NaNoWriMo Tips: The Ticking Clock

The Ticking Clock is a writer’s device to add tension to a scene or the plot. The clock is ticking, time is running out, the character(s) are up against a deadline and there is no escaping the ticking of the clock.

If you are having trouble writing ticking clock scenes in your plot, here are some questions to consider.

  • How long do the characters have? How much time are you going to give them to succeed before the clock runs out?
  • Could you shorten the time period? To what?
  • What does the character need to accomplish within that time frame?
  • What amount of time would it normally take to accomplish the task?
  • Why is the time period so short?
  • What does the character(s) need to do to “stop the clock?”
  • What will prove that the task is complete and the clock will stop?
  • What are the consequences of failure?
  • What will the character(s) lose?
  • What can go wrong?
  • Will one or more people die?
  • What are the physical obstacles in the way of stopping the clock?
  • What are the psychological obstacles (fears, dreams, risks) to stopping the clock?
  • How does the character(s) handle obstacles (physical and psychological)?
  • How does the race to beat the clock show the character(s) strengths and weaknesses?
  • How long does it take to overcome each obstacle?
  • How does the tension (suspense) grow as the deadline approaches?
  • What are the “cliffhangers” as the character(s) overcome each obstacle?
  • Does stopping the clock start another ticking clock? Is there another task the character(s) must tackle?
  • When all clocks have stopped ticking, then what? How has the character(s) changed? What is next?

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

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