Thursday, April 9, 2015

Perils of the Writer: The Passage of Time

Some time ago, I read a work-in-progress for critique which had some interesting problems with passage of time.  It would spend a few chapters focusing on the minutiae of a couple days, and then skim a few years, and then drop in on a random day or two over the course of those skimmed years.  However, those drop-in days were not particularly revelatory or relevant.  The end result was making those passing years feel like a slog.
Now, sometimes years have to pass in the story.  You set some stuff up in a character's youth, and then jump ahead to when those pay off.  But sometimes it's best to just skip those years cleanly, and assume your reader is smart enough to catch up.
Personally, I tend to write relatively fast paced.  The Thorn of Dentonhill's story covers about four days' worth of time. A Murder of Mages is three days.  The sequels to both, currently in draft stage, also cover about three or four days.  For me, this is a way to keep the springs coiled tight.  There's little chance to breathe and regroup.
Now, with the draft of Banshee, I built into the worldbuilding a bit of a challenge, as far as this goes.  Specifically, the way the FTL travel works, going from one star to another may be blazing fast in interstellar terms, but still take a bit of time.  The two weeks of routine as the ship goes from Point A to Point B isn't particularly dramatically interesting, but it needs to be addressed.
For me, moments like that are best done with the literary equivalent of a montage. Establish that routine with quick description, and move on to the ripe circumstances.  If it doesn't drive forward, cut it out.
Of course, the question is if what I'm doing on Banshee works. Time will tell.

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