Friday, December 10, 2010

Use Time to Add to Tension

The passing of time can add depth and tension to short stories or novels. Writer Susan Breen, sites Raymond Carver's short story, "Cathedral" as an example. The reader knows as the afternoon turns to evening, the characters' interactions will lead to greater conflict.

Foreshadowing a future event with symbols adds another dimension. In my short story, "Leaving Jersey", Hada's afternoon shopping begins with light snowfall. We feel her cold fingers unlocking the car door to leave packages before continuing to the next store. When she runs into her friend and they hug, the snow from Geborah's coat collar melts on Hada's face. Her internal conflict is resisting a long visit to California. She doesn't want to leave New Jersey where she's lived all of her sixty-nine years. At the end of the chapter, she drives toward home in what is now a snow storm that covers her tracks as if they were never there. The implication is that she won't return from California and as time passes, her life in Jersey will no longer leave an imprint. "Leaving Jersey" is Chapter 12 in the novel. It's a foreshadowing scene but since it is symbolic, it doesn't reveal the end.

I didn't realize the significance of that chapter until I was in the third draft. I'm grateful to Susan Breen's comparison of short stories and novels, particularly how effective time can be used in each, for a deepening awareness to use in my writing.

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