Suspense and Outcome: The Difference of a Minute

Suspense and Outcome: The Difference of a Minute discusses how the idea of one minute can add tension, and irony, to a scenario when you’re writing a story.

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.

Building Suspense

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?

Outcome

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!

Photo credit: house set via photopin (license)

7 Ways Writing a Bestseller Is Like Shoveling Your Driveway

7 Ways Writing a Bestseller Is Like Shoveling Your Driveway compares the common denominators between writing a bestseller book and shoveling a foot of snow off your driveway.

I just got in from shoveling almost a foot of snow off our driveway. It’s bright and sunny with bright blue skies which made the task more pleasant, but still, it was a lot of work and while I was pushing, scooping and heaving the snow to unbury our driveway, I got thinking how much writing a bestseller has in common with shoveling out your driveway after a snowstorm.

Yes, it’s a bit of a stretch perhaps, a bit like comparing apples and oranges, or maybe apples and elephants? But, bear with me because there are some common denominators, I promise!

To do both you need:

  1. A Plan

    The Driveway
    Ever watched a child try to help shovel out a driveway? Last winter, the little boy next door came over to “help” me shovel out our driveway after a major snowfall. He started pushing the snow from the edges of the driveway into the middle of it and roamed aimlessly with his shovel randomly piling snow here, there and everywhere. He had no plan.

    As anyone who has shoveled a driveway knows, you need to push the snow to the edges of the driveway. Pushing it into the middle doesn’t accomplish anything.

    The Bestseller
    Writing a bestseller requires several plans including:

    • An outline for your story – Without an outline you can find yourself roaming aimlessly creating disconnected characters and storylines.
    • A publishing plan – You need to decide if you’re going to try to get a traditional publishing contract or if you’re going to self-publish and then research all the steps involved in pursuing your plan.
    • A marketing plan – You need to decide which social media networks you want to use, when, why and how to use that network to best promote your book.
  2. Tools

    The Driveway
    It’s a bit difficult to shovel out a driveway without a shovel, of course, and you’ll probably need some boots, a good warm coat, a hat and some mittens or gloves.

    The Bestseller
    At a minimum, you need a device like a computer or a tablet, and word processing software, or at the very least a pen and a paper.

  3. Effort

    The Driveway
    It kind of goes without saying that shoveling a foot of snow off a driveway takes a fair bit of effort.

    The Bestseller
    No matter how easily words tumble from your fingertips, writing a book takes effort. It also takes effort to promote your book to increase sales.

  4. Exercise

    The Driveway
    If you exercise and keep somewhat fit, it’s a lot easier to undertake a physical task like shovelling a driveway.

    The Bestseller
    If you exercise your “writing muscles” and write a journal, regularly blog or write your book, it’s a lot easier to write. Words flow with less effort.

  5. Time

    The Driveway
    It took me an hour and a half this afternoon to shovel out our driveway, the sidewalk leading to the front door and the back patio so that the little dogs could venture beyond the area just around the back door. To give you an idea how big our driveway is, it holds almost six cars, so that’s a lot of snow!

    The Bestseller
    Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your bestseller won’t be written in one either. These things take time to do properly.

  6. Help

    The Driveway
    While I was eating my lunch just before shoveling the snow, a young boy came to the door to see if I’d like him to shovel the snow. I thanked him but said that no, I was planning to do it.

    If there’d been much more snow, the task would have been overwhelming and I might have considered his offer or waited until my husband got home from work to help with the task.

    The Bestseller
    To write, publish and market a bestseller is a big job! It can be overwhelming and it’s perfectly acceptable and necessary in many cases to get help from other people including:

    • Beta Readers – To read your book and give you feedback.
    • Editors and/or Proofreaders – To edit your book for proper storyline development (i.e. plot line holes), spelling, grammar and usage.
    • Virtual Assistants – To help you with marketing your book, maintaining your social media networks, seeking book reviews, etc.
    • Others – You may find it helpful to consult with a self-publishing expert or hire a book marketer for example.

And, last but not least:

  1. Pride

    The Driveway
    I’m pretty proud of the great job I did on the driveway! What do you think?

    The Bestseller
    Nothing beats that feeling of satisfaction you’ll get from realizing your dream of producing a bestseller!


