Write Time in scenes by Janice Seagraves


Writing Time In Scenes

by Janice Seagraves


Hi, my name is Janice Seagraves.

Today, I thought I’d talk about time in writing. I don’t mean the day or week or month, but the speed in which things happen. Have you ever had someone tell you that your scene went too fast or maybe the opposite, your scene was very slow? And not in a good way.

Here’s some tips on how to fix that.

First, if your scene is going fast, you can odd more detail to slow it down. Believe me this trick works. Don’t know what to add in? Then I suggest describing what is happening in minute detail. Add in colors, textures, how things smell. Was the scent in the area nice, sour, or did it smell like something died? Maybe there is a background buzz that is irritating or soothing one of your characters? Add in details in all its glory: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Go deeper into your characters’ feelings. Add a pause as something else happens.

I had a scene that my critique partners said went too fast, so I added in more detail, more feelings, and more internal dialogue of one of the main characters. Then as they headed out, I wrote a pause. The heroine speaks to someone, while the hero is chumping at the bit to get her walking again then takes her arms and drags her down the road. And having one character wanting to leave the area, while the other is speaking to a secondary character can make the scene tense.

If you need to speed up a scene, then you’ll need to lose some of the detail. One time I added what in the business is called a ticking clock to speed things up. One of the characters is urging the others to hurry. His frustration shows whenever anything slows down. Have the characters speak in quick, short bursts.  One liners. No long dialogues. And if there is only two characters, you can leave off some of the dialogue tags. No one ambles anywhere in this scene. It’s all dashing, sprinting, and doing things fast.

Watch Those Tenses

Watch Those Tenses
By Janice Seagraves
What are tenses exactly?
There’s the past tense, the present tense and the future tense. There are more of course, but for this lesson I’m keeping it simple.
Have I lost you?
To put it simply: Past tense is things that have already happened. Present Tense is things happening right now. Future tense is things that haven’t happened yet.
Example Past Tense: Sally went to the store to get some milk.
Here I used the past tense: went
Example Present Tense: Sally is going to the store to get some milk.
Here I used the present tense: going
Example Future Tense: Sally will go the store to get some milk.
Here I used the future tense: will go.
What tense should you use for writing?
In most fictions such as romance, suspense, paranormal, fantasy etc., I suggest you use past tense as most editors (not all) will prefer it. It was explained to me this way:
“When you tell a story, you tell it like it has already happened.”
But there will be times when you’ll need to use another tense: when something hasn’t happened yet or when someone is doing something right this moment in your story.
Here’s an example from Lord of the Ring:
[Galadriel descends to a glade and fills a silver pitcher with water from a stream. She stands before an ornate stand with a shallow silver basin upon it. The Lady turns towards Frodo.]
Galadriel: “Will you look into the mirror?”
Frodo: “What will I see?”
Galadriel: [stepping up to the basin] “Even the wisest cannot tell. For the mirror… shows many things…”
[She begins to pour the water into the silver mirror.]
Galadriel: “…things that were… things that are… and some things…” [She empties the ewer and steps back] “that have not yet come to pass.”
Past tense: –ed words, had, was/were, gone, done, finished, verb forms ending in -ing.
Example: I had already studied tenses for writing.
Present tense: am/is/are, going, doing, verb forms ending in –ing.
Example: I am studying tenses for writing.
Future tense: will be/shall be/will have, verb forms ending in –ing.
Example: I will be studying tenses for writing.
As you can see –ing words work for all tenses, but –ing can weaken your prose, so don’t use them too often.