In This Chapter
Creating a timeline for your narrative
Glancing backwards at the past
Messing with time
Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.
—Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Pan, 1979)
All stories unfold in time. Even the shortest short story takes place over a number of minutes. Some stories tell of a whole life from birth until death. Long stories can even take place over generations, obviously with gaps in between.
The way you structure a story in time changes its nature. If you start a novel with the characters meeting and end with them getting married, you have a quite different story to one where you begin with their marriage and end with their divorce!
You also have options about how you organise time in a piece of fiction. You can start at the beginning and move forwards, you can jump around between past and present, or you can leap forwards into the future; you can even tell a story backwards (something I describe in more detail in Chapter 20). In science fiction, you also have the option of exploring physical time travel and the distant future.
In this chapter I look at different ways to handle ...