It's About Time in Fantasy Worlds

It’s About Time in Fantasy Worlds

Time. Full of mysterious magic. So lovely to write fantasy stories about its sensuous flow and how it is the ultimate conqueror. How it burns.

But a warning–be sure time tracks correctly in your fantasy story, or Gentle Reader will wonder why events are happening out-of-order.  They will drop out of your fantasy world.  They will no longer suspend disbelief.  Not what you want.

Be Timely During Editing

If you’re a writer who creates a plot outline before starting, that’s the place to add notations about time.  Assign days of the week, or perhaps general notations like “Day 1, Late Morning.”

Time Burns, Swims, and Flows in Fantasy Worlds

Time Burns, Swims, and Flows in Fantasy Worlds

If you’re an organic writer and don’t use a plot outline, you might go back through your first draft and add temporary notations directly into the text that you’ll take out later.  For example, when the story switches a scene, insert something like “< < Thursday, 7 p. m. > >.”  Mark it in a different color, like red text, to make it stand out.  When you’re satisfied time tracks correctly in the story, use Word’s text search function to find the notations and cut them (the pointy brackets makes the notations easy to find).  You could use a visual scan for the red text, too.

Keep a Timely Eye on the Clock and Calendar to Avoid Discombobulation

Keep a Timely Eye on the Clock and Calendar to Avoid Discombobulation

Avoid Discombobulation 

Within your story, give your Gentle Reader a set-up about place, characters, goals, and time, at the beginning of every scene change, character point-of-view change, or time change.  Don’t be overly coy or lengthy–two or three sentences is plenty.

Here is an example of a scene set-up from Tredan’s Bane (I’ve added the bracketed items for our discussion here):

[1] It was now late afternoon.  [2] Lanith sat at a desk in a guest room at Merchant Guild House.  A nearby window looked out over the fish market and marina complex on Seabright Street.  [3] She planned to look at the melted charm while she waited for Tredan’s return. – Lita Burke, Tredan’s Bane

Mission accomplished in three no-nonsense sentences.  At [1], we tell Gentle Reader the new time of day (late afternoon), at [2] we say who the point-of-view character is (Lanith) and where she’s at (the Merchant Guild House), and at [3] we give the POV character’s goal for the scene (look at the damaged magical charm).

Remember to keep an eye on the clock and calendar in your fantasy worlds, and let your Gentle Reader know when events are happening.

4 thoughts on “It’s About Time in Fantasy Worlds

  1. sageseedchronicles

    I keep a small notebook and notate the change of day by the chapter headings. (a little sun drawing or a moon) In one book everything was happening at once all over the realm. My chapter titles kept the reader straight ie: Chapter 21: April 1 Morning on Osily Prairie. Chapter 22: April 1 Morning in Duluse Foothills etc.
    Since my Sage Seed Chronicles series covers many generations I have made a chart of my characters, their age and skills at a given time. These notes were to keep me from getting confused and thus making my writing clearer.


  2. Lita Burke Post author

    Hi sageseedchronicles,

    Looks like you had a good system for keeping track of complex time relationships. Putting the time/date as a chapter heading also works well for keeping Gentle Reader straight as to what time it is.

    Thanks for the timely tips!


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