Day #11 – The Ticking Clock and Gladiators

By Jennie Goloboy

Here are a two queries that I suspect show the influence of video games.

1. Your character has to find something, or solve a mystery, but there is no ticking clock.

What’s a “ticking clock?” A time limit by which the search must be completed, or the conflict resolved, or something terrible will happen. In a novel, no matter how exciting the puzzle  constructed, if there’s no time limit, your reader will not care.  There can be a video game in which the player has to solve the puzzle before proceeding with no time limit (or penalty) for taking a long time to move to the next level; for the simple reason that the video game is interactive. This approach doesn’t necessarily work in fiction.

2. Your character is a gladiator, and must defeat a series of enemies to win the prize

There are two problems here– the first being that a book is not a visual medium, and no matter how exciting the fight scenes, there are sometimes better suited for a movie. The bigger problem is that I already know your gladiator isn’t going to die, at least not until the final climactic battle, which takes a lot of tension out of the book.

I can think of two novels in which the protagonist dies partway through the novel: one is realistic fiction set in rural Minnesota, and one is a horror novel first published on the internet. (There: no spoilers!) It’s rare enough that I’d personally be shocked if it happened to your book’s hero. And if a reader already knows that your hero will survive to meet the final battle, what’s the point in reading the book?