Monday, November 15, 2010
I recently read an interesting discussion on a writer's blog about book time - how to accomplish everything that needs to happen in the abbreviated time frame of a mystery or romance novel. Characters grow and change, travel, meetings and conversations must occur to move the the story forward, but those events aren't necessarily shown on the page. Still the reader needs to be somehow grounded in time and place to avoid confusion. Well, it's a challenge to a writer, for sure.
Book time is something I'm very aware of when I'm writing, but not so much when I'm reading except when I'm reading romance or romantic suspense. Then I have a lot of trouble with characters who hate each other at the beginning of the book then suddenly love each other. There has to be a darn good reason why she loves him after hating him, and I mean something other than a good sexual encounter. He has to do something really extraordinary to make her change her mind during the space and time limits of a 60,000 to 100,000 word book or I don't believe it as a reader.
Otherwise, when I'm reading I pretty much go with the flow of the story timeline without noticing the book time passing unless it's called to my attention by the author. To be honest, the quick 45 minute solution to most television series is why I don't watch much television. When I do watch a TV series, it's usually one that continues the story from week to week, like "The Good Wife" or "Damages" or "Rubicon" or "The Tudors" or "The Event."
One of the reasons I'm so aware of this challenge in my writing is that some time ago I had a previous agent tell me that the "time tags" I used, you know, those lines at the beginning of chapters giving the date or day of that chapter's events, was too distracting. I had to change it and incorporate the book time passing in the text.
Later, in another manuscript, I had an editor tell me that my book time passing references within the text was a bad habit. So I truly struggle with that in all my writing.