Writers can control time. Allow me an analogy if you will, think about spaghetti. Take some time to go eat spaghetti because it’s tasty …
Now that you’ve returned from your spaghetti gluttony-fest and probably ravaged a few small villages during the course of your meal let’s talk a little bit about time and its relationship with you the writer. Take a look an uncooked spaghetti noodle, it’s long thin and tasteless and a bitch and a half to chew. Yet, it’s the beginning of many creative and tasty pasta dishes.
Phil: God I love pasta. This reminds me of a time—
Not yet Phil you’re not supposed to come in until much later in the article.
Phil: I cant help it if pasta is delicious
Will you shut up
Norman: Hey! You cant Talk to him that way
Are you two going to write this article?
Phil: We’d do a better job of it than you, you hack.
Norman: Yeah! You’re lucky we’re just random names given to symbolic strawman charactertures created with the sole purpose of providing clarity and entertainment to your readers.
Phil: What’s that supposed to mean?
Norman: You aren’t real Phil.
Annnnyways, let’s go back to the important thing here: spaghetti uh I mean writing. So often writers fall into the trap of believing that their writing has to be linear in which events happen in a specific sequential order at a pre-determined rate. Basically, writers aren’t cooking their noodles when they could be cooking and playing with them too.
Go ahead right now cut your noodles up, twist them together, slurp them up quickly, neatly twirl them using a fork and two spoons, or heck even throw a plate of them at small children (don’t actually do that). Wasn’t that fun? Why aren’t you doing that with your story?
Norman: It makes a mess?
Phil: Just think of all the angry emails you’re going to get from people aggressively cleaning their kitchens right now.
Norman: Was he always this insensitive about kitchen cleanliness?
That’s it, I’m putting you both back in my brain!
Phil: ~cartoon swearing symbols~
Granted, screwing with time for the sake of your story can get a little messy but with a strong voice and an engaging plot to back it up, experimenting with how the events in your story are displayed can really add to the quality of a story in my humble opinion.
Without further ado, I present to you: 5 Ways a Writer Can Screw with Time in their Story
- Slow it Down (Or Twirling your Noodles on a Fork and Spoon)
Slowing down a scene to the point where time is at a crawl allows for more descriptive language that would otherwise be awkward at a normal tempo. Additionally giving a scene a slow motion effect can allow for deeper inner-reflection from characters without distracting from the action too much. Finally it can really emphasize a distorted perception especially with a first-person narrative.
- Fast-Forward (or Cutting your Noodles Up and eating them Aggressively)
Going through vast stretches of time can give the reader a quick but wide scope of a plethora of events without completely overwhelming them with useless data. Springing forward also raises questions of what happened “between the lines”. Writers can experiment with this directly or leave it up to the reader to draw their own conclusions. In other words not drawing direct tangents between events gives readers an empty space to work with; think of it as the literary equivalent of using white space to frame your story.
- Flashbacks (Or Fondly Remembering that Spaghetti You Just Had)
Flashbacks are a great way to weave past and present in your story. They can provide clarity and depth to a plot without writers having to go through lengthy expository marathons. From a character standpoint it can give them substance and a bit of depth since flashbacks are a great way to build a character from the ground up
- Shift Angles (Or Cutting your Noodles)
Shifting Perspectives between different points of view, time, or even just location is a great way to play around with the idea of distorted realities, perception biases and gives the writer a lot of room to experiment with. By providing multiple angles to essentially the same story it gives the writer a chance to work with a plot while giving the readers new viewpoints. It can also provide them with a sense that events are happening simultaneously
- Experiment (or Throwing Your Spaghetti at Small Children)
Get weird with time. Turn it inside out. Split it in half. Jump Rope with it. Use it to do surgery. Floss your teeth with it. Twirl it into a ball, cut that in half and tie the two ends together. You’re a writer after all, experiment.
I hope you enjoyed this installment of Write Talk even if it did get a little weird at times. Hope to see you next week! If you have an idea for a Write Talk topic or have a writing problem you want me to tackle make sure to let me know in the comment section.