Managing Time

One of the most pressing issues of any novel is how the writer manages time. Some call this pacing, but whatever the label, the reader needs to feel as if the story unfolds in a natural logical way, not too fast or too slowly. What are some ways to improve pacing or time management?
Writing Tip for Today: Although time marches on at the same rate, a story often demands that readers perceive it fast or slow. Contraction and Expansion are two ways you can give the reader the illusion of time either speeding up or slowing down.
In Contraction, you want the reader to think of the time as passing rapidly, with urgency or with great import. Think of a car chase or other action sequence. By representing the scene as happening at a fever pitch, you give the reader the illusion that time is moving faster.

  • Use short, clipped sentences, or even a fragment now and then.
  • Avoid passive language construction.
  • Use short hard-consonant words with Teutonic origins, such as “kick.”

When you wish to slow down the perception of time, Expansion may be appropriate.

  • Use more complex sentences with multiple clauses.
  • Allow the POV character more emotional processing or interior thinking.
  • Use more words with romance language origins or words with softer consonants, such as love, feel, flow.

Try This!
Write a short scene using the Contraction technique, followed by another brief scene with Expansion technique. Note the difference in time perception in each of these scenes.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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