Saturday, December 5, 2009

Less Than A Minute


Have you ever thought about what you can and can't do in a minute or less?

Strange question, I know. Let me tell you a brief story while this comes to mind. Just about every night I have a routine I go through (except in the summertime). I fix a cup of Cappuccino from a mix that I found that is really good. Here's my process:

I have a mug (actually I think it's a soup mug) but anyway, I use milk instead of water with my mix. So I pour my milk in the cup, place the cup in the microwave for 55 seconds. When the bell dings, I take it out, add the Cappuccino mix, whip it up with my handy little battery-operated wand, and place it back in the microwave for another 55 seconds. At the second ding, I take it out, pour a little Kahlua in, mix it up with the wand and top it off with whipped cream. (Now I'm thirsty.)

I explained the whole process for this reason - during those two 55-second periods of time I am amazed at what I can and can't do sometimes.

The first 55 seconds is always spend fixing a napkin with a little whipped cream on it for my cat, Little One (shown my photo). She loves it. My other cat, Gum Drop, doesn't. The nights I don't fix Cappuccino, I still have to give Little One her whipped cream. She goes to the frig and sits in front of it until I fix it.

During the second 55-seconds I do various other things. Some nights I seem to get several things done before the ding, other nights nothing.

Less than a minute is not long, yet it can be an eternity depending on the situation. In a murder mystery, as in real life, it takes less than a minute for a person to become a killer and one or more people the victim(s). Do you enjoy reading where they action of the killer is quick and over in less than a minute? Or do you prefer to have the action drawn out? As a writer, is it harder to extend the moments of the killer's actions or make them quick and to the point?

We can read, "John was shot and killed" or "John felt a burning sensation as the bullet tore through his flesh seconds before he took his last breath."

Have you thought about what can be done in less than a minute?


  1. Mason - That's a really good (and important!) question: what can you (or a character) do in a minute? I would say that I don't write a lot of drawn-out action (as in your second sentence). In real life, it takes just a few seconds to pull out a gun, aim it and use it that it's not realistic to draw it out for too long. On the other hand, I do write more than just, "John was shot and killed." I don't think that kind of really brief description draws the reader in enough. I, myself, prefer to read a bit more description than that, too. Good things to think about - thanks : )

  2. Interesting post! It's amazing what we can do in a minute. I usually can unload half the dishwasher in a minute while waiting for the microwave buzzer.

    My murders happen off-stage, since I write cozies. But I do always have one "showdown" episode between my sleuth and the killer. I like choppy sentences during action scenes and more verbs than adjectives during that time.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  3. Margot, I agree really brief descriptions don't draw the reader in. At the same time, if the author goes on and on, that turns a reader off. Authors have a difficult time giving readers that balance.

    Elizabeth, until we're timed by that microwave buzzer I don't think we realize what all we can do in a minute. In reading the choppy style sentences, I'd say it gives punch to what's happening in the story.

  4. You have hit the nail on the head. There are so many things we can do while we are waiting. Household chores of course are one, but typing several words while waiting is also productive. I type them or I even hand write out outlines in just a minute or two.

    I am a multi-tasker for sure. I think I learned that being a mom.

  5. Women are definitely multi-taskers, JW. I can't seem to just sit and do nothing. I have to be busy reading, writing, knitting, crocheting, etc. - just something.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.