Ticking Clock

I was complimented recently on my suspense pacing. Which was a great compliment, but one that has had me floundering for a while. You see, I have no idea how I did it.

In my recent writing, I've been grasping at every single thing. How did I do it? How can I repeat it? Was it my aversion to dialogue tags? Was it the first-person point-of-view? The present tense? My affinity for making sentences out of predicates?

I still don't know the answer, but I did think of one key that I've grabbed and am running with. You see, the first scene of Those Who Trespass is nothing more than a phone conversation. {The conversation originally took place face-to-face, but we had to change it for plausibility's sake.} I remember wondering how I was supposed to add tension to a phone call.

I mean, Jenn may be on the run, but she's alone when she makes the call. There's no imminent danger. She's relatively safe. Her archenemy is the guy on the other end of the line, and he's safe in an office somewhere. So how do I get the adrenaline pumping when nothing is happening?

Two words: Ticking. Clock.

It's a phone call, but cell phones can be triangulated. Jenn, ever-paranoid, knows this. And for her--and thus, for the reader--the phone call is an attack waiting to happen. She knows she only has a few minutes, and she has to hurry up and get an answer before hanging up...otherwise, she's dead.

This works with anything. Need to add tension? Give it a time limit. The bomb goes off in ten seconds. Parents will be home in fifteen minutes. The plane lands in two hours. The dragon egg will hatch in three days. Moving day is in three weeks--so much for that summer romance.

Just add a ticking clock. Watch the tension rise.

1 comment:

Traci Kenworth said...

This is a great way to build tension!!