Strategies for Creating Effective Ticking Clock Element in your Screenplay
January 5th, 2024
by Ben (SU Staff)
When you're writing an action/thriller or suspense drama of some kind you have to be able to create tension, and well, suspense. The movie SPEED always comes to mind when you think about a really effective ticking clock story element. The ticking clock plot device is a powerful tool that adds urgency and tension to the narrative. It usually involves setting a specific deadline or time constraint for the characters to achieve their goals. Here are some strategies to create an effective ticking clock element in your screenplay:
Establish Dramatic Stakes:
- Clearly define the consequences of not meeting the deadline. What is at stake for the characters if they fail to accomplish their objectives within the given time frame? Make these stakes significant and personal to the characters.
Introduce the Deadline Early:
- Introduce the ticking clock element early in the story to set the tone and establish the urgency. This allows the tension to build gradually and gives the audience a clear understanding of the time constraints.
Make the Deadline Personal:
- Connect the ticking clock to the personal motivations and goals of the characters. If the deadline is emotionally significant to the protagonist, the audience is more likely to feel invested in the outcome.
Escalate the Pressure:
- As the story progresses, increase the pressure on the characters by making the deadline more challenging or introducing additional obstacles. This escalation keeps the tension building throughout the narrative.
Use Visual and Auditory Cues:
- Incorporate visual and auditory cues to remind the audience of the ticking clock. This could include on-screen countdowns, ticking sounds, or other indicators that time is running out. These cues enhance the sense of urgency.
- Introduce parallel storylines with their own ticking clocks. This adds complexity to the narrative and increases the overall tension as multiple characters or groups are racing against time.
Reveal Surprises and Twists:
- Use the ticking clock to set up surprises and twists. Just when characters seem close to meeting their deadline, introduce unexpected obstacles or complications that raise the stakes and keep the audience on edge.
- Place constraints on the resources available to the characters. This could include a shortage of time, manpower, or essential tools. Limited resources add an additional layer of difficulty and tension.
Create Emotional Beats:
- Use the ticking clock to create emotional beats in the story. As the deadline approaches, show the characters grappling with increasing stress, fear, and desperation. This emotional journey resonates with the audience.
Resolve the Ticking Clock Dramatically:
- Pay off the tension by resolving the ticking clock element in a dramatic and satisfying way. Whether the characters succeed or fail, the resolution should have a significant impact on the overall story.
By skillfully integrating the ticking clock element into your screenplay and manipulating the associated factors, you can enhance the suspense and keep the audience engaged from start to finish. Good luck writer!