Storytelling techniques: how can an author manipulate time? - powerful author (2023)

Time in novels has been used as an important theme at the heart of the story and as a narrative technique to build the plot. It is one of the most important elements that the author can control. But how can an author manipulate time?

Time can be manipulated using various techniques such as flashbacks, parallel timelines, flashforwards and hunches. Unlike real life, time in a novel can be used, for example, to retell events in a different order, shorten boring passages or fill in the background with interesting parts..

We're going to cover several different techniques that you can use, but to start with, let's define what time manipulation means.

Storytelling techniques: how can an author manipulate time? - powerful author (1)

table of contents

What is time manipulation?

Time manipulation is when an author uses various techniques to control the flow of events in a story. It can flow into the present what happened in the past or the future, it can make events seem to be happening faster or slower than usual.

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For example, instead of describing how your character progresses through childhood and adolescence before reaching the actual beginning of the story, you can skip straight to the plot to move the story forward. Then insert a small, relevant part of the childhood story using one of the techniques we'll cover at an appropriate gap in the story.

With careful use, you can move important but sometimes boring background information later in the story where it adds interest rather than dragging the story down.

Why manipulate time?

This control over the flow of time in a story allows you to shift the reader's focus from one place to another and from one point in time to another. This will allow them to experience different eras in the world of your novel. It also allows you to delay or speed up events so that some events occur before others.

Not using time as a central theme can improve the flow of the story.

It would be really boring if all the stories had the same time. Use these techniques to unleash your imagination and enhance your story.

Time manipulation techniques.

There are many ways to control the flow of time, so let's look at some of them.

Linear time in a story.

The most basic use of time is in the chronological sequence of events. For example, in a novel, the character might be born, grow up, and reach adulthood. The most basic way to use time in a narrative is to present events in the linear order in which they occur.

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Some books are written entirely this way, but most tend to tell most of the story in the order of events, using linear time with the occasional use of other techniques.

Non-linear time in a story

Nonlinear time allows the author to change the focus and order of events in a story. For example, it is common to include a story behind the narrative. While main events can be linear, they can include some forward-looking bits to provide context for why a character acted in a certain way, or forward-looking details that reveal the results of actions.

action acceleration

Another very common technique is to accelerate the passage of time using an accelerated timeline. For example, if a character takes a long journey on foot, it can be sped up so that the story focuses on more exciting events.

You can jump cut to a later date, perhaps with a chapter change. One chapter ends with boarding the bus, and the next chapter immediately begins with the character getting off the bus at the destination.

These time ranges can also be used to enter other actions that cover the time range you wish to remove. For example, you can use a flashback.

Flashbacks e Flashforwards

A flashback is when a character remembers something that happened in the past. This is good for adding context to the story. For example, your main character might go old school and use a flashback to tell the reader that he wasn't so cool when he was younger. Revealing an embarrassing story about first meeting the love of his life in high school would give him an unprecedented perspective on his now cool and successful modern hero.

A flashforward is when you see something that is going to happen in the future. This can be used to anticipate events or simply make the reader curious about what will happen next. For example, you might suddenly jump forward and reveal that the hero's rival has won an award for inventing an exciting new technology. Back in the current timeline, we can follow events as they unfold towards this potential future.

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Premonitions give the reader a hint of a future event, creating suspense and drama or unease. It can give the reader subtle hints of good or bad events to come, and as a writer, you can use it to keep the reader turning pages late into the night.

It can also be blunt, like B. a character talking about an upcoming meeting or deadline that is more subtly referenced before it occurs, leaving the reader wondering about the meaning.


Story pacing is how fast or slow an author writes part of a story. The pacing of a story can create tension or bore the reader, depending on the impact the writer is trying to create.

For example, you could write a very long paragraph with a lot of detail about the small town and farm the family has just moved to, to make it clear to the reader that this is a slow story. Or you could quickly write this description in short sentences with enough detail to convey the traumatic experience of the family moving at the last minute. Using this technique creates an uncomfortable feeling for the reader.

Different genres often use quite different tempo styles. A fast-paced detective novel is generally more action-packed, containing less description of the setting and more about the characters and events.

Parallel or multiple timelines

Parallel or multiple timelines can show different timelines affecting each other. Grandpa died because he failed to break a speed record in the past. In the second modern timeline, the grandson is determined to achieve what his grandfather could not. The story can shift dramatically between them to show the relationship of the two efforts and build suspense in the reader as we watch the grandson unknowingly repeat some of the same mistakes that led to his grandfather's death.

inverted time lines

The reverse timeline is the opposite of the linear storytelling technique. A story is told that begins at the end and goes back in time. Many flashbacks are often used in this type of story. It can be difficult, but when done well, it can be almost as compelling as a story told chronologically (albeit with its own kind of dramatic tension).

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memory loss

Having a character with a bad memory can open up all kinds of writing opportunities. Sometimes a character has no memory of parts of his life, sometimes only fragments, and sometimes no memory at all.

Writers can use this to create a mystery or a mysterious subplot. For example, a love story of a woman trying to keep in touch with her husband, who has a short memory, capturing and preserving their life together as he remembers less and less.

