Writer’s Craft Q + A

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Q: What is “up time” and “down time” in a story?

A: In any story that is driven or defined by plot, there is always “up time” (parts of the story that have a lot of action or activity) and “down time” (parts of the story that are more quiet or slow moving). For example, in a mystery novel the  “up time” might be the scene where the cops are chasing the suspect on foot through the back alleys of the city. The “down time” would be scene where the cop finally comes home after their long and stressful day, dropping their jacket on a chair, sitting down in the kitchen, taking a deep breath, telling their spouse about the day. But up time and down time are not just present in fiction. In narrative non-fiction stories, like memoir, there is also a balance between big, active dramatic action and quiet dramatic action. In “up time” your reader’s pulse speeds up, in “down time” your reader’s pulse slows down.  Which scenes in your story and plot are up time and which ones are down time? Which to you write most easily?