06 Feb 2013 15 Comments
Good morning fishy friends! I’m actually going to blog about “writing” today on my group writers blog and not cute boys or cute boys or cute boys. And that is because it’s contest judging time for my local writing chapter’s annual unpublished writing contest, WRW’s Marlenes. This is my second year judging and the entries I received this year were very impressive. There wasn’t a single head hop which stood out to me because I can admit that was my biggest mistake when I first entered my own submission. More positives were that the characters were all well written and likeable. The premises were all genuinely unique and interesting. And there were some really good synopsis’ included at the end.
If the stories I read lacked anything, it was a clear understanding of the Ticking Clock. I pulled this definition from Mary Buckham and Dianna Love’s power plotting book, Break Into Fiction. The Ticking Clock is ”an internal or external element in the story that creates a limit to how much time the character has to complete his or her immediate external goal.”
Have you ever been reading a book or a contest entry and everything is going just fine. You’re enjoying the story well enough, but pretty soon, you start to wonder why is it so important that this is happening? The material is good, but it’s not exciting you to keep turning the pages. It could be because of that missing ticking clock. I’m going to go ahead and refer to this little guy as Tik Tok (Return to Oz).
What Tik Tok does for your story:
-Gives your story purpose, urgency & excitement
-Assures good pacing, making it a page turner
-It doesn’t have to be “in your reader’s face”
That last point is important because I got to thinking that for a contemporary genre writer, you may not have exploding bombs to diffuse or kidnapped victims to rescue before time runs out. Maybe your Tik Tok is a high school reunion the heroine has to be ready for or maybe your heroes are rockstars and you have a band about to go out on the road and tour. My current WIP’s Tik Tok is the pending birth of a baby–the hero and heroine want to be free of their demons before this new life enters the world in two weeks. See, completely normal life events but important enough to get one’s butt in gear!
Whatever the element creating that time limit for your story is, it MUST be essential to your character’s pending goal. It has to be detrimental enough to ignite them to do whatever they have to do to meet that end.
Often I think the author probably has this in their head but fails to weave it into their story early on. Most contest entry lenghts I read this past week took me to about the third or fourth chapter. As the reader, I should feel the pressure urging your characters on by that point. The earlier the better in fact.
To find your Ticking Clock, ask yourself why it’s so important for the characters to be accomplishing whatever it is they are doing in a timely manner. The Tik Tok is the motivator to this happening. They have a goal. It’s essential that they accomplish it. Now what candle are you going to light under their butt to move them to action?