Testimonials: An Ageless Marketing Strategy

Testimonials: An Ageless Marketing Strategy provides examples from 1869 to stress the importance of this book marketing tool.

During the course of my research into Victorian houses, I found another old book today on Archive.org.

Hints on Household Taste title page

The book itself, Hints on Household Taste by Charles Eastlake, looks like an interesting read and may be very helpful, but as I scrolled through the PDF file, what first caught my attention, were the “Opinions of the Press” listed before the Table of Contents.

Hints on Household Taste reviews1

Hints on Household Taste reviews2
In case you missed it in the first image, this book was published in 1869!

So, there you have it! Publishers have been using this tactic to sell books for a very long time which, to me at least, indicates that it must work?

What are your thoughts on the subject? Have you used testimonials and book reviews to market your books?

Photo credit: Pixabay

Victorian Architecture: Online Searches for Books and Images

Victorian Architecture: Online Searches for Books and Images suggests online sources of books and images on Victorian architecture and provides some examples.

I LOVE old Victorian houses and it’s always been a dream of mine to someday own one.

There’s just something about the quality, the uniqueness, all the wood trim, the winding staircases, the fireplaces, and dusty attics filled with treasures of generations passed, with maybe a secret passage or ghost thrown in for good measure. When I visit museums housed in old houses like this, I just wish the walls could talk and spill their secrets of the joys and sorrows, daily routines and scandals, of their former occupants.

Brantford has many amazing examples of Victorian architecture so, in theory, I wouldn’t have to move far to satisfy my dream, if only I could win a lottery, or finish my book and sell a few million copies?

Check out these houses:

If you’re interested in this sort of thing and/or researching details about old houses for a writing project, like I am, you can get some great information online from sites such as:

And, don’t forget about Google Books and Google News.

Do you have a favourite old house where you live? If so, tell me about it in the comments.

Photo credit: Montgomery County Planning Commission on Flickr

Do Writers Play an Imitation Game with the Truth?

Do writers sometimes embellish or omit facts to make true stories more interesting and if they do, is this acceptable?

Bletchley Park was among the many sights we visited when we lived in England. We spent the better part of a day there and I must confess, although I love history and did the Jack the Ripper walking tour in London twice, not being familiar with the story of Alan Turing and how he helped to decipher the messages sent by the Germans during WWII, I found the excursion rather boring.

We saw the Enigma machine which had been captured from the Germans in WWII and wandered in and out of a couple of the little huts that had been used during the war by people intercepting and attempting to decode the enemy’s messages. There were dozens of these huts as I recall and most of them were in very poor condition evidentially abandoned when the war ended. The edifice of the main building (see the post image) struck me as being a bit of an architectural curiosity and that is about all that stands out in my mind about that day. Well, that and the kids and I sitting in the car bored while my husband eagerly explored the grounds a bit further.

Since then I’ve learned more about the significance of this place and the people who worked there and do regret that I didn’t make more of an effort to savour the moment. But it really wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago when we went to the cinema to see The Imitation Game that I learned the whole story, or well, perhaps the whole story of Hollywood’s version.

In The Imitation Game, conflict was created between characters where, apparently, it didn’t actually exist. I won’t go into great detail and spoil things if you haven’t seen the movie and would like to but basically, according to the articles that I will link to at the bottom of this post, the screenplay embellished some facts and left out some others presumably for the sake of entertainment.

This raises many questions in my mind:

  • Do writers have a responsibility to accurately depict historical events?
  • Is it acceptable to embellish and omit when it makes a true story more entertaining?
  • Is it more important to maintain the interest of an audience than to accurately portray every last details in a story?
  • Is it acceptable to embellish and omit minor points in a true story if that helps to keep your audience interested so that they can appreciate the main story, or in this case, the history lesson?

Much like the movie Titanic we know how it ends more or less, but the movie is very well done and I would encourage you to see it if you get the chance.

For More Information

How Accurate Is The Imitation Game?
An Alan Turing expert watches the “The Imitation Game” trailer
The Imitation Game: inventing a new slander to insult Alan Turing
COMPUTING MACHINERY AND INTELLIGENCE By A. M. Turing
Images of Bletchley Park, Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons