6 ways to manipulate time in fiction | Live writing thrives (2023)

Today's guest post is from Martin Cavannagh.

One of the least analyzed literary devices in the literature is time.

Time works differently in the books. It stops being the tyrannical presence we know in real life and becomes a simple tool that the author manipulates to tell her story. Every great story takes time to work on some level, usually in a skillful and creative way.

Okay, so what's the literary equivalent ofnotting hillsfamous sequence "Walk through the seasons" inNotting Hill, you can ask? Well, the authors have theirs.terTricks up his sleeve when it comes to time control. Let's see them now.

Here are six ways writers work around the clock to tame time in their stories.

1. Timestamp

In a linear narrative, the author is forced to move in one direction in time: directly. However, that doesn't mean writers have to drag their time. Imagine how boring it would be for readers if you describedeach secondVonevery minuteof the lives of his characters. They would drop like flies in ten seconds.

To counteract this, the writers manipulate the passage of time.

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Let's take a look at Jane Austenpride and prejudice, which spans several weeks at a time and cleverly tells readers what happened inside them:

Day after day passed with no word from him save the news, shortly after entering Meryton, that he would not come to Netherfield for the whole winter; a report which greatly infuriated Mrs. Bennet and which, like the most outrageous untruth, she always denied.

Here is another example ofkilling a bird, which sums up an entire summer in one sentence:

Dill blushed and Jem told me to shut up, a sure sign that Dill had been studied and found acceptable. After that, the summer passed with routine joy.

Learning when to speed up time in a story is part of creating a great book. But that extends to another topic, one about the art of time, so let's move on to that.this excellent articleto learn more about it.

2. Multiple timelines

If one timeline isn't enough to saturate your writing skills, how about two? Or four?

The concept of "multiple timelines" is less of a manipulation of time and more of a different way of representing time. Generally, authors resort to this technique to perform any of the following tasks:

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  • Introduce and develop a character's backstory.
  • Create a subplot that will later tie into the main plot

luis saccharsholes, for example, depicts the life of Stanley Yelnats IV today and the notorious bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, one hundred and ten years ago. In this case, technique is critical to the success of the book: the reader must experience his timeline to truly understand the former's situation.

Word of advice: if you take this approach, treat all timelines the same. You want to make sure that both are interesting so that readers don't turn the page and complain when they see the "boring" timeline.

3. Retrospective

Ah, the good old flashback. When you think of her these days, your mind can instantly "return" to some of the scenes from Quentin Tarantino movies. But what you may not know is that writers used this storytelling technique to pull the strings of time long before movie directors.

One of the earliest examples appears inThe odyssey, in which Odysseus recounts his adventures in a series of flashbacks. Fast forward to the present day and its purpose is much the same: it's a popular device that writers mainly use to build a backstory for the protagonist. Flashbacks are a way for authors to respond:What happened?miHow did this character get like this??

It is not surprising, therefore, that they appear more frequently in memoirs, in which the author relives past decisions from a modern perspective. However, it's a common time travel technique that you'll find in almost every genre, making it a reliable tool to have in your writer's toolbox.

4. Reverse Chronology

What is a story told chronologically to an intrepid author? A big yawn.

That's why sometimes you see a story being toldbackwards. This is an interesting nonlinear technique that allows authors to use time directly as a structural device.

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Pense em Sarah Watersthe night watch, set in war-torn London in the 1940s. It moves in reverse chronology in stages, "beginning" in 1947 and "ending" in 1941. But as Waters slowly but surely turns back the clock, the viewer's attention is drawn deeper. and deeper into the mysteries that lie in the depths of hidden history. they are the network of deception of the characters.

Unsurprisingly, structuring a novel in this way forces readers to think about it.BecausemiAs– not necessarily themEraof history. In many ways, reverse chronology becomes an intriguing puzzle for the viewer to piece together.

Although this technique is not very popular, partly because it is a difficult juggling act for the author, it is gradually gaining traction in the literary world. And about time, I would say.

