by Stephanie Morrill
But the ticking clock, I've come to realize, can be used in all genres. Like in really well done regency romances:
In Julie Klassen's latest, Margaret is a young society lady in London, but unlike her peers has had no real interest in marrying - unless for love - because on her 21st birthday she will inherit a tremendous sum of money from her great aunt.
But while she's 20, her mother remarries. Her stepfather has somehow learned about her inheritance, and is forcing his charming but slimy nephew to court her. Margaret overhears a conversation between the two men, in which it's made clear that they intend to persuade her to marry the nephew by ... ahem ... ruining her reputation as a virtuous woman.
With 3 months until her birthday, Margaret flees from the dangerous situation with what teeny amount of pocket money she has and goes undercover as a maid. Only she gets hired by two former suitors of hers, who might see through her disguise if they look closely.
Did you catch the ticking clock element? Margaret has three months until she inherits the money - can she stay hidden and safe until then?
Even if you're not writing something in the suspense vein, a "ticking clock" element can really tighten up your plot.
The one I described above is a big ticking clock, something tied to the main character's big goal (avoiding marriage to anyone who wants her just for her fortune) but also, look for ways to add smaller ticking clocks.
The show 24 was excellent at this. Not only did you have the big plot underfoot (terrorists who were trying to blow up Los Angeles) but there were also little ticking clocks along the way. The team is en route and we need that code broken now.
Are there ticking clocks in your manuscript? Or can your character take the scenic way to achieving their goals?