Worksheet # 9 – WHEN
There are two types of time an author should consider when crafting a story: book time and structure time.
In the story, an event happens on Wednesday afternoon, but its placement in the story will be in Act 1, 2, or 3. Why is placement important? First, events in a story should appear in some logical order. Second, if an author fills the opening with dramatic events but lets the tension ease in the middle, that author may be front-loading Act 1 with action and setting up Act 2 to be a drag. Think about the “when” for important story events as part of the story’s chronology AND as part of the story’s arc to spread out action more evenly.
This worksheet addresses the placement of significant events in the story. You can answer two ways:
Q: When is a second crime discovered?
A: These two responses address the same event:
- The second body is discovered on Wednesday, four days after the first body is found.
- The second crime occurs early in Act 2, to reinforce the sleuth’s suspicion that the first young man’s death was not a freak accident.
Answering in this double-duty way might be time consuming, but you will know your plot and structure well if you think about “when” as placement as well as time. (Note: This worksheet was developed for a course aimed at crime writers, so the questions will skew in that direction.)
- When does this story really begin?
- is the Story Question introduced?
- When does the protagonist get involved?
- When did the antagonist decide to commit the crime?
- When do subsequent crimes occur?
- When do police get involved?
- When does tension mount?
- When does it spike?
- When is the protagonist or police wrong?
- When does the evidence help or hurt the case?
- When does the antagonist outsmart the police?
- When does the antagonist strike a second time?
- When does the status quo change?
- When is there danger?
- When do stakes appear?
- When does the protagonist make difficult choices?
- When does the climax begin to take shape?
- When does each suspect get cleared?
- When does investigating start to impact the sleuth’s private life?
- When do allies appear?
- When do foes put pressure on the sleuth?
- When does backstory appear?
- When is the reason for the crime revealed?
- When does the sleuth figure out the puzzle?
- When do you surprise the reader?
- When does an unreliable narrator reveal herself/himself?
- When are secondary storylines introduced?
- When are secondary storylines concluded?
- When do dual or multiple narrators switch off?
- When, for a series, do you employ holdovers?
- When are the protagonist or sleuth’s skills presented?
- When are special skills used?
- When does a romance begin/end/resume?
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