5. Chapter length

Ready for good news? The concept of "chapter"it's notan arbitrary construction created by the ancient legislators of fiction to torture writers. It's actually a very useful tool in your writing toolbox, and speeding up (or slowing down) time is one of the effects that might surprise the reader.

The trick is in the word count. To speed up the pace of a book (and reduce the time it takes the reader), novelists may shorten their chapters. Likewise, the lengthening of the chapter will make readers feel that time has stopped.

As expected, a wise author used manychapter lengthsIn your favor. I always like to point out the twelve chapters of winning the Man Booker prizeshine. Eleanor Catton, the author, intentionally reduces the word count of each successive chapter to mimic the waning moon: the first chapter is a staggering 360 pages, while the last chapter is just two pages. The effect of this masterly planning is such that the reader feels like a punch in the stomach as the end of the book approaches: this time becomes increasingly scarce for each character involved in the book's plot.

6. Groundhog Day

Stop me (or the clock) if this thought has crossed your mind before:And if there was no more time?

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It may be a vain wish in real life, but an author is not an ordinary person: he can manipulate time to stop it.

Appendix A: Science fiction where crazy physics cases are popular in many books and short stories. ("The New Accelerator" by H.G. Wells and Ben Elton'sAnd againcomes to mind immediately). But I don't just mean books where time stands still in the context of the story. I also think of cases where the author turns back the clock for the reader.

joan didionsYear of Magical Thinkingis a great example of that. In these memoirs, Didion continues to recall a single event: the death of her husband, John Dunne. In 227 pages, she achieves the impossible: she lets time stop briefly on the page.

How do you manipulate time in your books? Do you think differently about time when you write? Leave your impressions in the comments below.

6 ways to manipulate time in fiction | Live writing thrives (1)Martin Cavannagh is a writer forReedigan online marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world's best publishers, designers, and marketers. When she's not writing fiction, she works to educate writers by hosting a series of free online courses and live webinars. keep following himGore.

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How do writers manipulate pace in a story? ›

One of the easiest ways to control pacing in your story is through the length of your sentences, paragraphs and chapters. In a fight scene, for example, you want to keep things fast-paced and exciting. To achieve this, use short, choppy sentences and shorter paragraphs to keep readers' eyes flying over the words.

How do you show a change in time in writing? ›

To show the passage of time and indicate a new scene is starting a writer might say: The next morning the fluffy clouds turned dark and grumbled, mirroring Kira's darkening mood. The first phrase, “the next morning,” lets the reader know how much time has passed.

What is time manipulation in a story? ›

Time manipulation, or timeline alteration, is the concept of altering past events in such a way that it significantly affects the present or future. For example, in the classic Ray Bradbury story A Sound of Thunder, characters travel back in time to the prehistoric era.

What is one way a writer can manipulate the pacing? ›

You can manipulate your story's pacing with the time you spend communicating an idea or describing a scene. Generally speaking, longer, descriptive sentences tend to slow down your writing. Using passive voice is another way to slow things down since passive voice is indirect. Use active voice to speed things up.

How do you control pacing in writing? ›

7 Tips for Mastering Pacing in Your Writing
  1. Utilize breathers. ...
  2. Change the order of events. ...
  3. Vary your sentence length. ...
  4. Keep characters physically moving during dialogue. ...
  5. Reveal information selectively. ...
  6. Vary your narration. ...
  7. Read the work out loud.
Aug 20, 2021

How do writers manipulate time? ›

The trick is in the word count. To quicken the pace of a book (and make time whip by for the reader), fiction writers can make their chapters shorter. Likewise, stretching out the chapter will make readers feel as though time has slowed to a crawl.

How do you show time passing in fiction? ›

When a period of time passes in a story, it can be shown using an asterisk (or two or three) between paragraphs, or using an extra space between paragraphs. I'm working on one just now where only a fortnight has passed. The main character is attacked, then the story jumps forward to a fortnight later.

How do you create a sense of time in a novel? ›

1. How to create a sense of time in a novel
  1. A. Use time of day to dramatic effect. ...
  2. B. Show time passing to create urgency or anticipation. ...
  3. C. Make your time period realistic. ...
  4. A. Research real locations thoroughly. ...
  5. B. Show place with description. ...
  6. C. Go there if possible. ...
  7. A. Use common connotations of places and times. ...
  8. B.
Mar 4, 2021

What is an example of manipulation of time? ›

Think about a fighting scene between the hero and villain in an action movie. Just when they are about to fight they slowly and intensely run towards each other. This is a time manipulation technique that builds suspense and anxiety.

What are manipulation techniques? ›

Manipulation tactics are the specific ways that an emotional abuser attacks their victims. These tactics are used to control a person by eroding their self-confidence and cultivating a deep dependence on the abuser that makes leaving the relationship difficult.

What are the examples of manipulation techniques? ›

Twelve Common Manipulation Tactics
  • Using intense emotional connection to control another person's behavior. ...
  • Playing on a person's insecurities. ...
  • Lying and denial. ...
  • Hyperbole and generalization. ...
  • Changing the subject. ...
  • Moving the goalposts. ...
  • Using fear to control another person.
Sep 17, 2019

What technique did JK Rowling use? ›

Rowling quite literally puts pen to paper. She revealed that, like many old-fashioned writers, she prefers to write in longhand first then types up her story afterwards.

What are the 8 writing techniques? ›

English language writers have been using these techniques for centuries to make their writing stand out and memorable for readers.
  • Metaphor and Simile. ...
  • Hyperbole. ...
  • Alliteration, Consonance and Assonance. ...
  • Foreshadowing. ...
  • Allusion. ...
  • Imagery. ...
  • Irony. ...
  • Sarcasm.
Aug 14, 2018

What writing techniques does JK Rowling use? ›

Top Google search results turn up impressionistic descriptions like "JK Rowling's writing is whimsical and rhythmic, with lots of irony and good flow", "her humor is dry and witty", "her writing is very subjective and personal", and "most of the sentence structure feels quite casual".

What are some pacing techniques? ›

What is Pacing?
  • Setting short, timed windows of activity.
  • Changing position and activity regularly.
  • Breaking tasks into smaller jobs through-out the day.
  • Breaking large tasks into smaller jobs over a week.
  • Taking short, frequent breaks.

How do writers manipulate readers? ›

It's the author's job to manipulate readers, to urge them to feel a certain way: get their pulse racing when the characters are in a crisis – done through short, direct sentences to quicken the pace of the text; to calm them when our heroes finally reach safety – longer, more detailed sentences; and to mislead readers ...

Which three techniques can an author use to speed up pacing? ›

The most common techniques have to do with either using short sentences, paragraphs, and scenes to speed things up—or lengthening everything to slow things down.

Which three techniques can an author use to slow down pacing? ›

Let's take a look at 5 techniques to slow down the pace:
  • Lengthen your sentences. ...
  • Add descriptions. ...
  • Include subplots. ...
  • Use flashbacks and backstory. ...
  • Add more introspection. ...
  • Shorten your sentences. ...
  • Use more dialogue. ...
  • Remove (or limit) secondary subplots.
Oct 13, 2018

How can I make my story flow better? ›

Consider these tips to improve the flow of a piece of writing:
  1. Ensure that paragraphs have a clear organizational structure. Solid paragraph structure is crucial in academic writing. ...
  2. Link sentences with pronouns. ...
  3. Use transition words. ...
  4. Use varied sentence lengths. ...
  5. Use varied sentence structures.
Jul 15, 2022

How do you keep readers hooked? ›

10 Ways To Hook Your Reader (and Reel Them in for Good)
  1. Begin at a pivotal moment.
  2. Add an unusual situation.
  3. Add an intriguing character.
  4. Conflict.
  5. Add an antagonist.
  6. Change emotion.
  7. Irony and surprise.
  8. Make People Wonder.
Aug 9, 2016

How do you move forward in time in a novel? ›

Don't have time to read the whole post right now?
  1. Summarise events. Hide summaries in scenes. Emphasise details. ...
  2. State the time. Use transitional time words. Include time markers. ...
  3. Master flashbacks. Switch tense. Tense structure. ...
  4. Trigger Your Time Jumps. Past reminders. ...
  5. Separate Time Periods. Flag breaks that don't skip time.

