Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Only Good Reason For Time

"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once."  Albert Einstein
Good advice for authors...

I’m not very good at keeping track of the passage of time in my novels. I tend to write stories with adventures that happen pretty speedily, like in Wreck of the Nebula Dream where the characters only have a few hours to get away before the ship blows up or Other Bad Things Happen (no spoilers). But even then, in classic disaster movie format, I did spend the first part of the book letting my hero meet the people he was destined to rescue, so I had to figure out what the heck he would do on a spaceliner for two or three days!  At one point poor Nick is so bored, and has exhausted the amenities to the point he muses about spending the rest of the trip in cryo sleep. Of course that would have meant no novel and maybe no Nick, given there was going to be this wreck….*

I sort of do what Marcella shared yesterday – at some point during the writing of the novel, I sit down with a pad of lavender paper and I start writing out what happened on Day One, Day Two etc.

Sometimes dealing with the issue calls for research, as in Magic of the Nile, where my hero Sahure had to travel various places in ancient Egypt in his chariot, as well as with a small army, some of whom were on foot.  So how fast could a chariot travel, how far was the oasis of Kharga from Thebes, how far did an ancient army typically march in a day….apparently the ancient Roman legions covered 10 to 15 miles per day by the way. I gave myself a pass when Sahure and Tyema, the heroine, end up in an area of the Afterlife, battling demons. That took as long as it took, while back in Egypt only one night passed. Thanks to the goddess Sekhmet for an assist there! Gotta love magic when you can deploy it….

In my new novel Ghost of the Nile (coming in May if all goes well), I set my time-challenged self a real hurdle. The main character has exactly thirty days in Egypt to accomplish the task the goddess Ma’at has set for him. (The ancient Egyptian month was thirty days so my plot was tied to that.) Of course she didn’t exactly explain everything beforehand (what goddess does?).  I had to do a lot of scribbling on my lavender pad as the writing progressed. “If they spend three days here, and one day each way in travel…ok, no maybe they stay four days and there’s a mock combat contest…” I have Periseneb the hero keeping track of each day as it passes – no pressure!

I’d be very bad at writing a novel that spanned decades or centuries. I’d probably do a lot of “and then time passed until…” stuff that would annoy my editor and my readers LOL. Kinda like one of those old time Hollywood biography movies where the person whose life is being dramatized shows up as a baby for a few frames (blink and you miss him/her), then a kid for maybe a quick character-building incident, then he/she is in love or in the army or what-have-you and THEN we get to the part of the lifetime the movie is interested in. With maybe a final shot of our person as a much beloved oldster propped up on a lot of pillows, dispensing one last gem of wisdom before the music swells and the credits roll. Yeah, I could write that!

*Wreck of the Nebula Dream is on sale now for 99 cents, by the way. "Titanic in space..."

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