Time is an important element of structure as it has a major impact on your story defining when you begin and end the chain of events. Writers use time to create a past, a present where the action* is taking place and to indicate a future. This textural depth creates belief that the world where your book is set existed before the pages were opened, and that it will continue after you put the book down.
There are two kinds of time in play in a novel. Habitual time is used to establish those habits and patterns which are part of characters’ lives. ‘He slammed the door shut as he left for work’ implies this is repeated on a regular basis (the leaving for work that is, although if you’ve an irate character, maybe he does slam the door every day). Telling is often used to establish habitual time as it allows daily, monthly and annual routines to be conveyed in a sentence or two.
The dramatic present is the second kind of time and is about setting up the where and when of a story. This is often accomplished through showing: ‘An hour later, rifles in hand, they pad up Second Avenue with Cherry sheltering behind Carlos’s broad back.’ Showing enables the reader to connect immediately with the protagonist and their situation.
You’ve probably spent some effort creating a backstory for your character, yet you choose at which point in their life your story starts. We use habitual time to give the reader insights into the world and life of your character up to the point the novel begins, and we use the dramatic present as a jumping off point for the action* which takes us towards future events.
* Action can be something as simple as choosing a new coffee house to visit; it doesn’t necessarily mean action hero violence (especially the unrelenting kind - though it doesn’t exclude it either).
I’ve finished editing Strand B! Yeah! Next step: put the chapters from the two strands in the correct alternating order for the second read through. It’s going to be interesting to see how this works as I’ve not read my novel through from beginning to end in the way it’s meant to be read.
If I sound like my brain is stuck in a time loop, well, today it is. I’m not a regular insomniac, just an occasional one, and last night was just such an occasion. The question is, what do you do when you can’t sleep? The answer’s simply enough - write! You’d be surprised at how eloquent a sleep deprived brain can be.
Dark and sea dampened
parapets, turrets, walls, moats -
sand castle world
If you enjoy reading haiku, my book Gold Dragon Haiku is now available as an ebook at the Amazon Kindle Store. I’ve been told it makes a lovely gift (especially along with the Kindle...).
Here’s the link:
Today’s link is to a post I enjoyed reading. I hope you will too.
And to all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those who write, good writing.
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