What is the manipulation of time called? ›

Chronokinesis, also called time manipulation or time control, is the ability to mentally alter time.

What is a manipulative in writing? ›

A manipulative character is someone who cleverly manipulates to get what they want. They may lie, cheat, or use other underhanded tactics to achieve their goals. Although manipulative characters can be unlikable, they're often essential to a good story.

What is the importance of time in fiction? ›

Most stories inhabit at least two time zones, the moment of action and the moment of telling, and writers can chart the reader's travel across them. The control of time can maximize suspense, underscore theme, develop characters, and influence structure; there is no aspect of fiction that it does not touch.

What is time in fiction? ›

A work of literature can be thought of as involving four different and potentially quite separate time frames: author time (when the work was originally written or published); narrator time (when the narrator in a work of fiction supposedly narrates the story); plot time (when the action depicted actually takes place); ...

How do you handle time in a novel? ›

You could:
  1. Separate the novel into two (or more) parts. A new part is a good clue to the reader that a major change has taken place – and this often includes a significant jump in time.
  2. Start a new chapter. This also helps clue the reader in, though on its own, it may not be enough.
  3. Give an explicit time reference.
Feb 22, 2016

How do you evoke a sense of time and place? ›

How to evoke a sense of place
  1. Judy Darley offers advice on capturing the essence of a place in journalistic and creative writing. ...
  2. Transport your reader. ...
  3. Consider the context. ...
  4. Highlight your characters' emotions. ...
  5. Drive up the drama. ...
  6. Give your location a voice. ...
  7. Capture the essence. ...
  8. Enjoy the journey.
Jan 13, 2013

What are some elements of time setting? ›

Here is a list of the specific elements that setting encompasses:
  • Locale. ...
  • Time of year. ...
  • Time of day. ...
  • Elapsed time. ...
  • Mood and atmosphere. ...
  • Climate. ...
  • Geography. ...
  • Man-made geography.
May 2, 2012

What affects our sense of time? ›

Four factors appear to influence time perception: characteristics of the time experiencer, time-related behaviors and judgments, contents of a time period, and activities during a time period.

What are seven common methods of manipulation? ›

There are different types of manipulation.
Other manipulation techniques may include:
  • Love-bombing. ...
  • Gaslighting. ...
  • Passive-aggressive behavior. ...
  • Triangulation. ...
  • Covert or overt threats. ...
  • Silent treatment.

What are the types of time control? ›

There are two main forms of time controls. The first time control type is moves-per-time. In this type a player must complete a specified number of moves within a fixed period of time. The second time control type is called “sudden death”.

What are 6 manipulative skills? ›

Types of Manipulative Skills
  • Bouncing.
  • Catching.
  • Dribbling (moving a ball with the feet, as in soccer)
  • Kicking or rolling (a ball)
  • Lifting.
  • Pushing and pulling (the object might be a wheeled toy)
  • Striking (such as swinging a baseball bat or golf club to hit a ball)
  • Throwing.
Sep 22, 2021

What are the 5 stages of manipulation? ›

What are the stages of manipulation?
  • Flattery. The first stage is when the person who manipulates puts on a facade of being kind, caring, and helpful. ...
  • Isolation. This is when the person who manipulates may start to isolate you from your friends and family. ...
  • Devaluing and gaslighting. ...
  • Fear or violence.

What is the strongest type of manipulation? ›

Omnikinesis: the power to manipulate anything.

What are the three stages of manipulation? ›

Under this model, the stages of manipulation and coercion leading to exploitation are explained as follows:
  • Targeting stage. The alleged abuser may:
  • Friendship-forming stage. The alleged abuser may:
  • Loving relationship stage. Once they have established trust, the alleged abuser may:
  • Abusive relationship stage.
Sep 13, 2022

What are basic manipulative? ›

Manipulative skills are gross body movements in which force is imparted to or received from objects. Manipulative movements such as throwing, catching, kicking, trapping, striking, volleying, bouncing, and ball rolling are considered to be fundamental manipulative skills.