Chapter and section length

Another very common technique used by authors to control the reader's perception of how time passes within a story is to vary the length of sections and chapters.

In one chapter, you might spend several pages covering the detective's activities, while in the next, you might much more briefly describe what the killer is doing at the same time. The much longer detective part helps the reader see that the detective has a lot to do to catch the killer. In the chapter on the killer, the shorter sections and faster language help to show the reader that the killer moves quickly and is always one step ahead of the detective.

Time Loops or Groundhog Day

The time storyline known as the Groundhog Day trope has been performed many times across all media formats and yet it remains immensely popular.

Carefully done, you can build a story full of mystery and intrigue based on the idea of ​​repeating the same day over and over again.

Yes, it's pretty well covered, but it could still make an exciting base for a story, so don't dismiss it if you get an idea.

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By far the most popular Star Gate episode is the groundhog themed episode.window of opportunity.

As you can see, there are many time options that you can use in your story. Make sure you take advantage of all of them and use them in combination to create an engaging narrative that will keep your reader awake long after they're asleep.


How do authors 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 ...

What techniques does the author use to tell the story? ›

Common techniques relevant to style, or the language chosen to tell a story, include metaphors, similes, personification, imagery, hyperbole, and alliteration. Techniques relevant to plot, which are the sequence of events that make up a narrative, include backstory,flashback, flash-forward, and foreshadowing.

How does time manipulation affect 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 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 is time manipulation power? ›

Users can control and manipulate time, the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in an apparently irreversible succession from the past, through the present, into the future, in the general area or for a specific target in various ways, with the most basic of acts revolving around ...

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.

What is manipulation of time in literature? ›

Often used to describe in great detail objects/setting/characters, or explore a particular character's emotions/feelings (primarily the narrator in this text) The story events continue but there is no narrative to accompany them. Typically this manifests in 'time skips'.

How do authors manipulate tone? ›

A writer has the power to manipulate the tone of the novel by choosing what a narrator/character focuses on throughout a specific scene, detailing the character's changing reactions/responses and the choice of words used in dialogue, and including their internal thoughts and actions.

Which 2 major techniques are used in storytelling? ›

  • 1 Immerse your audience in a story.
  • 2 Tell a personal story.
  • 3 Create suspense.
  • 4 Bring characters to life.
  • 5 Show. Don't tell.
  • 6 Build up to a S.T.A.R. moment.
  • 7 End with a positive takeaway.
Jul 8, 2015

What makes a story powerful? ›

A story needs conflict and resolution; tension and release; mystery and revelation. There should be losses and gains, setbacks and comebacks, peaks and troughs. And, above all, a story should be about people: their dreams and desires; loves and hates; problems and passions.

Why are storytelling techniques important? ›

Storytelling brings language learning alive and creates a participatory and immersive experience that allows Young Learners to enjoy hearing the language in a dynamic, sometimes stylistic and entertaining way. Participation using key vocabulary and phrases can create an awareness of rhythm and structure.

Who is the most powerful time manipulator? ›

1. Time Trapper. As the name suggests, Time Trapper is the most powerful manipulator of time and entropy. He may not be as powerful as other characters here but when it comes to the power and mastery of manipulating time, no one surpasses him.

Is manipulating time possible? ›

We Can't Alter The Flow of Time But, According to Physics, We Can Bend It.

What is story manipulation? ›

The user can manipulate stories and its characters and how they act, what they can do, etc., the locations and what they look like, and the events of the story as well as how it starts and ends.

What techniques do manipulators use? ›

10 Techniques Used by Manipulators (and How to Fight Them)
  • Gaslighting. ...
  • Projection. ...
  • Generalizations. ...
  • Moving the goal posts. ...
  • Changing the subject. ...
  • Name-calling. ...
  • Smear campaigns. ...
  • Devaluation.
Jul 18, 2016

What is the strongest manipulation power? ›

Omnikinesis is the ability to mentally control anything and everything that exists, organic or created, existing now or in the future, right down to the molecular level. This is quite possibly the most overwhelming and most powerful ability because it involves everything that tangibly exists without exception.

What does power manipulation mean? ›

Summary. Manipulation is a means by which a person is gotten to do something that the person was not initially inclined to do. As such, it is a form of power. Distinguishing it from other forms of power, such as persuasion, coercion, and physical force, is both important and difficult.

What is manipulation of space and time? ›

To control space-time is to alter the fabrics of reality, allowing one to erase existences and not just the flow of time, but also reorganize, alter and erase historical events.

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.

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

What is manipulation with example? ›

Manipulation is the skillful handling, controlling or using of something or someone. Whether it's the sculpture you made in art class or how you convinced your friend to do your homework — both are considered manipulation.

What is an example of manipulation in literature? ›

Manipulation: a type of influence that aims to change the behavior of others. "Iago calmly and maliciously drives Othello into a blind rage and incites him to kill his wife Desdemona by making Othello believe (falsely) that Desdemona has been unfaithful to him."

