBM exists to “jar” or remind the reader of the deadline and threat.
Let’s put this 3-step Time Check Model into practice in an actual story.
Secrets to Time Check: The Insider Examples of Bestseller Writing
The classic example is the bomb countdown. As the protagonist races to diffuse the bomb before it goes off, he or she periodically checks their watch. Ten minutes. 5 minutes. Next, their IT expert/computer hacker buddy (every action hero has one, right?) speaks through the ear piece, “60 seconds.”
Get it? You find a way to remind readers that time is running out. Bonus points for creativity.
Here’s another example: A killer threatens to murder 10 people, saving the detective’s child for last. Each murder serves as a countdown as the killer gets closer to the detective’s kid. Maybe the police have a daily powwow with photos of the victims tacked on a board or wall – first 1, then 2, then 3 and etc.
As you might imagine, there are almost an infinite ways to apply Time Checks to your story for enhanced suspense and reader engagement.
Use this time tactic in your stories. I think you’ll be delighted with the results.