Another week’s worth of writing prompts gone and another weekend ahead.
The shortened month has seemed to go really fast at times and slow to a crawl at others. Which brings me to today’s lesson/prompt.
Time is a relative thing when reading. You can read 100 pages in 2 or 3 days, or fly through a 400-page tome in a single night.
However, there is another thing that also makes this happen, and that is story pacing.
If you want to know about story pacing, read a few of Dean Koontz’s books. His Moonlight Bay stories (Fear Nothing and Seize the Night) take place in a couple of hours over a night or over a couple of days.
On the other hand, Odd Thomas novels take place over several days and even a few weeks.
But when you read both sets of novels, they seem to fly by. How can this be? The actual pace of the story.
In Moonlight Bay, we are almost always experiencing night. Mainly because Christopher Snow has XP and can’t be exposed to UV light. But this also sets up the pace of the story, doesn’t it?
If your character can’t be in the sunlight, then they better do everything they need to do and get back home before sunrise.
So let’s take a look at the writing prompt, and then learn a bit more about story pacing.
Write two scenes that take place over the course of only 5 minutes.
The clock strikes for the twelfth time indicating it is noon and a few seconds. Only 4 minutes and 48 seconds remain. Sydney is going to die.
Her only chance is to get across town to Johann who is holding the antidote to the poison in her veins. Sydney coughs and blood spittle covers the windshield. 4 minutes and 28 seconds.
Johann sits in his large, leather chair, legs crossed and twirling a syringe in his fingers like a mini baton. His eyes are fixed on the black and white CCTV monitors tracking Sydney’s every move. Johann checks his watch. 4 minutes 9 seconds remain and Sydney is wasting time wiping off her windshield with her sleeve.
Pacing is Relative
If you notice, I am using the timer trope. You, as the reader may take longer than 5 minutes to get through these scenes. So, in my version, I’ve set up the two scenes, one from Sydney’s POV and one from Johann’s. I’ve included a timer that counts down the 5-minutes, running simultaneously through both scenes.
If I were to keep going, I would continue to alternate back and forth between the two scenes and the only constant would be the timer.
For illustrative purposes, I’ve done this. As the reader, you may be beside yourself. In a little bit of a panic. DAMMIT! SYDNEY! Move your ass girl! Screw the windshield!
Your internal timer starts going off. She’s already wasted a full minute and hasn’t even started the car yet. She will never make it!
So, not only have I added suspense, an inciting incident and given the reader a reason to care about one of the characters (plus have strong feelings about the other), I’ve also engaged the reader.
Now the reader has questions. Why was she poisoned? Will she make it? Is Johann evil? Will he actually give her the antidote? Why do Rice Crispy treats taste so damn good?
And when you add all of that together with a time limit, the pace of the story automatically goes into hyper-drive.
Now, at this point, it doesn’t matter if I take 120 pages to finish these two scenes, or wrap it up in the next paragraph.
The reader is hooked, their heart is racing, they are looking for answers to their questions and they have reason to care.
And I did all of that in just three paragraphs.
What can you do with 2 full scenes? Write it out then post in the comments so we can all see!