Friday, March 25, 2011

2 Kinds of Time - help from Becoming Your Own Critique Partner

There are two kinds of time the writer must deal with. One is chronological and the other is subjective.

Chronological time in a piece of fiction is the time span from the beginning of the story to the end. This is objective time. This can sometimes throw a writer off. I once wrote up a storm and had several impossible events happen at the same moment in different scenes. I've learned to make a sort of calendar when I'm revising to help me catch these moments. When dealing with chronological time the reader needs to know. Using things like the summer day, the month of may, 1997, morning, afternoon, and other descriptive words for time lets the reader know when the characters are. I've read books where each segment has a time line as the opening. Tuesday, July 20th 1997 9 AM. This gives the reader a specific time to hone in on and helps the author remain on track. Not letting the reader know the when can confuse them and make them scratch their heads trying to figure the when.

Now there's subjective time. This is a matter of pacing. When a character dreads a coming event, the time span seems endless. Using long sentences, introspection can help the reader find the same sense of dread. On the reverse when a character looks forward to an event the time can either drag or speed. The use of pacing by the author can bring the reader along. Chase scenes are ones where time tends to speed. This is true of all action scenes. I've made myself nearly breathless along with my characters while writing an action scene. To me this means I've accomplished what I wanted to do. Often these are the scenes that need little revision.

One thing about time is to remember how much time occurs between the events when moving to a new scene. I recently read a book where the heroine woke, heard noises and rushed downstairs fully dressed when there was no time for her to change our of her night clothes. Irritated me as a reader and perhsps irritated other readers. I hope not for the story was a good one. Using a little time, the writer could have had the events not be almost spontaneous but a lapse of a short time to allow the young lady to don those clothes she wasn't wearing at the top of the steps but at the bottom.

1 comment:

Liz said...

I for one would take the time to put on something before going to check something out. In fact get annoyed at movies when the girl walks around in only in a slip and barefeet - what if you have to run?