Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Time Factor

Paula looks at time periods in stories

What period of time do your stories cover? A few weeks, a few months, a few years?

Most of mine take place over a few months (excluding any backstory between the characters). None of them have covered more than twelve months.

Is this realistic? Maybe in ‘reunion’ stories where the characters have fallen in love in the past and then meet again, it’s reasonable to suggest the spark is rekindled, and the couple sort out their problems/conflicts etc. within a fairly short time.

But what about stories where a couple meet for the first time? Yes, there can be instant attraction or even instant dislike, but how much time should elapse before they reach their ‘happy ending’?

‘Timing’ is something that usually (often?) causes me problems. While I am writing a story, I often get the feeling that events are happening too quickly. At the same time, if I try to slow them down, the story begins to drag. There’s also a danger of bringing in unnecessary events that add nothing to the storyline as a whole.

Of course, different stories require different techniques, but I usually cover a time lapse with a paragraph summary of either some events or one character’s feelings during this time.

I’ll be interested to know
(a) what time period do your stories cover?
(b) how do you deal with any lengthy ‘time lapses’ in your stories?


  1. My natural way of writing seems to be 6 weeks. However, as you say, that doesn't often work for a believable relationship. My first book was a year, my second was probably 6 months. My one that's currently out on query is six or eight weeks (but there's a reason for that). I will jump ahead several weeks or a month at a time if necessary--no one wants to read about my characters brushing their teeth, etc.--but I try to keep it organic.

    1. I could easily have everything happening over about 6 weeks too, and I struggle at times to create a longer time span while the characters get to know each other.

  2. Time in books is tricky. I agree that most of the time characters fall in love quicker than in real life. (Of course there's something to be said about knowing that your real-life-love is 'the one' for you in a short amount of time too!) However, since romance is fantasy, fiction, made up...our readers aren't too picky about how fast the hero and heroine fall in love.

    In my full-lengths, I never really worry about it. There's enough story there to back up their love no matter what the timeline. However, in my novellas, it's a bit trickier. A few have characters who have known each other before, which puts the love story on fast forward in a sense. With the others I've added an epilogue which takes place a year later. We don't see exactly what happens from the time the last chapter ends to the start of the epilogue, but it gives me a bit more wiggle room so it doesn't seem as though my characters fell in love in the space of a week.

    1. Fortunately none of my readers have ever queried the relatively short time it has taken my characters to fall in love! As you say, it is fiction/fantasy, so it's larger (and faster!) than real life. 'Reunion' romances can be easier in that respect, and so can the initial dislike or wariness (for whatever reason), but I find the instant attraction is the hardest to deal with, especially as I want love and not just lust!

  3. Interesting question!
    In my WIP, the story arc will be about eight months. It's a historical, so journeys took time.
    In my time travel, the story will be about a year, too.

    1. Mine have been between three and about eight months, but have had time lapses of anything up to 6 weeks or in one case about 4 months!