Monday, 20 June 2011

Time Travel

The thing with time travel in fiction is that it’s really hard to make it work. Obviously, there are some well known examples where it has been done well, but even in these, I can’t help the feeling that sometimes, problems arise. Even Tom Holt, who is in most respects one of my favourite authors, can run into rough patches with it, so what hope do the rest of us have?

One of the biggest difficulties for the writer is that it seems to create an excuse for messing about with the structure of the story. That is dangerous. Time might be malleable, but the way a good plot runs isn’t. Ideally, the plot should still run in a meaningful order, just with some bits of it happening in twelfth century Tuscany, or next Tuesday. When you start having your end before your middle, things get really out of hand.

Then there’s the question of the plot that collapses in on itself as it gets more and more circular (spiral?) things happen because the characters set them up later in the story while going back before the start, and they do that… because they set things up later in the story because they’ve gone back earlier. You create a sort of circular logic to the story, where there’s no real initiating event, and there’s no reason for the characters to have gone to all that trouble when they could just have sorted it out easily later (or possibly earlier) on.

And then there’s the tenses. Don’t get me started on the tenses…


Donna Hole said...

Yeah; I've read some time travel story lines that didn't follow a concrete path. Its frustrating.


David Jace said...

I wish you had gotten more detailed with this. I've got a time-travel story brewing right now, that's going to get written in the next week or so. Would be nice to know what pitfalls to avoid in advance, as well as maybe even how to avoid them!

Nevertheless, an interesting, and rich, topic of discussion.