Most of us do not live lives crowded with incident. The majority of our days are filled with the same events, most weeks pass by fairly innocuously. But mysteries are altogether another kettle of fish with a great deal occurring in usually a very short length of time. How do we handle this? Do we call attention to the ticking clock or do we let the passage of time slide quietly by?
Dan Brown (and many others) have enjoyed large successes employing the ticking clock technique. The result of which is these books having tremendous pace as the reader is being continously reminded at beginning of each chapter that time is running out. In my opinion this technique is really only effective when the plot unfolds and resolves with a very short period of time.
There are also the mysteries where time passes much less obtrusively. The plot takes place over several weeks or even months. Time isn't what is the focus of the plot, but rather the unraveling of the mystery. These mysteries need many plot lines and complex characters to keep the reader eagerly turning the page.
My current manuscript happens over 4 days but there isn't a ticking clock. I have found that a short time period helps to keep the plot organized in my own brain, but I don't think the reader will be aware of it. My focus is on the characters and the untwisting of all their motivations and secrets rather than the all-encompassing idea that time is running out.
What role does time play in your writing? Is it vital or do you pay it little attention?