How to be manipulative over text? ›

29 Manipulative Text Messages
  1. Texts in generalizations. Instead of being specific, broad-reaching statements are used. ...
  2. Refuses to answer questions. ...
  3. Says you cant take a joke. ...
  4. Is inappropriately sarcastic. ...
  5. Changes the subject. ...
  6. Is excessively long-winded. ...
  7. Refuses to use proper grammar. ...
  8. Includes others who are not a party.
Jan 27, 2023

What did J.K. Rowling fail on? ›

Not one or two, or five, around 12 major publications rejected the Harry Potter script. She was shattered but not defeated. She kept approaching other publications and her efforts bore fruit. A small publishing house accepted to publish the book and only 1000 copies were published.

How many hours does J.K. Rowling write a day? ›

We can only work for so long. Pretty much, Rowling writes for six hours a day. That is a good amount of time and acceptable for a writer who is doing this for a living.

What literary style is Harry Potter? ›

The novels fall into the genre of fantasy literature, and qualify as a type of fantasy called "urban fantasy", "contemporary fantasy", or "low fantasy".

What are the 6 writing strategies? ›

The Six Traits of writing are Voice, Ideas, Presentation, Conventions, Organization, Word Choice, and Sentence Fluency.

What are the 6 writing processes? ›

And we kind of conceptualized about six steps. These are just the steps that we have put together at the writing center to give you a general idea, we look at prewriting, drafting, sharing your work and receiving feedback, revising, editing and proofreading, and reflecting on your writing.

Is J.K. Rowling the only author to become a billionaire? ›

Rowling is the first author in history to have her net worth valued at $1 billion, yet prior to her first Harry Potter book being published, she lived a very ordinary lifestyle, much of which was spent in relative poverty.

Does J.K. Rowling have creative control? ›

The answer is plain and simple: "J.K. Rowling is not directly involved in the creation of the game, however, her extraordinary body of writing is the foundation of all projects in the Wizarding World.

What affects the pace of a story? ›

The pace is determined by the length of the scenes, how fast the action moves, and how quickly the reader is provided with information. It is also sometimes dictated by the genre of the story: comedies move faster than dramas; action adventures move faster than suspense.

In which two ways can an author slow the pace of a narrative in fiction writing? ›

Word choice and sentence structure

Long sentences and paragraphs will force your reader to slow down. Repetition, lengthy sentences, and long paragraphs also slacken pace, so be sure you're using them intentionally.

Which two techniques can an author use to speed up pacing? ›

Foreshadowing and flashbacks are two literary devices, when used judiciously, can positively affect the pacing of your narrative. Using dialogue is another method to quicken the pace when there isn't much action. It allows the narrator to reveal information which will instigate action.

What are the three 3 writing techniques? ›

As explained in the USC Rossier infographic, “There are three writing capacities: writing to persuade, writing to explain, and writing to convey real or imagined experiences.” These three types of writing are usually called argument, informative, and narrative writing.

What are pacing techniques? ›

The principles for pacing include:
  • Setting short, timed windows of activity.
  • Changing position and activity regularly.
  • Breaking tasks into smaller jobs through-out the day.
  • Breaking large tasks into smaller jobs over a week.
  • Taking short, frequent breaks.

What are pacing strategies? ›

Pacing strategies in track and field are the varied strategies which runners use to distribute their energy throughout a race. Optimal strategies exist and have been studied for the different events of track and field.

How do you slow down the pace of a story? ›

Mix it up, using longer sentences or paragraphs slow the pacing where needed. You can also lengthen action- and dialogue heavy scenes by adding brief spurts of description, inner monologue, or narrative summary.

How do you slow down a moment in writing? ›

Remind them that this should be a part of the story where something important/interesting/exciting is happening and they will slow down time by expanding sentences to add concrete words and sensory details. This will build anticipation and help readers imagine events and experiences.

What is a good pace for writing? ›

Writers' speeds vary … a lot. Some writers would consider 100 words an hour to be a perfectly productive rate. Others would be disappointed by 1,000 words an hour.


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