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Jae Baeli
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PostSubject: Time spans & Periods   Thu Dec 04, 2008 4:24 pm

Time, in regard to setting, can mean both the span of time in which the story is told, and the time period in which it takes place, whether modern day, feudal England, or the Civil rights era of the 50's.

In short spans of time, such as the few days often used by Dean Koontz, there must necessarily be a great deal happening in the experience of the characters. The plot must move quickly, to reflect the quick movement of time. In longer time spans, such as a generational one, the elements of your action and events will have to be chosen carefully, as you run the risk of droning on with details that don't move the story.

Time will have to be compressed in order to emphasize only those details that contribute to the goal of the story. You will have to speed up and slow down, according to how much emphasis you want to be placed on that particular event. When you slow time down, you give yourself an opportunity to go into more detail; when you speed it up, you hint to the reader that the skipped portions aren't important. The most common method for this is summary, wherein you tell backstory with the highlights to give a general overview, but avoid offering particulars that might not figure into the goal of your story.

The use of flashback is also a manipulation of time meant to use the memory of the character to fill in fine points that figure into character development, plot, or setting.

In relation to time period, the environment you create will be closely linked with the action and behaviors of your characters. If it's set in the past, you will have to know what life was like, then, and be mindful of the realities that existed.

One book of mine which was written ten years ago, and then rewritten, included a need for me to modernize. In the original manuscript, the time period did not include cell phones. So when I had a character in a situation that kept her from calling for help, I had to decide whether to add the cell phone, and then change part of the plot points, or explain why this character, like most of us these days, didn't have a cell phone.

Thankfully, that update also created some other solutions to plot problems, because there was a new element involved. Some authors choose time periods precisely for that reason--they need certain events to transpire without that pesky interference from "Reality."

Often, a characters actions will be dictated by what was the norm for that time period, and not what the author would have them do on a whim.

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