How can we manipulate time and space through editing? ›

Cross-cutting is a technique done during editing, also known as parallel editing. It's applied to manipulate time and space. In other words, it's action happening simultaneously in different spaces. Most often, those spaces are in the same location.

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 does it mean when the author manipulates the reader? ›

What It Means to Manipulate Your Audience. For our purposes, manipulating your reading audience means to mislead them. That is, to let a reader believe that a certain thing is occurring, whereas in actual fact something else is going on.

What is manipulation of language in literature? ›

The manipulation of semantics and syntax, namely the use of emotive language, is seen as an affective means resorted to by text producers to influence the people's acceptance of the truth. Emotional language aims ultimately at persuading the addressee to accept the facts as they are presented by writers.

What are the 4 elements of good storytelling? ›

What Makes A Good Short Story? The four elements necessary for your story structure are character, plot, setting, and tension. Balancing these elements is the first step to making your creative writing amazing.

What are the 4 types of storytelling? ›

The Power of Storytelling: 4 Types of Stories
  • Stories have the ability to build and strengthen communities.
  • Story Type #1: Origin Story. ...
  • Story Type #2: Value Story. ...
  • Story Type #3: Vulnerable Story. ...
  • Story Type #4: Personal Story. ...
  • When people start to connect with your organization's story, your story becomes their story.

What are the 3 rules of storytelling? ›

Basic storytelling structure follows the Rule of Three. Narrative writing splits stories into three to form the basic structure of beginning, middle, and end — sometimes referred to as setup, the confrontation, and the resolution. Screenplays also follow this structure with their three acts.

What are some examples of the power of storytelling? ›

4 examples of the power of storytelling
  • Stories can motivate us. We all have experienced how a good story can pull at our emotions. ...
  • We can learn from stories. Learning happens from connecting new information to existing information. ...
  • Stories can teach us empathy. ...
  • Stories can frame our perception of our lives.
Feb 28, 2017

What is the most important thing in storytelling? ›

Plot. The plot is the most important part of any story. It defines what story is all about. What the audience will experience.

What are powerful elements in a story? ›

There are five key elements to every story: plot, setting, characters, point of view, and conflict. Whether your students realize it or not, they naturally include all these elements when they're telling a story to their families or their best fr.

What is the meaning of storytelling technique? ›

Definition. Storytelling is the vivid description of ideas, beliefs, personal experiences, and life- lessons through stories or narratives that evoke powerful emotions and insights. Advantages.

What characters can control time? ›

Pages in category "Fictional characters who can manipulate time"
  • Abra Kadabra (character)
  • Homura Akemi.
  • Aku (Samurai Jack)
  • Barry Allen (Arrowverse)
  • Barry Allen (DC Extended Universe)
  • Bart Allen.
  • Ares (DC Comics)

Are the timekeepers powerful? ›

The Time-Keepers have great power to manipulate temporal energy. They can age entire armies to dust or reverse aging to before the point of life (virtual immortals such as Asgardian gods can resist these effects). They can summon beings from any point in the timestream, sending them to do their bidding.

Do manipulators mean to manipulate? ›

People who manipulate others attack their mental and emotional sides to get what they want. The person manipulating — called the manipulator — seeks to create an imbalance of power, and take advantage of a victim to get power, control, benefits, and/or privileges at the expense of the victim.

What can distort time? ›

Gravity slows the passage of time

Similar to how the passage of time is changed under special relativity, general relativity predicts that massive objects will also dilate time. The more massive the object, the more noticeable the effect.

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”.

How can time be bent? ›

So to answer your question, time does not literally "bend". A massive object modifies the proper time interval around it such that an outside observer would see objects near the mass experience less time and spacetime intervals would have their spatial components modified accordingly.

Are there different types of manipulation? ›

There are different types of manipulation. Three of the most common ones are: Guilt induction. The person manipulating you may imply something negative has happened to you because of someone else, or or they may play on your insecurities to make you feel guilty.

What are actions of manipulation? ›

Manipulation is when a person uses controlling and harmful behaviors to avoid responsibility, conceal their true intentions, or cause doubt and confusion. Manipulation tactics, such as gaslighting, lying, blaming, criticizing, and shaming, can be incredibly damaging to a person's psychological well-being.

What does manipulate mean in reading? ›

/məˈnɪpjəleɪt/ us. to control or influence something or someone so that you get an advantage, often unfairly or dishonestly: He can manipulate situations mostly to his benefit.

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 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.

Why is time important in storytelling? ›

Your story needs time markers, so the reader understands the passage of time. Without time indications, readers become confused, stop reading, and turn back to try to establish the time of the current scene. As a writer, you can get caught up in the action and dialogue and forget to add time markers.

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 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.

What is an example of pacing in a story? ›

It is done by adding lots of action scenes or events that happen quickly. For example, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, there are several fast paced chapters where Harry needs his friends help him solve a problem or get out of trouble he gets himself into.

What structural element can an author use to make the passage of time in a story seem slower? ›

Exposition tends to unfold at a slower pace because it must situate the reader and contextualize the plot. Once the protagonist encounters the primary conflict, the plot progresses into the rising action.


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