I bought a grandfather clock last week, the fulfillment of a long-term dream. I’ve always admired them, mind you I did picture it in the foyer of my Victorian mansion, but the clock in my more modern house was the compromise and something that was realistic for my bank account! The clock was custom-made and stained to match other furniture in the room and it’s lovely.
We noticed, however, that it was consistently running one minute behind the time set on our computers and cell phones and last night, I decided to move it ahead by one minute. We’d been warned only to move it ahead within the quarter hour after and before the chimes would go off and so that’s exactly what I did, very gently and slowly moving the minute hand a mere minute ahead.
Now my clock isn’t chiming. I’m certain that it continued to chime last night after I nudged the minute hand ever so slightly ahead, but this morning the pendulum is still swaying back and forth and there’s still that click right before the chimes should engage, but the clock has been silent. I’ve reread the instruction book and tried a few things, but so far no joy. If you’ve ever owned one of these, as I’m now learning, there are many rules about when and how to adjust them and I’m starting to think that I may have damaged something—all for the sake of one minute!
But that got me thinking (always a scary thing my husband says!) about the impact just one minute of time can have in all difference aspects of our lives, and how understanding that can help us build suspense and justify the outcome when we’re writing.
Consider these examples when trying to build suspense in your story. You have one minute to:
- get to the departure gate for a flight
- buy a lottery ticket before the draw takes place (and a fortune teller told you you’d win it – IF you had a ticket!)
- place a 911 call before the battery on your cell phone dies
- stop the timer on a bomb
- get a newborn baby, or a choking or drowning victim, to start breathing
- convince someone not to throw themselves in front of a train
Doesn’t it just feel more suspenseful because of the “one minute” factor?
With the scenarios above in mind, imagine:
- missing the flight and:
- losing out on an amazing opportunity
- it crashes
- catching the flight and:
- changing your life
- it crashes
- buying that lottery ticket and winning, or finding out that the fortune teller ripped you off and you didn’t win
- waiting for emergency services to come to your rescue, or trying to get out of a burning house, or away from an axe murderer, on your own because your battery died before you could get help
- the adrenaline rush when you stop the timer on a bomb, or having to race out of a building because you can’t stop the timer, or maybe the possibility that you can’t stop the timer but the bomb doesn’t go off
- the joy of watching that person breathe, or the devastation of failing to revive them
- the satisfaction of convincing that person to live another day, or the guilt and the nightmares from failing and watching them fall to their death onto the tracks
The idea of one minute can add tension, and irony, to a scenario.
When I think of all the ways a mere minute can impact our lives, and our writing, it does put things in perspective where my grandfather clock is concerned, don’t you think?
I will call the clock people tomorrow, and, fingers crossed, my clock will soon be chiming again!