Image copied from Learn About Parkour: http://robertjrgraham.com/learn-about-parkour/
You may be familiar with “ticking clocks” from the thriller genre, but they also occur in other genre. A few things to remember with Ticking Clocks:
1. Be precise about the passage of time.
NOT GOOD: “When we talked earlier today” ; “The other day”
GOOD: “When we talked before lunch in second period” ; “The day before yesterday”
The passage of time needs to feel important to everyone. If the clock is ticking off hours, be precise about the hours – if ticking off days, be precise at the day level.
2. Don’t slow down. As the deadline approaches increase the challenges. Torture your characters.
3. Remind your readers of the Ticking Clock through the urgency the main character feels, not reminding the reader by relaying the countdown through the prose.
NOT GOOD: Charlie tore down the sidewalks because he only had moments to meet his true love, according to the street soothsayer.
GOOD: The soothsayer told him he needed to be at the corner of Second and Main at 5:08 sharp. Charlie’s breath burned in his lungs as he ran. He never was good at running, but to meet true love he would arrive gasping.
WRITING EXERCISE: Write a Ticking Clock – At least three sentences and share below. Make us feel the urgency.
Make us feel like we are back in school taking a final of 150 multiple choices in one hour … urgent … and realize the last question is an essay and we have 10 minutes left …. building, racing toward the end, getting more difficult …Then realize that the essay is 25% of the grade. I did mention torturing the characters, right?
Charlie rounded the corner to Main, plowing through the professionals pouring out of the Maddox building. He was going to make it; only one city block left and it was a short side.
The bright orange cones would not have stopped him, but the caution tape was at ankle, waist, and eye level. They were repairing the sidewalk and directing foot traffic across the street. He didn’t have time.
His eyes darted for a way as his feet continued to move.
Subway, had two exits, one on Third and the other on Second.
He half-jumped the steps and half-slid the rails down; more a control fall than anything else. God, who would have thought he would be doing parkour? He forgot to breathe during the distance across tiles between the staircases. He gasp a new breath as he faced the second set of stairs, trying to ignore the digital clock above letting the commuters know it was 5:07. He had failed at everything he had ever tried unless it was a total deadend, like his job at the coffee shop.
True love was seconds away, if he made it up the three flights of stairs.
(words 42 +195 = 237 – first published 7/11/2015; republished in new blog format 11/29/2017)