Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How to Show Transitions of Time in Your Novel

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

Time passing. How do you show transitions of time in your novel? Months have passed, or years. Or maybe it's only been a few minutes. 

I recently read Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, and I noticed that she did an excellent job with transitions of time. Here are some examples from that book.

  
I lost track of time. Night and day passed through the windows of the coach. I spent most my time staring out at the landscape, searching for landmarks to give me some sense of the familiar.”

*               *               *               *               *               *

“The next few days passed in a blur of discomfort and exhaustion.”

*               *               *               *               *               *

Fall turned to winter, and cold winds stripped the branches in the palace gardens bare.”
        
     
And here are some examples from my novella Ambushed.


When we got to Tucson, I texted Coach Pasternack, and he told me to join him the next morning at 8:00 a.m. for a short meeting with Coach Miller. I didn’t like having to meet the head coach before I even got a tour, but it was a game day, so I had to make the best of it. 
Grandma and I stayed the night in a Super 8 Motel and got up bright and early for my meeting. Though I’d done this before, it was my first time visiting one of the schools that had shown interest in me, and I was really nervous.
We met Coach Pasternack outside the McHale Center. He was with Arizona guard Jordin Mayes, who had a chin beard that reminded me of C-Rok’s buddy Ant Trane.

*               *               *               *               *               *

Grace didn’t show at church on Sunday either, and Arianna said she was supposed to have been back by now.
She didn’t answer any of my texts or Facebook messages.
It was kind of freaking me out.
So I walked over to Ghetoside—a Pilot Point nickname for the Meadowside Apartments where Grace lived. Her place was on the ground floor and faced the street. The driveway in front was empty. The lights were off. I even knocked on the door, but no one was home.
I let it go for a few days, but when school started and Jaz said Grace hadn’t been in class, I started going by her place more often.
And one night, the lights were on, and an old Honda Civic was parked in the driveway.

*               *               *               *               *               *

January breezed by. The same schools were still talking to coach about me, except Berkley had offered early, which made no sense to me until Coach said he’d told them I wanted to study computers and work for the CIA. 

*               *               *               *               *               *

I woke up in a hospital bed wearing a blue paper gown, feeling groggy.


 Another thing you can do, is write something at the start of a new chapter. For example:


Chapter 2

Three years later


So how do you show time passing in your writing? Is this something you struggle with? If so, take note of these examples, but also watch for time passing in the novels you read. It always happens.

Also, my publisher has put the first two novels in my Safe Lands trilogy on an ebook sale for the next two weeks. If they've been on your To Read list, now might be a good time to snap them up. Here are the links:

For Captives:
Nook ● Kindle ● CBD ● iTunes

For Outcasts:
Nook ● Kindle ● CBD ● iTunes


22 comments:

  1. I usually have trouble with time. I either put too much time, or not enough, or i just don't explain what has passed. *sigh*. I'll definitely have to look for this in books i read. I'm about to start your Mission League series! Yay! I absolutely loved your BOK series. This is waaaaay off topic, but i crochet, and im making an Achan doll now, and then ill hopefully make a Vrell one :)

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    1. Keep at it, Emily. I usually have to fix my transitions in my rewrite stage.

      I hope you like Spencer. :-) And crochet Achan and Vrell dolls??? I must see these! Promise to email me a picture when you're done, please?

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    2. Please put the Achan Doll picture on the blog!

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    3. Okay, Mrs. Williamson. i promise!! :D

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    4. Thank you, Mrs. Morrill. :) And Mrs. Williamson- when I email it to you, do I just go to the contact jill section, or do I do something else?

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    5. Never mind, Mrs. Williamson. I found the email im supposed to send it to (I could possibly be looking through posts on your blog instead of writing...)

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    6. Possibly...... :)

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  2. I don’t usually have a problem with short passages of time, but I do tend to have issues with pacing. As in, when to skip larger sections of time. Especially towards the end of the book...I think I may have messed that up pretty badly with the most recent first draft I finished. Any tips on that?

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    1. Do you think your story is moving too slowly or too quickly?

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    2. Usually too slowly for most of the book, then too quickly near the end.

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  3. Oooh thank you so much! This is super helpful, considering a great amount of time tends to pass in my stories. Thank you again for the tips!

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  4. I've always struggled with whether I should just pass over a large amount of time in a novel, or if I needed more scenes between...Then when I do let a chunk of time pass, I always wonder how much 'catching up' I need to do, especially since I'm trying not to tell too much.

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    1. Each scene needs to do something useful to the story. If it doesn't, don't put it in for the sake of time when you could gloss over it with a nice phrase. But also, trust your gut. If you feel like you need more scenes, it might be a plot problem.

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  5. Great post!

    I like to mention that something will occur in a period of time away - I love the word fortnight and frequently slip it it in - and then skip to that something. For instance, in the chapter I just finished one of the other maids refers to the ambassadors' ball taking place in a fortnight's time - see what I mean about fortnight? - and the next chapter picks up with the ambassadors' ball. Or in a sequence where my MC was being punished and her day off was postponed as a result - oh dear, I think that one might have been a fortnight as well - and then I skipped to the day before her off day. I like it when I can do that, but my book is littered with "Meredith spent much of the next several weeks...[ insert boring description of what Meredith was doing in the last several weeks.]

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    1. LOL, nice! I have been guilty of forcible using the word fortnight as well, back in By Darkness Hid, I believe. Just be careful not to do it too much or your reader might start to wonder why everything is two weeks away!

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  6. I'm with Amanda and Sananora, I have trouble with passing large amounts of time, days or weeks & beyond, then wondering how much to catch up on. I almost wish I wrote historicals just so I could sneak in fortnight, great word.

    I just started writing my sequel and struggled with this a bit. Thanks for sharing these tips. So helpful!

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    1. I'm glad it helps, Barbara. And fortnight is a cool word. :-)

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  7. I read a book recently where the transitions sometimes went like this: "It's been nearly two weeks since I last seen Mildred," I said and blushed because I really meant Mike. I like this way of doing it so much better than if it had been written like this: After two weeks I really wanted to see Mike again. Or, Two weeks later, I hadn't seen Mike and really wanted to....-Cheri

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