Sunday, April 5, 2015

Time in a Novel: What Should Your Scale Be?
Tis the season to be gearing up for the RT Convention! This is just one of the fun reader parties I'm participating in.
So, our Bordello Topic of the Week is 3 Hours, 3 Days, or 300 Years: How Do You Choose & Use The Passage of Time?

As always, that "choose" word amuses me. I like it though. I envision myself gazing into a fire thoughtfully, perhaps wearing a cardigan with leather patches on the elbows and with a notepad on the table beside me, next to the snifter of brandy. I frown as I contemplate the timeline of the novel I'm working up, envisioning the sweep of the story, how many days or years it should take to play out and.... Who am I kidding?

This is so not me.

So far, every single time I thought I was going for a long timescale, it hasn't happened. For example, The on-screen events of the three Twelve Kingdoms books (so far) take place over the course of just over a year. A jam-packed year, for sure. When I proposed the books? I envisioned them being something like ten years maybe. Now I'm adding two more books to the series and I might make it another year into the arc. We'll see. But again - who am I kidding?

I'm a fine-scale writer. Probably because I'm a character-driven writer and I love to focus in on detailed conversations and slow-burn epiphanies. I love to have that stuff on the page and to linger over it. Because that's the trade-off - if you want a larger time-scale, more stuff has to happen off-screen. It's a necessary sacrifice. I recently read a book that I loved, loved, loved - and yet, a number of events happened off-screen that I felt cheated by missing. I *wanted* to live those moments. In that case, I think the author could have made the choice to include some and I'm not sure why she didn't.

In other cases, it's not so much of a sacrifice to lose the boring, daily stuff. Much as I love Jacqueline Carey, she once dragged me through innumerable pages of a long, excruciating journey through monsoon rains. Yes, she made me live the misery and it's obviously stamped indelibly into my brain. But... really, Jacqueline?

I suppose that timescale of the story is ultimately a tradeoff between velocity of the plot and believable character development. In romance, in particular, the worst transgression of this kind is the "insta-love." In fantasy... could be the too-easily resolved defeat of the hero? I dunno. What do you all think?

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