More Time Management for Novels

We discussed the three types of novel time from the story, the reader and the writer’s perspectives. But what about that sensation of time passing for the characters?
Writing Tip for Today: Your POV character also has to worry about time. Here are some management tips:

  • You are the Director. As writer, you are your reader’s manager. This means that by your use of words and punctuation, you direct the reader to Pay attention to this! Ignore that! and Skip over this or Linger on that. Any time you mention something more than once in close proximity (say in the same scene or chapter) you are in essence telling the reader, “This is important. Remember this.” Sometimes repetition can be used for effect: She wanted her coffee first thing. First. Thing. But if you carelessly repeat words or phrases, readers may try to see connections or importance that aren’t there. EX: “He opened the door. The handle of the door squeaked and the door was warped on one side. The door scraped the floor as it creaked open.” Multiple uses of door and in general over-describing should be used to call attention to important details. If the guy opens the door only as a means of getting inside, all these references become silly and melodramatic.
  • Contract Time for Speed. If you are nearing your story’s climax, you can manage readers by adjusting your prose to short sentences (even a few fragments!), less back story, less narrative and less description. Also, short active and very specific verbs give readers the fastest and most accurate picture that the action is speeding up. You can also try using words of Teutonic or German ancestry–they often sound harsh and/or guttural.
  • Expand Time to Slow Down. As you enter the Big Moment of your story, it’s important not to rush through it. Readers have spent 3/4 of the story to get here, and so you want it to maintain full impact. Think of how our whole lives pass before us as we plunge off a cliff, or lovers running toward each other in slo-mo. We often note odd details in high stress situations. Inner thought and emotions are usually the key ingredients to climax scenes. You can also expand time with longer sentences, more description and narrative and softer sounding words.

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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