On time

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.” 
― Yoko Ono

August has arrived and with it the monsoon rains and the distant promise of fall. It is a time of renewal and change. And it has brought with it, for me, the answer to a problem in my novel: time.

Time in novels is an interesting thing, because it varies so much. Some 300 page books only cover the course of a few hours, others span decades or even centuries. Since I started my novel, the issue of time has been one that I have debated. I started reading books more carefully, noting how time passed and how that helped (or hindered) the book.

The majority of the mysteries and thrillers I read take place over a few days. This allows suspense to amp up, but often sacrifices character growth. The main characters in the books usually start and end with the same strengths and weaknesses. Romances often stretch out a bit longer, over a few weeks to give characters time meet cute, overcome their obstacles and have their happily ever after. Literary fiction is anyone’s game, a story can span hours or centuries.

My novel is a mystery but I hesitated over the idea of a few days as a timeline. For one thing, I wanted my heroine to have time for a full heroine’s journey, and emerge at the end a changed woman. But I wanted to keep the suspense as well.

Ultimately, synchronicity solved my problem. I had decided to put a lot more effort into following the wheel of the year for myself this year, and it suddenly struck me that having my character follow the wheel of the year would be a great way to write the book. Especially since it takes place at a school and schools have their own academic calendar. The wheel of the year is a metaphor in some ways of human existence, so it marries well with the heroine’s journey. I will have to watch closely to make sure the tension and suspense remains well and I don’t have any “saggy middles” but I look forward to the challenge. How do you decide time in your novel?

One thought on “On time

  1. I love the idea of following the wheel of the year for your novel, and given what I’ve seen of your MS so far, that will fit quite well.

    My original idea for my novel was to allow the story to span a couple of years, but the story is wagging its finger at me, so the timeframe will be shorter, and some of what I was envisioning for my protagonist will have to await a later novel. And that’s okay. It’s not like I’ll ever stop writing novels. And serials are fun, right?


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