I survived my visit to my high school alma mater last week. It was a bit of an out of body experience to set foot in the building after so many years. But it was a blast hanging out with the students. As I mentioned in my last post, I was asked to discuss the best ways to build tension when writing fiction. I gave a modified version of the balloon theory and then introduced the literary device of a time clock: a deadline, a ticking time bomb, a damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks are all literary time clocks that help keep a reader riveted. Fiction can be engaging if, for example, two characters may or may not eventually fall in love. But if one character is to be married within a matter of hours or shipped off to war at daybreak or turned into a werewolf at sunset, that love story is now bursting with intensity.
So, gave each class about 10 minutes to write a 3 sentence time clock: a mini scene with a built in sense of urgency. The students came up with their own brilliant time clocks: they wrote about an avalanche, a basketball game, a child locked in a hot car, and a race for the last brownie at a bake sale to name just a few.
Give it a try. Limit yourself the to 3 sentences and see just how much tension you can create. Then share it here please!!