- Real Time is the actual period of time encompassed by the story and the chronological sequence of events during that defined time.
- Plot Time compresses, expands, and rearranges Real Time to allow better dramatization.
- Reader Time manipulates Plot Time to accelerate or decelerate the velocity of reading. Velocity of reading includes the actual speed at which the reader moves down the page, as well as the reader’s subjective feeling of momentum.
- Scenes accelerate reading velocity while narrative summary slows it, therefore narrative summary must be kept to a minimum. Scenes show events through action and dialogue. Narrative summary tells necessary information that cannot be optimally conveyed through dialogue and action, i.e. not events, or events that would be monotonous in their telling. Setting descriptions and internal musings of characters are usually best related through narrative summary.
- White Space = Faster Pace
- Anything that increases white space on the page speeds the reading velocity. Blocks of narrative summary slow forward momentum while dialogue speeds it up. Similarly, short sentences and short paragraphs accelerate the pace.
- Action accelerates.
“Babette climbs hand over hand across the jungle gym,” gives the reader a feel
of momentum, as opposed to “Babette is a pretty girl with thick, curly hair.”
- Active verbs accelerate. “Babette climbs hand over hand across the jungle gym,” feels faster than “Babette is climbing hand over hand across the jungle gym.”
- Filter words bog down the pace. “Jules grabbed Babette’s ankle and pulled her off the jungle gym,” moves faster than “Babette felt Jules grab her ankle and watched him pull her off the jungle gym.”
- Adverbs slow the pace. “Jules quickly grabbed Babette’s ankle and mightily pulled her off the jungle gym.”
- Qualifying words slow the pace. “Jules actually grabbed Babette’s ankle and then pulled her off the jungle gym just like that.”
- Flashbacks stop forward momentum.
- Lastly, writers can use word choice to manipulate reading velocity. Short, staccato words (containing short vowels and consonants b, d, k, p. q, t, hard c, and hard g) beg to be read quickly. Long, soft words (containing long vowels and consonants f, h, j, l, m, n, r, s, w, v, x, y, z) slow the reader down.
However, only four pages of the book are devoted to Max’s elaborate mischief-making, while twenty-eight pages are devoted to his time with the Wild Things. But Max’s perception of the time spent in his room, and the part of the book that most interests the child reader requires Sendak to stretch time. Sendak does this first by increasing the space devoted to the Wild Things event. But he also lengthens time with phrases like “a forest grew and grew—and grew,” and “he sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year.”
Plot Time looks different than Real Time:
Shelley Jones is a January, 2014 graduate of the Hamline MFAC program. She lives and writes in Johnston, Iowa.